ND Women’s Lacrosse
Irish fight for more than a victory in UVA game
Alex Carson | Thursday, March 17, 2016
A contrast of styles between No. 5 Notre Dame’s fast-paced approach and No. 12 Virginia’s methodical one will be on display Saturday when the two clash in an ACC game at Arlotta Stadium.
“They present that disciplined and patient game plan, especially against our team that likes to play fast,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “But that said, our aggressive style and our high-pressure style, we feel matches up really nicely against that patient look.”
The Irish (8-1, 2-1 ACC) ride a three-game winning streak into the contest, an answer to a March 5 double-overtime loss at No. 6 Louisville which highlights the team’s commitment to constant improvement, Halfpenny said.
“I’m really pleased,” she said of her team’s response. “A goal of ours is to get better every day. And it might be simplistic, but it’s something that we’ve really focused on, and the girls to their credit are the ones that show up every day thinking about, ‘How can I improve a piece of my game? How can we improve a piece of our holistic approach?,’ and I think that’s something we have been able to hang our hat on.”
As for Notre Dame’s opponent, the Cavaliers (4-4, 0-2 ACC) have trended in the opposite direction lately, losing three straight games — the most recent a double-overtime defeat at the hands of No. 4 North Carolina. Halfpenny said Virginia has had younger players move into larger roles this season.
“They graduated a lot,” Halfpenny said. “That said, they’ve had no problem with kids stepping up, putting up numbers for them as well as kids that were younger last year that are stepping into the bigger roles.”
While in the eyes of most, Notre Dame is led by its two Tewaarton Award candidates — junior attack Cortney Fortunato, who leads the nation with 31 goals, and graduate student defender Barbara Sullivan, who is second in the country with 30 forced turnovers — Halfpenny said this Irish squad is a collective effort.
“Every member of this 32-player team — and I would say all the way down to every staff member that’s been involved, anyone that has had five minutes with this group has a great handle on the desire, the determination and the drive behind this unit,” she said.
While she has a veteran unit, the Irish head coach praised her freshman class for contributing to this team’s identity.
“Every class has brought something special,” Halfpenny said. “I just overheard someone say the freshmen ignited this passion because they love the game so much and their naïve bliss. … [It] got the seniors even more excited about their ultimate goal, which is to get to the Final Four, to get farther than this program has gotten in their time.”
Saturday’s game carries more meaning than the result for Notre Dame or Virginia, as the Irish are set to host their first Friends of Victoria Game, raising awareness for relationship violence.
The Friends of Victoria foundation honors Victoria McManus, senior defender Katherine McManus’ sister, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2014, giving Notre Dame a way to rally around a teammate’s family.
“I think it’s really huge,” Halfpenny said of the event. “Obviously, Katherine McManus, being a senior for us and many of us living through one of the worst tragedies anyone — friend, sister, daughter, mother — could even imagine. We were all affected by the tragedy and the relationship violence that took someone’s life [from] us, so for us to rally around Katherine, this is part of us giving back to the McManus family for so much they’ve given us, really, by giving us Katherine for four years.”
GreeNDot and the One Love Foundation, founded to celebrate the life of Virginia women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Reynolds Love, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2010, will also be involved in Saturday’s game, which starts at 2 p.m. McManus was the recipient of the foundation’s 2015 award, which is presented to college lacrosse’s unsung hero.
“For us, this is all about education, it’s all about awareness, it’s all about support,” Halfpenny said. “So we’re really excited about our inaugural event and this becoming a yearly and annual thing for us.”