May 5, 2016
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Barbara Sullivan’s Fifth Year Has Been Finest
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 6 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team will enter the NCAAs Championship next weekend at 13-6 holding what already ties for the third-winningest season in school history. No little surprise, individual honors for some of the student-athletes responsible for that lofty victory count continued to roll in on Thursday morning as graduate student Barbara Sullivan was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Sullivan joins Maryland’s Iliana Sanza (2012-13) as the only two-time winners of the ACC’s top defensive prize.
Sullivan, along with teammate Cortney Fortunato have also been named as two of the 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award, presented annually to college lacrosse’s top male and female players. Sullivan was one of five finalists for the award last spring, only the sixth defensive player to reach the final stage of candidacy. Fortunato is a nominee for the second consecutive year.
Sullivan and goalkeeper Samantha Giacolone were each named to the ACC’s all-tournament team for their roles in Notre Dame’s trip to last weekend’s ACC semifinals.
Only the ninth three-year team captain in Notre Dame’s athletic history, Sullivan has improved upon the numbers that helped earn first-team All-American honors in 2015. Her 51 caused turnovers are a school single-season record and lead the ACC. With that mark in her hands, Sullivan now boasts the school’s single game, single season and career records in both caused turnovers and draw controls.
Sullivan is the leader of a defense which leads the nation in caused turnovers (14.05 per game), ranks second in the ACC at 8.16 goals allowed per game and has limited Notre Dame’s opponents to fewer shot attempts than the Irish 16 times in 19 games. She has even added a touch of offense to her repertoire this spring, recording a career-high five points on two goals and three assists.
With Sullivan at the head of the aggressive defensive attacking pressure, the Irish defense has held a school-record seven foes to five goals or less, including the nation’s leading scoring offense in USC (five) plus likely NCAA tournament teams Jacksonville (four), Boston College (four), Colorado (four) and Virginia (four).
Fortunato leads the ACC in goals (58), goals per game (3.05), points (84) and points per game (4.42) while ranking fourth in assists (26). She is one of just three players nationally with at least 50 goals and 25 assists so far this year. Fortunato has 12 hat tricks in 19 games this year and the Irish have gone 11-1 in those contests. Entering NCAAs, she fourth in school single-season history for both goals and points.
Just as Sullivan has also mixed in some offense this year, Fortunato has shown some defensive chops at the top of the team’s defensive ride. The junior also ranks fifth in the ACC in caused turnovers.
Giacolone earned her spot on the ACC’s all-tournament team by making 17 saves as the Irish downed No. 8 Louisville in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 4 Syracuse in the semifinals. For the season, she is second in the ACC in goals against average (8.11) and saves (127) while ranking third in save percentage (.457). The 8.11 goals against average is the best by an ACC freshman since at least 2010 while her .457 save percentage is the second-best at Notre Dame since 2006.
The Irish will receive word on its NCAA Championship draw at 9 p.m. on Sunday. Ranked sixth or seventh in the polls and seventh in the NCAA’s official RPI, Notre Dame is under consideration to host one of the eight NCAA regionals (May 13-15) for the second time in three years.
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.