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Irish Fall to Tar Heels

April 2, 2017

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By Megan Golden

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The No. 12 University of Notre Dame dropped a hard-fought battle to No. 2 North Carolina, falling 16-9, on Sunday at Arlotta Stadium. The Irish (9-5, 3-2) played their second straight top-five matchup and first game at home over the past 26 days.

The loss against North Carolina (10-1, 3-0) is Notre Dame’s first at home since it fell to Northwestern on Feb. 5.

How It Happened

North Carolina got on the board first, but seniors Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall netted back-to-back goals to give Notre Dame an early 2-1 advantage.

The Tar Heels responded with three straight goals, taking a 4-2 lead at the 19:25 mark of the first half.

Notre Dame added four first-half goals, coming from the sticks of Pearsall, freshman Jessi Masinko, Fortunato and senior Grace Muller. At the 36-second mark of the half, Muller scored a behind-the-back goal, courtesy of an assist from Pearsall.

The Irish trailed the Tar Heels, 9-6, at halftime.

Both Notre Dame and North Carolina ran methodical offenses throughout the game, passing the ball and working through the offense for much of the 90-second shot clock. At the start of the second half, the Tar Heels netted a goal with under one second on the shot clock and took a 10-6 lead.

The Irish lost the draw control battle, 17-10. The Inability to win the draw, in addition to long offensive possessions, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said, really limited her team’s opportunities offensively.

“Two areas that North Carolina is very, very good at, and what makes them the No. 2 team in the country, is the pressure they put on teams in the ride and the draw game,” Halfpenny said. “They do a fantastic job of coming up with the ball and forcing you into a make-it, take-it game. That made it really difficult for us in regards to the possession game.”

The Irish and the Tar Heels endured a second-half scoring drought that lasted 13:32. Irish goalkeeper Samantha Giacolone limited the Tar Heels offensively, recording 11 saves in the second half and ultimately a career-high 18 saves in the game.

“I feel great about what we’re going to do,” Halfpenny said. “I’m excited about the development we have and learning our lessons now and finding a little bit more maturity, a little more fire.

“At the end of the day, I hate to lose to learn lessons, but I think we’ve been learning a lot with the schedule we’ve played, and it’s going to pay dividends if we allow it to.”

Player of the Game

Reigning Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association National Player of the Week, Samantha Giacolone, once again had a career game against a top-five opponent. Giacolone collected a career-high 18 saves and allowed 16 goals, despite the Tar Heels 47 shots.

Giacolone, also last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year, added one ground ball and one caused turnover in the contest.

“Our defensive effort was really, really strong today,” Halfpenny said. “You’re looking at a team that’s typically shooting in the 40 percent range, and we forced them into shots that we wanted.

“Not only was it amazing to see Sam have a career day, obviously, but also to see that unit in front of her that made the necessary adjustments they needed to to get us the ball back.”

The Manorville, New York, native has gathered 31 saves and five ground balls in the past two games — against No. 4 Syracuse and No. 2 North Carolina.

Stat of the Game

Notre Dame committed just nine turnovers, marking its second-fewest turnovers yielded this season (eight versus Detroit Mercy). The Irish have turned the ball over 15 or fewer times in eight of their 14 games this season.

“I’m really pleased with my team’s effort in other areas of the game,” Halfpenny said. “For us to have single-digit turnovers — you’re playing an unrelenting team. I am really excited about how organized we were. We were at 100 percent in clears until the very end of the game.”

Coming Up Next

Notre Dame returns to action against Kennesaw State at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

For a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the Irish women’s lacrosse program, follow @NDWomensLax on Twitter.


Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.