ND Women’s Lacrosse
Notre Dame prepares to return to ACC play against Virginia Tech
Elizabeth Greason | Wednesday, April 12, 2017
After defeating Kennesaw State 24-4 on the road last Thursday and setting multiple program records, the No. 12 Irish will return to ACC play — and Arlotta Stadium — to face off against No. 16 Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Notre Dame (10-5, 3-2 ACC) will look to turn its win over the Owls last Thursday into a streak, after dropping the previous game to No. 2 North Carolina on April 2.
The Hokies (11-5, 2-3 ACC) are coming into the matchup on a three-game losing streak, after being defeated by the Tar Heels (12-1, 5-0), before dropping two close games to Louisville and No. 11 Syracuse — each of which went to overtime.
The start to the Virginia Tech season was a different story, however. The Hokies got out to an 11-2 start to the season, defeating ACC foes No. 15 Boston College and No. 20 Duke in convincing fashion, 18-12 and 11-6, respectively.
Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said after the Kennesaw State victory that the Hokies’ start to the season poses an exciting threat to the Irish.
“Virginia Tech opened up their season on a huge run, having unprecedented success, very athletic,” Halfpenny said. “They seem to have found a great identity. They play a strong brand of lacrosse, so we’ll be really excited to prepare for them. We’ll kind of take it one game at a time for now.”
After its win over Kennesaw State in which Notre Dame set a program record for goals scored in a road game, the Irish are looking to continue their offensive success, which Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny attributed to an improved ability to be efficient on the attack and clearing scoring lanes well.
Irish senior attack Cortney Fortunato scored eight goals in the game — six of which came in the first half, tying a school record for goals scored in the first half. Overall, nine Irish players picked up goals against the Owls, including senior attack Grace Muller, senior midfielder Casey Pearsall and sophomore midfielder Samantha Lynch, all of whom finished with hat tricks.
The Hokies enter the matchup with one of the top-ranked scoring defenses in the country, currently sitting in 10th overall, having only allowed 8.44 goals per game so far this season. Virginia Tech is led defensively by junior goalkeeper Meagh Graham, who has started all 16 of the Hokies’ games this season, averaging a .451 save percentage, and sophomore midfielder Mary Claire Byrne, who has caused 31 turnovers and picked up 29 ground balls this season.
Virginia Tech also ranks second in the nation in free position goal percentage with 55.2 percent.
The Irish, on the other hand, enter the matchup 13th in the country in caused turnovers per game, lead by freshman midfielder Savannah Buchanan with 22 and Fortunato with 20. They also boast a scoring offense among the top-20 and are 11th in the country in shots per game.
After taking on Virginia Tech, the Irish will face off against Boston College (10-5, 2-4) the following week in Notre Dame’s final regular season game. Halfpenny said the next two games are critical for Notre Dame’s postseason status.
“Both quality teams. There’s a lot up in the air right now with ACC seedings and on a national level, seeing what these two teams, the impact they can have,” Halfpenny said. “So, we’re really excited about it. Both teams play different styles of defenses, are very athletic and have both had really strong seasons.”
Notre Dame will take on Virginia Tech at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday at noon.