Casey Pearsall had two goals, an assist, five draw controls and thee ground balls on Thursday.

Irish Play No. 1 Syracuse Tough But Fall in ACC Quarters

April 24, 2014

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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – In a carbon copy of the game five days ago between No. 13 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse and No. 1 Syracuse, the Irish stood toe-to-toe with the country’s top ranked team for a significant portion of play, but an early Syracuse scoring run ultimately proved decisive, this time with the Orange coming out on top 16-11 at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium in the ACC Quarterfinals.

After falling behind, 4-0, 6-1 and, ultimately, 10-3 early in the second half, resilient Notre Dame (9-8) took command of the game, rattling off a 6-1 scoring run that made it a 11-9 contest with 18:42 left to play. The Orange (16-1) would hold off a completion of this Irish come-back attempt to advance to the ACC semifinals. After facing the No. 1-ranked team in the country for the third time this spring as a part of playing the NCAA-rated toughest schedule in the nation, Notre Dame will learn its NCAA Tournament destination on Sunday, May 4 at 9:00 p.m.

Caitlin Gargan matched her career high with a six-point outburst, scoring thrice and adding a trio of assists. Lauren Sullivan had a hat trick for Notre Dame. Cortney Fortunato fought through some tough defensive marking for a pair of goals and an assist. Casey Pearsall also picked up two goals and an assist, filling out a robust stat line with three ground balls, five draw controls and a caused turnover. Margaret Smith produced another busy day on defense for Notre Dame, hunting down a game-high five ground balls while controlling three draws and causing a turnover.

After losing the battle of draw controls, 22-8, on Saturday at Notre Dame, The Orange held just a 15-14 advantage in draws on Thursday. The Irish once again beat Syracuse on ground balls, this time by an 18-15 margin. Ultimately, however, the scoreboard favored the Orange.

“Give Syracuse credit, Alyssa Murray (five goals) and Kayla Treanor (seven points) were a big one-two punch for them once again,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “But, I couldn’t be more proud of my team. Playing Syracuse five days after we saw them, we concentrated on some areas that we wanted to fix and we did that. We improved on the draw control, an area where Syracuse is dominant. Leading them on ground balls was huge. That’s an area we take great pride in.

“I couldn’t be more excited about where this team is headed. While a loss isn’t what we wanted in our inaugural ACC tournament, we showed some great bright moments to take into the NCAA Tournament. We showed that we belong in that group of 26.”

Syracuse scored each of the first four goals of the game, three of them off the stick of Alyssa Murray who would eventually tally five times in the contest. The Irish took a timeout after the Murray goal that made it 4-0 and responded. Rachel Sexton controlled the draw and not long afterwards, Kaitlyn Brosco found Gargan to get the Irish on the scoreboard at 17:40. Syracuse opened up a 6-1 lead before Notre Dame made it 6-2 with 4:53 when Fortunato floated a long pass from behind the net over the Orange defense to Stephanie Toy who would score. Notre Dame took advantage of a Syracuse yellow card with 27 seconds to go before halftime to make it an 8-3 game at intermission when Pearsall scored from Gargan with 8.1 seconds to play.

The first two goals of the second stanza went to the Orange but, facing a 10-3 deficit, Notre Dame would not stay down. Just 41 seconds after the 10th Syracuse goal, Sexton fed Pearsall for the 12th goal of her freshman year, making it 10-4. Pearsall won the draw, gave the ball to Fortunato who ran through the Orange defensive third for an unassisted goal just 10 seconds later, making it a 10-5 game. Syracuse got one goal back but Notre Dame kept up the heat, scoring four straight goals.

Gargan started this run with some luck as her pass to Sullivan was off target yet found its way into the net at 23:55. Sullivan would score the first of her three second half goals at 21:49 with help from Brie Custis. Just nine seconds later, Notre Dame scored again as Smith controlled the draw, passed it to Gargan who passed it to Fortunato for her team-high 43rd goal of the year. Sullivan would score once again, set up by Gargan this time, at 18:42 and the Orange lead was just two goals at 11-9.

The Orange got back some cushion by scoring twice to extend its lead to 13-9 at 12:49 but the pendulum had not completely swung towards the upstate New Yorkers. Notre Dame’s seniors connected for a goal at 8:28 to make it a 13-10 game when Brosco fed Sullivan for her first hat trick of the season. The assist was Brosco’s ninth over the past four games alone. Syracuse ultimately scored the next three goals, however, to keep the Irish from picking up the victory. Gargan would unleash a rocket of a shot to cap the game’s scoring at 2:48 with an assist from Custis.