ND Women’s Lacrosse
ND faces off against No. 9 Ohio State
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, March 20, 2015
For the fifth time in seven games, No. 19 Notre Dame will take on a fellow ranked opponent Saturday when it hosts No. 9 Ohio State at Arlotta Stadium.
The Irish (4-4, 1-2 ACC) are coming off a 15-8 win over Virginia Tech last Saturday that saw the Irish get back on track after a trio of successive losses. Sophomore attack Cortney Fortunato scored eight goals in the win — as many as the Hokies — to help her team to its first conference win of the season after losses at No. 2 Duke and No. 4 Boston College.
The Buckeyes (8-1, 0-0 Big Ten) have won four straight since a Feb. 28 loss to Stanford and are led in the goal-scoring department by senior attack Katie Chase, who has tallied 27 goals on the season. Ohio State senior attack Jackie Cifarelli leads the team in points, though, with 12 goals and 25 assists. Senior goaltender Tori DeScenza anchors the Buckeyes’ back line with 68 saves in nine games, while Ohio State has the nation’s third-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 16.33 goals per game.
Notre Dame and Ohio State have a quartet of opponents in common so far this season; both teams triumphed over Cincinnati, Detroit and Virginia Tech and fell at the hands of Stanford.
Fortunato leads the Irish into Saturday’s contest with 23 goals and seven assists on the season. She is followed atop the Notre Dame scoring charts by junior Rachel Sexton, who has 14 goals, and sophomore midfielder Casey Pearsall, who has seven goals and eight assists on the year.
One advantage the Irish have over their opponents is their high conversion rate from free-position opportunities. Notre Dame has scored 30 goals on 54 free-position shots so far this season, while the Buckeyes are just 15-for-38 in such situations on the year.
Tomorrow’s game is the start of a two-game non-conference stretch for the Irish — a trip to Marquette on Wednesday is next on the cards — before they return to ACC play for three more conference games.
The Irish are unbeaten against unranked opponents and winless against ranked opponents so far this season, something that will have to change if Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny’s team is to emerge victorious this weekend.
Senior defender Barbara Sullivan has returned to the Irish squad this year and paces the team in both draw controls (33) and ground balls (16). Sophomore goaltender Liz O’Sullivan leads the Irish in net, bringing a .340 save percentage into Saturday’s contest.
The Irish and Buckeyes will face off in a top-20 contest Saturday at Arlotta Stadium, with the opening draw coming at noon.