May 7, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After being named the women’s lacrosse defensive player of the year on Tuesday in the nation’s top conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Notre Dame’s Barbara Sullivan (Garden City, New York) took a step towards claiming an even bigger individual prize on Thursday as she was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, annually presented to the best collegiate men’s and women’s lacrosse players in the nation.
The only defensive player selected as a finalist for either the men’s or women’s awards, Sullivan becomes just the third finalist in school history, joining Crysti Foote (2006) and Jillian Byers (2009). Notre Dame joins Syracuse as the only schools to have both a men’s and women’s finalist in 2015 as attackman Matt Kavanagh claimed a place on the men’s finalist roll.
A first-team All-American in 2013, Sullivan missed almost all of the 2014 season with a back injury and played her way into shape during the first half of 2015. She earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2015 while also claiming a spot on the ACC’s all-tournament team with six ground balls, nine draw controls and five caused turnovers in games against No. 5 Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina. Last month, Sullivan joined teammate Cortney Fortunato among 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award.
“To be a finalist for this award is incredibly special to me but more importantly it is a testament to all the great individuals around me, Sullivan, a team captain, said. “I am so thankful for my teammates and coaches for the support they give me on a daily basis. They make me look good and make me better each and everyday.
“I also couldn’t be more thankful for the sports medicine team here at Notre Dame, especially Steve Smith, Brad Kneibel, and Jim Russ. They never gave up on me and put my body back together to allow me another chance at playing. Also I have the best family in the world, so that doesn’t hurt either. It’s truly an honor to be selected as a finalist for this award, but now it’s time to win a national championship.”
Sullivan leads the ACC in caused turnovers (1.83 per game) while also ranking fourth in ground balls (2.22 per game) and fifth in draw controls (3.94 per game). Sullivan has set Irish school records this year for both single season (73) and career (194) draw controls while matching her single game school record of nine in Notre Dame’s 14-4 win at No. 4 Virginia on April 4. She is currently fifth in career ground balls and sixth in career caused turnovers at Notre Dame.
She is leader of an aggressive defense which ranks third nationally in caused turnovers at 11.22 per game. She is the best defender in a unit that has helped limit Irish opponents to single digit scoring 10 times this year, the school’s most single-digit defensive outings since the 2004 team had 12. Four of these single-digit defensive games came against teams that received seeds for the NCAA tournament (No. 2 North Carolina, No. 6 Stony Brook and No. 7 Virginia – twice).
Sullivan helped the Irish to a school record three wins over top 10 teams this season, remarkably, all of them coming both on the road and in the month of April. In those three games (wins at No. 4 Virginia, No. 7 Syracuse and at No. 5 Virginia again in the ACC quarterfinals), Sullivan had 17 draw controls, 10 ground balls and five caused turnovers to help bolster the Irish cause.
“I’m so proud of Barbara for all of her accomplishments leading up to this fantastic recognition,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Barbara is a special athlete, lacrosse player, and leader that competes in everything she does with an incredible spirit. This honor is a reflection of her hard work and perseverance over the last four years. This year marked Barbara’s return from an injury that had her out for quite some time and that too speaks volumes about her character and resilience.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Barbara and the program as we remain focused on our task at hand in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Irish (10-8) return to action on Friday when they face Ohio State (13-7) in the first round of the NCAA championship at Northwestern’s Lakeside Field in Evanston, Illinois. The game will begin at approximately 6 p.m. CDT, shortly after the conclusion of the Wildcats’ (12-6) 3:30 p.m. CDT first round matchup with Louisville (10-7). Notre Dame claimed a 13-5 win over the Buckeyes on March 21 at Arlotta Stadium but Ohio State has taken significant strides since, including a win over No. 1 Maryland in the Big Ten semifinals – the only loss suffered this season by the Terrapins.
The Tewaaraton Award winner will be announced on May 28 during a banquet at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.