Feb. 6, 2016
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
By Leigh Torbin
Who was the biggest unsuspecting beneficiary of the No. 7 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team’s 18-5 win at Jacksonville in its season opener on Saturday? One could argue that title goes to sweetFrog frozen yogurt in Jacksonville Beach.
Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny rewards her team with ice cream for scoring 18 goals in a game. So when Heidi Annaheim scored the milestone tally in the waning moments of the contest against the Dolphins, the bench erupted and the wheels were set in motion that led to the Irish consuming 29.6 pounds of sweetFrog’s tasty goodness en route back to the team hotel.
Notre Dame’s most lopsided road win since opening the 2011 season with a 20-6 victory at California was sweet enough on its own merits. Facing the three-time defending Atlantic Sun champions, the Irish had five players record at least four points, led by a career-high-tying eight by Cortney Fortunato. Of Notre Dame’s 18 goals, 15 included an assist with 12 different players recording at least one point on the day.
The Irish held decisive margins over the Dolphins in major categories like shots (40-13), draw controls (18-6) and ground balls (23-17). Freshman goalie Samantha Giacolone made five saves in her collegiate debut.After holding just a 3-2 lead 14 minutes into the game, Notre Dame rattled off 11 consecutive goals (scored by eight different Irish players) to take full command of the contest.
The cherry on top though was simply the victory itself as the Irish defeated the first of 12 teams on their 17-game 2016 schedule that played in last year’s NCAA championship.
Fortunato’s eight points included four goals and four assists. The four other Irish players to pick up at least four points were Casey Pearsall (two goals and three assists), Rachel Sexton (three goals and one assist), Kiera McMullan (two goals and two assists) and freshman Nikki Ortega (two goals and two assists), making her collegiate debut.
The defensive end also played well. The Irish were credited with 17 caused turnovers, including four from Fortunato. Fellow first-team All-American Barbara Sullivan controlled five draws, helping the Irish build their vast advantage in that crucial area.
Notre Dame has now won its season-opener in each of the last 13 seasons, extending back to a 2003 loss at Cornell. Saturday’s dominant road victory was a sweet one for the Irish both figuratively and literally. Notre Dame’s memory must remain short, however. The Irish have seven days until a home-opening showdown with No. 16 Stanford on Saturday. The Cardinal and Irish have seen their last six meetings all decided by three goals or less – four of them in Stanford’s favor – including a matchup in the 2013 NCAA championship.
Dessert tonight was sweet. The five-course meal of the 2016 season, however, remains in the appetizer stage with the next lunch guest arriving at the Loftus Sports Center from California on Feb. 13 at noon.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team while serving as the football publicity team’s top lieutenant. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.