ND Women’s Lacrosse
Fortunato, Sexton lead Irish in rout of Marquette
Renee Griffin | Thursday, March 26, 2015
No. 17 Notre Dame defeated Marquette, 18-8, in Milwaukee on Wednesday for its third win in a row, building momentum going into a matchup with No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday at Arlotta Stadium.
Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said she was pleased with her team’s performance. Notre Dame’s attack unit has now scored at least 13 points in each of its last three games, including Saturday’s win over No. 18 Ohio State.
“We’re really, really happy that we came out here and stuck to doing what we do and kept it simple,” Halfpenny said. “We obviously finished it the way we wanted to. The 10-goal differential is huge — we haven’t done that all season, so we’re really excited about that. The offense has really settled into their roles. Our juniors and sophomores, who are all the low attackers, have really found their groove and found confidence.”
Sophomore attack Cortney Fortunato and junior attack Rachel Sexton each tallied five goals for the Irish (6-4, 1-2 ACC), marking the first time since Feb. 15, 2008, that two different Notre Dame players have scored at least five goals in one game.
“[Fortunato and Sexton] both did a really good job quarterbacking down there,” Halfpenny said. “They took advantage of what was given to them, and when they did get those double teams, they were effective in moving the ball out of them. Then they were executing and shooting well when they got down there and just did a great job of getting the ball in the back of the net.”
Halfpenny also praised sophomore midfielder Casey Pearsall for her production in the game.
“There hasn’t been much talk about Casey Pearsall, but her numbers — four points, eight draw controls, three caused turnovers and three ground balls — is a tremendous day for a sophomore,” Halfpenny said.
Despite the team’s recent success, Halfpenny said the Irish need to be more careful in avoiding turnovers in upcoming games and winning more fights for ground balls. Notre Dame committed 18 turnovers against the Golden Eagles and picked up the same number of ground balls as Marquette (4-6, 0-0 Big East) at 13.
“As excited as we are about the win … we want to see our transitions cleaned up a little bit,” Halfpenny said. “We feel like we should be winning the ground ball category with the talent we have. We can’t afford those unforced errors, so we need to work on ball security.”
North Carolina (8-2, 2-1) will offer a major challenge for the Irish, who are 1-4 against ranked teams so far this season.
“[The Tar Heels] have multiple threats and a high pressure style that can rush your offense at times,” Halfpenny said. “They have incredible speed from top to bottom and a lot of players that really are dynamic. They also have consistent coaching from Jenny [Levy] and her staff, and obviously, winning a national championship two years ago really helps them with that confidence.”
Halfpenny said she was confident her team could take down the Tar Heels, as long as it limits turnovers, wins the draw and goes after ground balls.
“We have to limit the unforced errors because North Carolina will take advantage of any mistakes we make. We’re gonna have to really focus on draw control, and ground balls will be really important,” Halfpenny said. “I like the way we match up — our defense matches up well with their offense. I really like the 1-v-1 matchups we have against them, so we’ll focus on that to limit the offensive talent that they have.”
Intangibles would also be a factor in the game, said Halfpenny.
“Our team really has a strong identity, and we’ve built confidence, and we love playing at home, so we’re ready for the ACC schedule we have coming up,” she said.
North Carolina visits Notre Dame at Arlotta Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.