ND Women’s Lacrosse
Nikki Ortega, Cortney Fortunato propel Irish to victory over Golden Eagles
Tobias Hoonhout | Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The No. 8 Irish used a dominant second-half performance to propel itself to a midweek home win over Marquette, 21-9.
While reigning ACC Player of the Week and senior attack Cortney Fortunato tallied only two goals and two assists — low totals considering her recent performances — the Irish (3-1) had goals from nine different players to take care of the Golden Eagles (0-2). Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny was very pleased with the result.
“We have a complete team this year,” she said. “Seeing how we’re so in sync and everybody understands their role — and they’re doing a great job of looking for their opportunities but also sticking within the framework we have. We have minimal rules on our offense so that there’s some organization, but the framework allows for so much creativity. But overall I’m thrilled.”
Despite falling behind 2-1 early, the Irish responded almost immediately. Led by sophomore attack Nikki Ortega, who scored twice and assisted another during the stretch on her way to a four goal and three assist night, the Irish scored four goals in just over two minutes to jump back in front, 5-2. After Marquette managed to score twice with another Ortega goal in between, the Irish then went on another run, as four different players combined for five goals to bring the score to 11-4.
The Golden Eagles then scored with just under five minutes left in the first half, but Ortega scored again to silence the momentum. The half closed with Marquette adding only one more to bring the score to 12-6 in favor of the Irish.
In the second half, Notre Dame started to dominate the game. The Irish used their speed to their advantage on both sides of the ball, and just over two minutes in, sophomore midfielder Samantha Lynch poked the ball free as Marquette pushed forward to spring Notre Dame in transition, and a few moments later they were rewarded, as Fortunato found Lynch cutting to the net for the quick goal. The Irish then added three more, from three different scorers, to bring their lead to 16-6.
Marquette struggled to get anything going offensively with the intense Notre Dame pressure, as the Irish swarmed the Golden Eagles every time they got the ball back, forcing long passes from the midfield that could be intercepted. Halfpenny said the pressure was part of her team’s game plan right from the start.
“We just talked about contesting everything and using our God-given gifts and our developed talents so that we could use our speed everywhere and contest everything,” she said. “If we did that, we felt like the result would come our way. … We just talked about ‘Keep it really simple, contest everything and let the result take care of itself.’”
As the half went on, Marquette came out of a timeout and was able to garner some momentum with back-to-back goals despite the Irish pressure, and it had another great one-on-one chance in transition. But Irish sophomore goalie Samantha Giacolone made a huge save to stave off the comeback, and on the other end Lynch scored off an assist from Fortunato to seal the deal. With three minutes left, senior attack Grace Muller added a final goal to cement the 21-9 win.
Overall, Halfpenny was thoroughly impressed with the balance and dominance in the Irish midfield, and is looking forward for further improvement, she said.
“Something we’ve talked about earlier on in what we thought we would see is how dominant our midfield is, and now that we’re four games in, they’re dominating,” Halfpenny said. “It’s so exciting to see that because I don’t think we’ve had that here, not in my tenure. So to see [freshman] Savannah [Buchanan] and [sophomore] Makenna Pearsall, [senior] Casey Pearsall, [junior] Molly Cobb, [junior] Sydney Cardozo, [freshman] Erin McBride — this whole crew of kids that are contributing is just so exciting to see, and everybody’s taking a little bit of pressure of each other, which is great. … We don’t have to be anything else. Be who we are right now in February and that’ll be good enough, and they trusted it and they believe. They really believe in each other. It’s a really neat thing to coach.”
Notre Dame next plays Michigan on Saturday in its first road game of the season, with the match slated to start at 1 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.