ND Women’s Lacrosse
Notre Dame hosts No. 13 Stanford
Christina Kochanski | Thursday, March 27, 2014
No. 6 Notre Dame welcomes a cross-country rival to Arlotta Stadium on Saturday when the Irish play No. 13 Stanford.
The two teams have met 14 times in program history. The Irish (8-3, 1-3 ACC) were triumphant in nine of these games but fell to Stanford (7-1, 2-0 MPSF) in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, 7-6.
Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said a fierce rivalry is developing between the two schools’ lacrosse programs to go with the two schools’ rivalries in other sports.
“We battle for recruits and attract the same style athletes,” Halfpenny said. “Even though [the record] weighs more heavily in Notre Dame’s favor, obviously Stanford’s win in NCAA play last year creates a true rivalry feeling.”
Stanford enters the game on a five-game winning streak, including a 17-9 victory over Cornell on Tuesday. A deep and very experienced roster has been key to the Cardinal win streak, Halfpenny said.
“Right now they’re playing 18, 19 kids a game and their scoring is very spread out,” she said. “They also only graduated one starter from last year’s team.”
Junior goalkeeper Allie Murray and the Irish defense will face senior attack Rachel Ozer, who leads Stanford with 22 points and eight assists. Ozer was named to the midseason Tewaaraton Award Watch List, given annually to the best women’s collegiate lacrosse player.
For the Irish, freshman midfield and attack Cortney Fortunato leads the team in goals with 28 on the season. Junior midfield Caitlin Gargan and freshman midfield Casey Pearsall are tied for the lead in assists with nine each.
Pearsall is also tied for the team lead in draw controls, an extra duty she took on after an injury sidelined junior defense Barbara Sullivan for the rest of the season.
The Irish are coming off of a 17-8 victory over Villanova on Sunday. The win featured goals from 10 different Irish scorers, including hat tricks from sophomore midfield Brie Custis and sophomore attack Kiera McMullan.
Halfpenny said she hopes the offense strength and depth her team demonstrated carries over into the Stanford game.
“I saw great improvement on offense,” Halfpenny said. “Every single player that was in on offense was a dynamic threat.”
The Irish have outshot their opponents 231-186 in 11 games this season, compared to Stanford’s 173-119 margin in eight games. The Irish defensive zone, backed by Murray’s goalkeeping, have been integral to Notre Dame’s early season success, Halfpenny said. Murray holds a .439 save percentage and 9.95 goals against average.
The matchup with Stanford marks the final stretch of regular-season play for the Irish, with only four more games left on the schedule. Three of these four games are against ACC rivals Virginia, Duke and Syracuse.
Halfpenny said her team treats every game as if it is the, “Super Bowl of the season,” but she also emphasizes the importance of these last few games.
“Every single game from this point on, is really, really important,” Halfpenny said. “In order to position ourselves properly [for the postseason], we have to fill the win column.”
The Irish take on Stanford on Saturday at 12 p.m., in Arlotta Stadium.