ND Women’s Lacrosse
Notre Dame gets revenge on Duke, takes Senior Day win
Daniel O'Boyle | Monday, April 18, 2016
Whether it was four goals behind in the first half, two goals down with three minutes left in the game, or trailing by one with Duke possession and 90 seconds on the clock, No. 10 Notre Dame found ways to fight back during Saturday’s encounter with the No. 13-ranked Blue Devils, pulling off a 10-9 overtime victory.
On Senior Day, it was senior attack Rachel Sexton who grabbed the game-winning goal for the Irish (11-4, 4-3 ACC), her third of the game to go with one assist.
A close start to the game saw both teams score twice in the opening ten minutes, but Duke (9-6, 4-2) soon began to build a lead. Senior attack Kelci Smesko made the game 3-2, and sophomore attack Kyra Harney, senior midfielder Maddy Acton and sophomore midfielder Maddie Crutchfield made the game 6-2. With two minutes left in the half, Irish junior attack Cortney Fortunato scored to make it 6-3 at the break. Gaining possession had not been an issue for Notre Dame, who led the draw control count 7-3, but the Irish struggled to turn these opportunities into goals and were punished at the other end. Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny had praise for how her team, and especially her seniors, responded to the difficult first half.
“I think that they did what they’ve repeatedly done throughout their careers, which was respond,” Halfpenny said. “I’ve really appreciated their focus. I thought they took extreme ownership of this game especially out of halftime. They came into the second half very, very focused, very, very driven and really played together. I think that was a big difference in the second half: You could see them looking for each other, sharing the ball with full belief. I’m excited for the whole squad and I think it just speaks to what this senior class has done for this team to see how everybody, regardless of class, played today.”
The Irish continued to cut into the Blue Devils’ lead into the second half, with four goals in five minutes to give Notre Dame its first lead of the day. Duke responded, however, and opened up another two-goal lead.
With just over two minutes left, junior midfielder Casey Pearsall cut through the center of the Duke defense to make the difference just one goal. It was the Blue Devils who won the fight on the ground for the ensuing draw, however, and needed to only hold onto the ball for two minutes to secure the victory. But when junior midfielder Alex Dalton won the ball back, Notre Dame had a final chance to score with just over a minute remaining. That chance was dispatched by Fortunato, who set up an overtime period, where the Irish quickly forced a turnover and Sexton won the game at the other end. Halfpenny said her team’s belief ensured that they could still get the victory.
“They know what they want,” Halfpenny said. “This team wants to win and believed that what we had would be enough. They trusted each other, they knew the ball would go on the floor, they knew they would get their chances, but they also made their chances. They didn’t leave anything to chance.”
Sexton said scoring the game-winning goal on Senior Day was a perfect moment for her.
“It feels incredible,” Sexton said. “I think this team has been searching to click and searching for a win over these last couple of weeks, so for it all to come together on Senior Day was really something special to be a part of.”
Next up for the Irish is a clash with No. 5 USC. The Trojans are currently undefeated at 14-0, first in the nation in scoring defense and offense, giving up only 4.92 goals per game, and averaging 15.46 goals scored. Halfpenny said the Trojans are an especially impressive team.
“They’re very good,” Halfpenny said. “They’re very disciplined and very athletic. They have good size, great speed, great discipline and right now they know how to win. We’re coming up against a team who will be looking to obviously be setting another first for their program as they finish this final stretch. But I really like my squad, I like the way my squad is playing right now. I think this was great preparation today for how hard we need to play and for getting to where we need to be, which we’ll do one game at a time and one win at a time.”
The Irish and the Trojans will begin play at 4 p.m. Monday at Arlotta Stadium.