Rachel Sexton netted a hat trick for the Irish on Saturday

Big Second Half Leads Irish Past No. 15 Ohio State, 13-5

March 21, 2015

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team broke out special kelly green Under Armour uniforms for Saturday’s matchup with No. 15 Ohio State and might be donning those Irish-themed outfits more often as Notre Dame rolled to a 13-5 victory over the regional-rival Buckeyes at Arlotta Stadium.

Cortney Fortunato scored four times and Rachel Sexton netted a hat trick for the Irish, which improved to 5-4 on the season while the Buckeyes dipped to 8-2. Brie Custis set up a trio of goals while Casey Pearsall also picked up three points for Notre Dame with two goals and an assist.

Leading just 3-2 at the halftime as Buckeye goaltender Tori DeSenca turned away nine Notre Dame shots, the Irish scored the second half’s first six goals, building a commanding 9-2 lead by the 17:15 mark, before pulling onward to victory.

Notre Dame outshot Ohio State 36-17 on the day and enjoyed a 27-19 margin in ground balls. Notre Dame’s pressuring defense also contributed to Ohio State turning the ball over 25 times, while the Irish relinquished possession of the ball just 12 times on the day.

After some long periods of possession, the Irish finally broke through on the scoreboard 6:33 into the contest as Stephanie Toy stepped through the Buckeyes’ defense for an unassisted goal. Ohio State tied the game on a Jackie Cifarelli tally 1:06 later but Notre Dame has a perfect answer. Barbara Sullivan controlled the ensuing draw almost immediately and pushed the ball up field to Grace Muller. Muller found Fortunato for the goal, giving the Irish back the lead at 2-1, just seven seconds after the Ohio State equalizer. Heidi Annaheim scored, unassisted, at the 16:09 mark to put the Irish up 3-1.

The start of Notre Dame’s six-goal spurt that opened the second half came quickly. Pearsall controlled the half’s opening draw and found Fortunato who scored just 17 seconds into the frame to give Notre Dame a 4-2 cushion. 1:09 later, Pearsall tallied, unassisted, to make it 5-2. Notre Dame’s defense gave way to offense at the 26:34 mark when Custis gobbled up a ground ball and ran it up field, feeding Caitlin Gargan for the goal that made it 6-2.

A Pearsall goal set up by Fortunato and a pair of strikes from Fortunato herself would make it a 9-2 edge for Notre Dame by the 17:15 mark. The Buckeyes scored two of the next three goals over a 13-minute span, drawing as close as 10-4, but Notre Dame stepped on the gas pedal late and sped away.

Sexton picked up a natural hat trick, scoring three consecutive goals over a span of just 1:29 late in the game to boost the Irish lead to 13-4 before a Cifarelli strike in the final minute accounted for the 13-5 final.

Notre Dame returns to action on Wednesday afternoon at Marquette before coming back to Arlotta Stadium on Sunday, March 29 to get back to Atlantic Coast Conference play with a 1 p.m. EDT game against No. 2 North Carolina.