ND Women’s Lacrosse
Savannah Buchanan scores late goal to propel Irish past Blue Devils
Daniel O'Boyle | Monday, April 16, 2018
With Notre Dame desperately needing a victory and tied with No. 19 Duke in the final minute, sophomore midfielder Savannah Buchanan stepped up with what may be the most important goal of the season so far for the Irish, securing a 10-9 victory Sunday.
The Irish (8-7, 3-4 ACC) and the Blue Devils (7-7, 2-4) started slowly, as a goal from Blue Devils junior attack Olivia Jenner and one from Buchanan were the only goals in almost 15 minutes of play from the opening draw. Yet, the Irish slowly began to take control of the encounter thanks to a dominant defensive performance, scoring six unanswered goals — including Buchanan’s first goal — to take a 6-1 lead into halftime. Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said she was extremely pleased with the early tone set by her defense.
“Our defense fuels our offense, and when you come up against an opponent that has a great ability on the draw, we were aware they might get first dibs,” Halfpenny said. “We were very comfortable and confident in our defensive personnel and defensive strategy. Knowing that we were going to make stops is huge. It fuels our offense and gets them excited. I was really impressed with the communication that happened when we pushed up into the offensive end. It is something we have relied on this year, and it was great today.”
Early in the second half, it appeared that the low-scoring nature of the game would continue, as both sides went more than eight minutes without a goal. But then Jenner doubled her total for the first Duke goal in more than 30 minutes of play, starting a Blue Devils comeback. The Blue Devils added three more goals unanswered until Irish freshman midfielder Maddie Howe added her third goal of the game to make it 7-5. But within three minutes of Howe’s goal, the Blue Devils scored twice more, tying the game at 7-7 after Blue Devils freshman attack Charlotte North’s second goal of the contest.
The Irish would take control of the game back through goals from sophomore attack Jesse Masinko and Howe, and they held a two-goal lead with less than four minutes left. But two goals within a minute for Duke put the Irish in danger of giving the game away again, as the score was now tied 9-9 with three minutes remaining. But within the final minute of the game, the Irish had one last chance to earn a victory. Howe’s shot was saved by Blue Devils junior goalie Jamie Lockwood, but the rebound fell to Buchanan, who picked up the ground ball and finished from close range with 31 seconds remaining.
“Our team has shown a great amount of resilience as we continue to grow and continue to find experience,” Halfpenny said. “[Sunday], I was really proud of them to stay with it, they had great resolve from start to finish. They stayed together, which was a key to our game. Savannah’s goal was a snapshot of us staying together. Maddie Howe drew the shooting space, and Savannah took advantage of a second-chance opportunity on a loose ball.”
With plenty of time still remaining for a potential equalizer, the Blue Devils almost forced overtime as a shot fired with less than 10 seconds left struck the post, but an offensive foul in the final seconds ended the Duke possession and gave the Irish a victory.
Howe, the leading Irish scorer this season, added four goals to her total, while freshman midfielder Andie Aldave collected five draw controls against one of the top draw-control specialists in the nation in Jenner, putting her one draw control short of the program single-season record of 85, set by two-time Tewaaraton Award finalist Barbara Sullivan in 2015. Halfpenny said the impact of her freshmen this season has been huge.
“We have had a great mix from the freshmen to the sophomores to the juniors and the seniors. We are finding our way, which is super exciting,” Halfpenny said. “We are gaining a ton of experience and are starting to show it now. Savannah and Andie coming away with nine draws against one of the top drawers in the country was huge [Sunday]. It really fuels us, and it will fuel us going forward.”
The win gives the Irish a 3-4 record in ACC play, securing the No. 5 seed for the ACC, where Notre Dame will face the loser of Saturday’s game between Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The Irish will make a change to their originally planned schedule, adding a midweek game at Albany before Senior Day this weekend at home against San Diego State. The game gives the Irish another chance to add a win to boost its NCAA tournament resume, as they hope to snap a streak of four consecutive road losses. If the Irish beat the Great Danes (6-7, 5-0 America East), they will be eligible for a place at the NCAA tournament.
“The last two weeks, we’ve had just one game a week and we had great weeks of practice,” Halfpenny said. “Now, this is a week of competition. We want to showcase all the work we’ve put in on the daily together.”
The Irish and Great Danes will square off Wednesday in Albany, New York. Opening draw is scheduled for 1 p.m.