May 11, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rachel Sexton netted a hat trick for a No. 8-seed Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team that was unrelenting in its attempt to even the score against Duke in an NCAA second round game on Sunday afternoon at Arlotta Stadium, but the Irish couldn’t quite get over the hump as the Blue Devils came away 10-8 victors. It was Notre Dame’s first loss all-time in six NCAA Tournament home games as the Irish finish their season at 10-9. Duke moves to 11-7 and will face a second straight ACC foe next weekend in a quarterfinal matchup with No. 1-seed Maryland.
Senior All-American candidate Margaret Smith made a defensive statement in her final collegiate appearance, causing five turnovers, gathering five ground balls and controlling four draws. Smith’s final ground ball was her 64th of the season, breaking Holly Manthei’s school record of 63 set back in 1998. During the game, she also broke the Notre Dame career record for caused turnovers, passing Jackie Doherty (2008-11) and ending her decorated career with 122 for the Irish.
Along with Sexton’s hat trick, Brie Custis also had a three-point game with the sophomore scoring twice and adding an assist to accompany three draw controls, a caused turnover and one ground ball. Senior Lindsay Powell scored a pair of goals for Notre Dame as well. Sexton scored a total of seven goals in the team’s two NCAA Tournament games after netting four in Friday night’s win over High Point.
Duke posted some big offensive individual numbers as Maddy Morrissey scored four goals and assisted on two more while Kerrin Maurer had three goals and an assist. Kelsey Duryea made 11 saves in the Blue Devil net, several of them in crucial situations late in the game to maintain Duke’s lead.
“We showed an ability (to rally) all season long,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Even in the ACCs against No. 1 Syracuse we made a big run and closed it to two. That’s who we are. We fight. We’re not going down without a fight. I’m so proud of my team because even though we couldn’t find a rhythm, we found a way in the second half. We came together and tied them in the second half (6-6) but it was just a little bit too late today.
“The lapses between the production, especially when we were winning the draw and getting the ball back, was our Achilles heel today. We weren’t playing a rhythm. Our lapses were too long and that was a difference.”
Notre Dame wasted no time in opening the scoring. Casey Pearsall controlled the opening draw and just 23 seconds into play, Sexton scored on a free position. Duke equalized just 23 seconds later though when Morrissey scored at 29:14. The first half of the opening stanza would be a low scoring one as over the next 16 minutes of play the only goal would come from Custis whose unassisted strike gave Notre Dame a 2-1 lead at 21:19. Once Brigid Smith scored from Maurer at 13:10, however, it triggered a five-goal Duke run that gave the Blue Devils a 4-2 lead at intermission and a 6-2 advantage by the 25:35 mark of the second half when Maurer completed her hat trick.
The teams traded each of the next four goals, eventually making the score 8-4 for Duke with 17:07 left to play. Caitlin Gargan broke that run when she scored her 30th goal of the year, off of a Lauren Sullivan feed, at 21:44. Morrissey got that back on a free position shot at 19:04. Notre Dame responded with a Custis goal, set up by Stephanie Toy, at 17:49 but 42 seconds later Taylor Trimble scored for the Blue Devils.
Notre Dame mounted it’s signature late-game rally at that point, scoring each of the next three goals to make the score 8-7. Powell scored on a free position at 13:34, followed by an unassisted Sexton goal at 11:53 and a second Powell strike, this one with a helper from Custis, at 8:29. Morrissey gave Duke some breathing room with a goal at 4:50 and, following a lengthy stall, the Blue Devils got an insurance goal from Smith with 27 seconds to play. Unfazed, as usual, Custis controlled the ensuing draw and Sexton tallied on a free position with 15 seconds to play, making it a 10-8 game, but Duke would get the final draw and hang on for the win.
Reflecting the tight nature of the game, shots were 21-20 for Notre Dame, ground balls went 22-18 for Duke, draw controls were 12-8 for Notre Dame and the Blue Devils committed more turnovers, 18-16. Liz O’Sullivan made five saves in the Notre Dame net, four of them in the second half.
The Irish should return strong in 2015. Of the team’s 12 most frequent starters in 2014, 11 of them are set to return. Players who accounted for 295 of the team’s 334 points scored (88-percent) will be wearing the Irish uniform in 2015 as well.