ND Women’s Lacrosse
Offense propels Notre Dame to weekend sweep
No. 6 Notre Dame kept its perfect start going over the weekend, downing Colorado on Friday, 14-4, and topping California on Sunday, 21-2.
The Irish (5-0, 1-0 ACC) opened their weekend slowly against the Buffaloes (3-1, 1-0 MPSF), with both teams struggling to maintain possession in their respective offensive zones in a game that stayed scoreless for the first twenty minutes.
Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny credited the poise of freshman goalie Samantha Giacolone for keeping her presence in the net and allowing the Irish defense to play aggressively.
“Sam’s outstanding,” Halfpenny said. “I think that she did a really nice job seeing the ball today — it’s something we know that she’s capable of. Obviously we saw the fruits of all of her hard work and labor pay off last weekend, and I think it continues to speak to her getting comfortable with the speed of the game, trusting that defense in front of her. She made every save that we thought she should have tonight. “
The game seemed poised to become a defensive showcase as the first half ticked on. However, once senior midfielder Stephanie Toy broke through the Colorado defense to score the game’s first goal, the Irish had little trouble flexing their offensive muscles, scoring 12 unanswered goals on the way to their 14-4 victory.
The Irish relied on a balanced scoring attack during their spree, with the first nine goals of the game being registered by nine different players. Halfpenny highlighted the play of junior midfielder Casey Pearsall, who registered a goal and two assists in the first two minutes of the second half.
“[Casey’s] vision is incredible,” Halfpenny said. “This is the Casey that was highly sought after in high school, and she has been nothing but a blessing to this program since she’s gotten here. Definitely in the second half she kicked it into another gear. She’s showcasing her speed and her vision, as well as her game management, so I was really pleased.”
Where the Irish struggled Friday, they thrived Sunday, scoring twice in the first 34 seconds to open the 21-2 rout of California (0-3, 0-0 MPSF).
Just 12 seconds after Notre Dame won the opening draw, junior attack Cortney Fortunato fed senior attack Rachel Sexton for the first goal of the game and 22 seconds later, the Irish were ahead 2-0 when Pearsall scored. The Irish won the first two draws of the game en route to a 20-4 advantage in draw controls, but Halfpenny said there was more to Notre Dame’s early success than with the draw unit.
“It might be simplistic, but we’ve been very, very focused on getting better each game out,” Halfpenny said. “I think that part of getting better today was making sure that we just stuck to the game plan, which was [making sure that] when we have that fastbreak, [we] win the draw, push the break, push our second break and keep it unsettled as long as possible.
“I think that we just took advantage of our speed, we took advantage around the draw circle and everybody had each other’s backs because it wasn’t just our draw unit that helped us get out to that quick start.”
It took a little over six minutes before the Irish scored again, but when they did, they hit quick, with Sexton and junior attack Heidi Annaheim scoring 11 seconds apart to push the advantage to 4-0.
Freshman attack Nikki Ortega scored back-to-back goals before Fortunato bagged her first of the afternoon, putting the Irish up 7-0 before 10 minutes had been played. Senior attack Kiera McMullan scored just past the midway point of the half to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 10-0, instilling a running clock. All told, the Irish led 16-0 before the Golden Bears got on the board when junior attack Elizabeth Pellechi scored a free-position opportunity with 1:46 left in the half.
It was a balanced offensive attack for Notre Dame on Sunday, with each of its four leading scorers bagging hat tricks: Sexton led with five goals while Fortunato, Annaheim and Ortega all snagged hat tricks. Giacolone, who made two saves on three shots on goal in her 50 minutes and 37 seconds of action, had a relatively easy day as the Irish defense was successful on 7 of 11 clear attempts.
Notre Dame will look to stay unbeaten in its return to ACC play Saturday at Louisville.