May 10, 2015
EVANSTON, Ill. –
A nine-goal second half offensive burst tore open a game that had been tied at halftime and pushed No. 8 seed Northwestern (14-6) past Notre Dame (11-9), 16-11, in an NCAA Tournament second round game on Sunday at the Wildcats’ Lakeside Field.
Heidi Annaheim and Rachel Sexton each had a hat trick and an assist to pace Notre Dame on offense. Irish goalkeeper Liz O’Sullivan made 10 saves and senior Caitlin Gargan scored twice and added an assist for a three-point game.
Gargan crossed the 20-point plateau on the season during the game, giving the Irish a school-record nine players this spring with at least 20 points. Eight of those nine (all but Gargan) will return to the Irish in 2016 led by Cortney Fortunato who scored 56 goals and added 20 assists for 76 points in a 2015 season that will likely net her All-America accolades. Overall, players who accounted for 312 of Notre Dame’s 336 points this year (93 percent) are expected back in 2016.
Tewaaraton Award finalist Barbara Sullivan controlled four draws in the game today with a pair of caused turnovers and a ground ball. She finishes the season with a school-record 85 draw controls while her 36 caused turnovers will likely continue to top the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The score stood 7-7 at intermission but the Wildcats would score five of the second half’s first six goals to take command of the contest and ultimately earn a quarterfinal matchup next weekend at top-seeded Maryland. Kaleigh Craig and Selena Lasota both scored five goals for Northwestern while Sheila Nesselbush added four more tallies.
“First, congratulations to Northwestern,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said after guiding her team to a school-record fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth. “Our regional rival played a good game today and made plays to get the win.
“Right now it’s tough to end the season when we wanted two more weeks with this great group of women. That said, this team has so much to be proud of. We did a number of great things this year and I know we are continuing to build towards our ultimate goal of bringing back championships to Notre Dame. I’d like to thank our senior class for all of their effort, dedication and leadership that they’ve given us this year and since their arrival as freshman. They are incredible people and they will be greatly missed.”
The Irish got on the scoreboard first when Sexton set up Gargan for a goal just 1:01 into the game. After Northwestern tied the score, Notre Dame scored twice in a row to take a 3-1 lead. Annaheim struck first, picking the top corner on a free position shot. Gargan then sent a great pass from behind the net to Molly Cobb for the freshman’s first career goal. Cobb had a goal and three assists in the team’s two NCAA tournament games after compiling just two assists over her 15 regular season games played.
Northwestern tied the score at 3-3, but a three-goal run by the Irish gave Notre Dame a 6-3 cushion when 5:50 remained in the first half. Sexton and Brie Custis scored on free position shots to make it 5-3. Notre Dame’s final goal in the stretch was one of its prettiest of the season. After Stephanie Toy gathered a lengthy rebound of a shot off of the crossbar, Toy initiated a tic-tac-toe passing play by dishing off to Kiera McMullan by the near post who connected with Sexton at the far post for the goal.
After the Wildcats tied the score at 6-6 with 57 seconds left in the half, Notre Dame responded just 14 seconds later to go back on top, 7-6. Fortunato controlled the draw and fed Annaheim for the second of her three goals in the game. Craig scored five seconds before halftime though, sending the teams to the break deadlocked at 7-7.
Northwestern scored five of the second half’s first six goals to turn the game around and take a 12-8 lead. The lone goal for the Irish came when Annaheim scored on a feed from Casey Pearsall who played sparingly in the second half. It was Pearsall’s first appearance since suffering an ankle injury on April 16 and her physical two-way presence had been sorely missed in the interim.
A free position goal by Sexton and a tally from Alex Dalton, set up by Annaheim, got the Irish to within three goals at 13-10 with 11:09 to play, but Northwestern did not allow the Irish to draw closer. Gargan scored, unassisted, with 3:18 to play but it was sandwiched between four Wildcat goals to account for the 16-11 final score.