Feb. 15, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
A 4-4 tie late in the first half was torn asunder by a run of 12 consecutive Notre Dame goals as the No. 11 Irish women’s lacrosse team (2-0) cruised to a 17-5 victory over Detroit (0-2) in its home opener on Sunday afternoon inside the Loftus Sports Center.
Grace Muller tallied four times for Notre Dame while Cortney Fortunato picked up six more points, scoring three goals and assisting on three more. The All-American has 12 points already through her team’s first two games of 2015. Muller, who netted a hat trick in Friday’s season-opening win at Cincinnati, now has seven goals on the young season after scoring 10 last spring during her entire freshman season.
The Titans were held in the game for much of the first half in particular by the stellar play of goalkeeper Lexie McCormick who made 18 saves and kept the score much closer than it could have been considering Notre Dame held a 42-13 advantage in shots, a 10-2 edge in free position shots and an 18-6 draw control margin.
The Irish yielded just one goal over the game’s final 37 minutes, a feat which pleased head coach Christine Halfpenny.
“We’re doing what we do,” she said after a performance where 20 of Detroit’s 22 turnovers were directly caused by the Irish. “We have a high-pressure defense. We’re aggressive. We like to push pressure immediately between the 30 (yard lines), just to make our presence known so that our opponents have to adjust to us. It’s something we practice every day. The credit goes to the veterans that are back. You’ve got Barbara (Sullivan), Leah (Gallagher) and Steff (Peragallo) who have fantastic field presence. They’re sticking to the plan and they’re doing their jobs.”
Sullivan had a career-high six caused six turnovers in the game along with six draw controls and a pair of ground balls. Peragallo collected two ground balls, caused two turnovers and came up with one draw control. Gallagher scooped up a ground ball and kept countless Titans from getting open looks at the Irish net.
While Notre Dame controlled the ball early, the Irish were not able to crack McCormick for the game’s first 9:55. Meanwhile, Detroit took a 2-0 lead on goals by Annie Mendoza and Michaela Schwartz. Stephanie Toy finally broke though for Notre Dame, scoring unassisted and starting a three-goal run that included tallies by Kiera McMullan and Muller. Detroit scored two of the next three goals, sandwiched around Fortunato’s first strike of the day, and the score stood 4-4 with under seven minutes left in the opening half.
The Irish scored four times in the final 6:42 of the first half to take an 8-4 lead into halftime with Muller scoring twice to complete her second hat trick in as many games, plus an unassisted goal by Fortunato and a free position score by Rachel Sexton.
The second half opened with eight straight Notre Dame goals in a game whose outcome became increasingly ensured. Muller scored her fourth goal of the year on a free position shot 3:13 into the second half, followed by free position goals from Casey Pearsall and Fortunato. Fortunato’s tally completed her 11th hat trick in 21 career games played. Before the run was over, Caitlin Gargan and Heidi Annaheim would both score twice while Brie Custis added her first goal of the year. After Julie Castner scored with 1:34 left in the game to end the 12-goal run, the Irish capped the scoring 12 seconds later as freshman Abi Cullinan nabbed her first career goal off of Michele Phillips’ feed.
The Irish will be back in action on this upcoming weekend when they head to the San Francisco Bay region for a pair of games, facing No. 20 Stanford at 10:30 p.m. EST on Friday night in Stanford and California at 2 p.m. EST on Sunday afternoon in Berkeley.