ND Women’s Lacrosse
Notre Dame bounces back, overpowers Ohio State
Alex Carson | Monday, April 25, 2016
One of the nation’s top offenses returned to form Saturday, as No. 10 Notre Dame notched a big win in the race for NCAA tournament seeding, defeating No. 9 Ohio State, 17-9, at Ohio Stadium.
Just five days after being held to four goals in a loss to No. 4 USC, things were different — it didn’t take Notre Dame (12-5, 4-3 ACC) 20 minutes to top that mark against the Buckeyes, as junior attack Cortney Fortunato’s 52nd goal of the season and third of the game gave the Irish a 5-4 lead with 10:06 to play in the first half.
Notre Dame junior midfielder Casey Pearsall followed with two goals of her own, and once Notre Dame obtained that 7-4 lead, it never surrendered it, handing the Buckeyes (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten) their third consecutive loss.
Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny called practice this week “great” after her team’s loss Monday, and praised the strong effort that lasted the entirety of Saturday’s game.
“Overall, [I’m] really proud of our team focusing on ourselves and playing Notre Dame lacrosse [Saturday] from start to finish,” Halfpenny said. “It was just a really awesome effort top to bottom and it came off of a great week of preparation, so it was really nice to see our girls refocus themselves and really play together and fight together for 60 minutes.”
Ohio State closed the gap to 7-6 with 3:19 to play, but two Irish goals — from senior midfielder Stephanie Toy and senior attack Kiera McMullan — gave Notre Dame some breathing room heading into halftime.
And when the teams returned from the break, Notre Dame played its best lacrosse of the day.
With their advantage down to 10-8, the Irish rattled off six consecutive goals to put the game well out of reach, using five different scorers — from junior midfielder Katherine Eilers to graduate student defender Barbara Sullivan and Fortunato, who finished with five goals, to freshman attack Nikki Ortega and McMullan — to down the Buckeyes.
“We tightened things up, we settled into the game once we tightened things up,” Halfpenny said. “You take a look at what that score was and realistically, it was an 8-to-3 second half.”
Ohio State managed an answer with 9:38 left to close the gap to 16-9, but the Irish defense held strong and didn’t concede another goal, with junior attack Grace Muller’s goal with 1:50 to play being the final scoring action of the afternoon.
Halfpenny said she was pleased with how her team played when things weren’t easy Saturday en route to an emphatic win over a highly-ranked opponent.
“I think that top to bottom, being able to battle through adversity for 60 minutes — not every call going your way, a couple bad breaks, having to adjust on the draw control — I think it was really great to have that opportunity to work through all those things and then see and remind ourselves it’s a long game,” Halfpenny said. “ … Playing our style and [being] on each other allowed them to get the outcome they wanted.”
The win ends Notre Dame’s regular season — next up is the ACC tournament in Blacksburg, Virginia, where the No. 3-seeded Irish will have a good chance to secure a top-eight seed in the NCAA tournament, and with it, the right to host their first couple of games.
“It’s an awesome way to finish our regular season journey and it definitely gives us confidence heading into the ACC tournament on Thursday,” Halfpenny said.
Notre Dame’s opponent Thursday is No. 6-seeded and No. 7-ranked Louisville (12-4, 3-4), a matchup that gives Notre Dame an opportunity to avenge a 10-9 road double overtime loss to the Cardinals suffered March 5.
If Notre Dame gets through that game, they will likely see No. 5 Syracuse, who the Irish also dropped a one-goal decision to in March, in Friday’s second round — giving the squad ample opportunity to fine tune its NCAA tournament résumé while chasing an ACC crown this week at Virginia Tech.