ND Women’s Lacrosse
Irish make sixth-straight NCAA tournament, but fall to Cornell
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, May 19, 2017
An early eight-game winning streak highlighted Notre Dame’s 2017 season, as the Irish qualified for the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive year. But the team could win only three of its final 10 games and was eliminated in the opening rounds of both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Notre Dame (11-8, 4-3 ACC) opened the season against a Northwestern team looking for revenge after the Irish had beaten the then-No. 13 Wildcats (11-10, 4-2 Big 10) in the 2016 NCAA tournament. Although the Irish fought back from an 8-2 hole to tie the score at nine, they found themselves trailing 14-11 with under two minutes left. The Irish grabbed two quick goals back, but couldn’t find an equalizer as they dropped the season opener.
However, the Irish bounced back from the defeat in resounding fashion, defeating each of Liberty, Detroit and Marquette by double-digit goals. They followed those victories with road wins over Michigan and Elon before traveling to Duke for the team’s conference opener. The Irish trailed for almost the entire game and were behind 11-10 with just over two minutes left, but goals from sophomore attack Samantha Lynch and senior attack Grace Muller gave the Irish a comeback victory.
The Irish trailed at halftime against Louisville before recording another comeback win, while against Ohio State, the team never trailed and won 16-13 in the end to bring the winning streak to eight games. Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said the key to the streak was the way the team responded to losing the season opener.
“I think that we responded really well to that Northwestern defeat to be honest,” Halfpenny said. “We had a really great preseason and we learned a lot about ourselves, and to come up so close and just short in the Northwestern game was so tough. I was really proud of my team for allowing that to fuel them and for them to respond so well to not getting the result that we wanted. As soon as the game was done, they didn’t take long to lament on the loss and they were able to turn the page quickly. I think that was the key to that eight-game win streak that followed.”
However, the Irish were yet to face their biggest challenge of the season: a run of four consecutive road games against ranked opponents before hosting No. 2 North Carolina. Notre Dame lost 14-8 to No. 5 Princeton and 14-11 to No. 19 Towson before a 15-5 defeat at No. 16 Virginia. While many may have expected the Irish to continue their struggles against No. 7 Syracuse, the team was able to rebound and record a 16-7 victory in the Carrier Dome.
“I think that that was an awesome display of determination by our team,” Halfpenny said of the win over the Orange (15-7, 5-2 ACC). “I think that collectively we had the chance to go home, go back to the drawing board, get a solid week of practice in, which built our confidence, and we went in with a mentality that was, ‘we will not lose this game,’ and we went in with a mentality that was more about taking it one play at a time as opposed to looking at the scoreboard and seeing what the final score was.”
The Irish couldn’t keep the momentum from the upset victory however, losing 16-9 to the Tar Heels (17-2, 6-1 ACC) and dropping their final regular season game 16-10 to No. 12 Boston College to finish with a 4-3 ACC record. Hoping for revenge against the Eagles (15-6, 3-4 ACC) in the ACC tournament, the Irish fell just short, losing 17-14. Halfpenny said that injuries, especially senior midfielder Alex Dalton’s torn ACL during the game, made it much more difficult for her team to compete.
“We suffered a major loss in personnel when Alex Dalton went down at the end of the first half,” Halfpenny said. “That was such a huge loss to our midfield. She’s a two-point swing no matter what game you’re playing because of her ability to play incredible defense, slow down their fast break and be our fast break. I think that realistically we lost quite a bit of depth to injuries this year and that affected us down the stretch.”
In the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame met No. 9 Cornell in the first round. The Irish struggled to win on the draw, taking only seven of 21 draw controls, and lost the game 12-7 behind a 6-0 Cornell (13-6, 6-1 Ivy League) run either side of halftime.
Senior attack Cortney Fortunato, the team’s leading scorer, was named to the Tewaaraton Award Top 25 list.