Feb. 13, 2015
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Although the weather forecast for February in the Midwest rarely calls for thunderstorms, the University of Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team whipped up some lightning strikes on offense to secure an important season-opening victory.
Sophomore All-America attacker Cortney Fortunato (Northport, N.Y./Northport) scored four goals and dished out two assists, as the No. 11/9 Fighting Irish scored eight unanswered goals in the first half and rolled past the University of Cincinnati, 14-5 on a cold and blustery Friday afternoon at Gettler Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Another sophomore attacker, Grace Muller (Ruxton, Md./McDonogh School) added three goals (scoring a season-opening hat trick against Cincinnati for the second year in a row), while junior attacker Rachel Sexton (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury Regional) also scored three times, and junior attacker Kiera McMullan (West Nyack, N.Y./Pearl River) tallied a goal and a career-high three assists to help Notre Dame earn its 12th consecutive win on opening day. The Fighting Irish now are 7-0 all-time against Cincinnati, including a 4-0 series record on the road.
Sophomore goalkeeper Liz O’Sullivan (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan) made eight saves and scooped up a career-high five ground balls to earn the victory in the Notre Dame cage.
The Fighting Irish (1-0) finished with decided advantages in total shots (31-14), shots on goal (24-13) and ground balls (28-17), and they were quite efficient with their free-position chances, converting eight of 12 opportunities in the contest, including six of eight in the first half. Notre Dame’s defense also forced 24 Bearcat turnovers and limited UC to one of seven on its free-position shots.
Muller had a game-high seven shots, while Fortunato and Sexton each logged six shots (the latter putting all six on goal) for Notre Dame.
Courtney Curtis was the only player to score more than once for Cincinnati (0-1), netting three goals. The Bearcats did wind up with a narrow 12-9 edge on draw controls, while UC netminder Meg Gulmi did all she could to keep the hosts in contention, making 10 saves.
“We had great effort, energy and enthusiasm today — three things that we talked about throughout the preseason,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “We are encouraged by so many things that this team is bringing to the table. Our defense was aggressive and relentless, starting in the ride, and our offense was smart and selfless. Cortney, Kiera, Rachel and Grace really executed well on offense, and I’m so proud of Liz and the maturity and focus she brought to the crease today, especially on their eight-meter shots.”
The Fighting Irish actually spotted the Bearcats the opening goal, with Curtis scored 5:15 into the contest. From there, Notre Dame steamrolled past UC with its eight-goal barrage, covering a span of 12:45 midway through the first half. Fortunato and Sexton had a hand in six of the eight Fighting Irish goals during the run, with Fortunato piling up two goals and two assists, while Sexton scored a pair of free-position goals 1:42 apart to highlight the blitz.
Fortunato capped off Notre Dame’s first-half surge by scoring her third goal of the day on a free-position shot with two seconds left in the period, sending the Fighting Irish to the locker room with a 9-2 lead.
Notre Dame left no doubt about the eventual outcome, scoring five of the first six goals in the second half to take a commanding 11-goal lead, with a running clock implemented once the Fighting Irish stretched the margin to double figures on Fortunato’s fourth goal of the afternoon with 16:03 left. Cincinnati trimmed back the final spread only slightly, picking up goals from Curtis and Megan Bell in the closing four minutes, the latter with 21 seconds to play.
It’s a quick turnaround for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish return to campus for their home opener at noon (ET) Sunday, welcoming last year’s Atlantic Sun Conference runner-up Detroit to the Loftus Sports Center.
“We definitely have work to do, but that’s to be expected at this point in the season,” Halfpenny added. “We’ll address the draw and focus on the hustle categories moving forward. Overall, everyone made plays today and we couldn’t be more excited as we look ahead to opening up our home slate on Sunday against Detroit.”
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s lacrosse Twitter pages (@NDWomensLax or @LTorbin), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/NDWLAX) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director