ND Women’s Lacrosse
Notre Dame picks up two wins in quick turnaround
Tobias Hoonhout | Monday, February 13, 2017
After suffering a tough loss to No. 9 Northwestern in their season opener, No. 8 Notre Dame bounced back with a pair of big wins this weekend, defeating Liberty, 18-2, on Friday night, and then pulling away from Detroit Mercy, 24-9, less than 24 hours later.
“It was really great to see us come out this weekend with a challenging schedule with less than a 24-hour turnaround and put two performances together,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “So I’m really happy with the focus that we had following the Northwestern game earlier in the week. … It was nice to see us really showcase improvement on both Friday and Saturday.”
Notre Dame (2-1) controlled the game against Liberty (0-1) from start to finish, as the Irish opened the scoring — courtesy of senior attack Grace Muller — and did not look back. Liberty quickly equalized, but the high-powered Notre Dame offense went on a 15-0 run to put the game out of reach. Senior and preseason All-American Cortney Fortunato led the way with seven goals, one short of her career-high, and sophomore attack Nikki Ortega pulled the strings for the offense with five assists. Sophomore midfielder Samantha Lynch also had breakout game with four goals, including a smooth behind-the-back finish.
The Flames didn’t see much of the ball on the other end, and the Irish defense held them off the board for most of the way, only letting in a second goal at 8:20 in the second half.
In a quick turnaround, the Irish then played Detroit Mercy (0-1) on Saturday afternoon. The Irish came out a little sluggish, and struggled to dominate like they had against Liberty. The Titans actually scored first, and the game went back and forth for much of the first half.
“You could tell that we had just wrapped up a game about 18 hours prior in that first 30 minutes, and we were also just trying to get into a rhythm and I feel like we were just a little impatient in allowing for the plays to develop at times,” Halfpenny said. “ … Once we kind of settled in and allowed ourselves to be a little more patient and to work our offense, I thought we found great success, so I was really proud of our team.”
Lynch was once again instrumental for the Notre Dame offense, scoring two of her six goals in the first half to keep the Irish in it as the half closed 8-7 in favor of Notre Dame. The Irish came out and settled into a 7-0 run to take control in the second half though, thanks in large part to Fortunato. The senior finished the contest with six goals and four assists for a career-high 10 points.
“The reality is she’ll do whatever it takes to win, and this year you’re seeing [Fortunato] step into an even more comfortable role of leading the offensive unit,” Halfpenny said. “There’s a lot of different faces out there over the course of the game, so as we constantly rotate our midfielders, that unit is a little bit different every time down, so Cortney has done a really good job of adding communication to the offensive end, taking a balanced amount of risks, looking for her opportunities but also creating opportunities for everyone else, and it’s nice to see how she balances that.”
The Irish also tied the school record in draw controls with 22. Freshman Savannah Buchanan, who had a big game against Northwestern, carried the load, tying the individual Irish record co-held by senior Casey Pearsall with nine draw wins. She had six in the second half as Notre Dame won 14-of-18 of the draws to set up the offensive explosion, and the Irish closed on a 6-0 run to stretch the lead at the end.
“Savannah is just an invaluable asset to our team,” Halfpenny said. “She’s obviously been valuable in gaining possession right off the draw control, doing that work around the circle. … She knows how to work within space really well but she also has outstanding vision, she has a great and high level of athletic and lacrosse IQ, and it’s been great to see her be dominate even just a rookie. … She’s done everything and more that we’ve asked of her, and I think that she’s making our team better overall.”
The Irish next look to a Tuesday night matchup with Marquette, who suffered a home-opening loss to No. 18 Louisville despite jumping out to an early three-goal lead.
“[Marquette] goes hard, and they’ve gotten better every single year under their head coach,” Halfpenny said. “ … Offensively the work as a team, they’re definitely not one dimensional. They’re dynamic in their attack, they’re good finishers, and they’re ready to make a name for themselves.”