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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish welcome Cavaliers to Arlotta

| Friday, April 4, 2014

No. 8 Notre Dame seeks a return to the win column this weekend as they host No. 16 Virginia on Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.

Irish sophomore attack Kiera McMullan cuts around a defender during Notre Dame's 19-7 win over Michigan on Feb. 8.Zachary Llorens | The Observer
Irish sophomore attack Kiera McMullan cuts around a defender during Notre Dame’s 19-7 win over Michigan on Feb. 8.
The Irish (8-4, 1-3 ACC) are coming off an 11-10 loss to Stanford on Saturday, which was their first nonconference loss of the season and second defeat at home on the year. The game featured five ties and four lead changes, but the Irish could not muster a response after the Cardinal scored the game’s final goal with 4:05 remaining.

Key to keeping the Irish competitive was the play of freshman midfielder Cortney Fortunato, who notched three goals and an assist in the loss. Fortunato leads the Irish in both goals and assists, with 31 and 11, respectively. Despite her relative inexperience, Fortunato has already taken on a leadership role for Notre Dame, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said.

“She’s really developed into our quarterback,” Halfpenny said. “She’s been an on-field leader for us. In every game she steps out there I feel like she’s getting more comfortable and more confident in her role. She just had a tremendous game against Stanford. We don’t want her to do anything more than what she’s been doing, we want her to continue to grow, continue to improve.”

Fortunato has nine more goals on the season than the second-leading scorer, sophomore attack Rachel Sexton. Close behind is junior midfielder Caitlin Gargan, with 21 goals. This top trio of scorers has led an Irish attack that racks up 12.75 goals per game on the season, against just 9.5 allowed. Despite this, the Irish are still 1-3 in the ACC, and will need to win their final three ACC games in order to finish over .500 in conference play. Halfpenny said that another freshman midfielder’s emergence might make this possible.

“To be honest, Casey Pearsall in the midfield, we’re really excited to see her continue to grow and her improvement,” Halfpenny said. “At both ends of the field she’s really been stepping up for us and growing into a more confident role so we’re excited to see her step up. Overall, I’m excited to see her and the whole team step up and improve from the last time out.”

Notre Dame’s first hurdle is Virginia (6-6, 0-3), who has struggled in conference play as well. This will be the inaugural meeting between the two schools. The Cavaliers average 14.42 goals per game behind the duo of senior attack Liza Blue and junior attack Courtney Swan, who have 35 and 34 goals on the season, respectively. Halfpenny said the Irish are well aware that Virginia is not to be taken lightly.

“They’re a really, really fast team,” Halfpenny said. “They have a storied history and tradition in the program, one of the oldest programs in the country. They have one of the hardest schedules in the country and they’re coming in here and they’re incredibly dangerous.

“We’re really going to be focused on limiting their speed and their transition game because that’s something they’ve really been making a living off of. Their methodical and deep offense is something we’re preparing for this week as well.”

Prior to Saturday’s game, the Irish will be wearing pink jerseys for warm-ups as part of their fourth-annual “Lax for the Cure” day. These jerseys will be auctioned off after the game, and pink “Lax 4 The Cure” t-shirts will also be sold for $10, with all proceeds benefitting the Susan G. Komen of Northern Indiana foundation. Finally, all fans wearing pink will receive free entry into Arlotta Stadium when the Irish host Virginia on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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