March 8, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Cortney Fortunato, Caitlin Gargan and Kiera McMullan all scored twice in the second half as the No. 13/10 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team put away a tough Louisville side, 12-9, on Saturday afternoon inside Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center. Goalkeepers Allie Murray and Liz O’Sullivan combined to make nine saves for the Fighting Irish, which improves to 5-2 on the year while the Cardinals dip to 4-3.
In all, McMullan would score four times and add an assist. Fortunato netted her fifth hat trick in seven collegiate games and Gargan would chip in an assist for a three-point day. Notre Dame’s defense had a season-high 12 caused turnovers on the day, led by Alex Dalton’s three plus two each from Stephanie Peragallo and Michele Phillips.
Playing its fourth game in 10 days in four different states, the Irish fell behind Louisville 4-1 in the game’s first eight minutes. Faye Brust scored twice in that burst while Nikki Boltja scored the first of what would be four goals on the day for her while also picking up an assist. Notre Dame responded and scored three times in a 2:01 span to knot the score back up at 4-4. McMullan scored the first of her four goals in the game on a Rachel Sexton pass at 18:49. McMullan scored again, this time set up by Gargan, at 17:56 and finally Fortunato scored unassisted at 16:48. Louisville reeled off three straight goals to end the half on top 7-4, but the Irish were far from done.
“The way we finished the first half, I wasn’t so concerned about the deficit because I liked how our team started to respond,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said afterwards. “Give credit to Louisville. They brought everything today. They are a solid, well-coached team with a solid game plan, but credit to my team for responding. They were able to come into a very physical and strong opponent and still put our brand of lacrosse out there once we regrouped in the middle of the first half. Our bench and depth stepped up, was ready to play, and brought us needed possession.”
One reason for Louisville’s 7-4 halftime lead was its draw control advantage, topping the Irish by an 11-1 margin in the first half. Kaylin Morissette, who entered the game ranked fourth in the nation individually in draw controls would end up getting eight of them on the day. The Irish switched up their alignment at the half and the second half saw Louisville only hold a 6-5 advantage on draw controls. The extra possessions often became goals for Notre Dame in its comeback win.
“I was thrilled that we were able to make adjustments and respond on the draw control,” Halfpenny said. “In our game, possession is everything. It’s an offensive player’s world at time with the way the rules are. That’s OK, but it means that the draw is really important. Today, you have to give Kay Morissette all the credit. She’s one of the stronger draw controllers we’ve come up against, but we made adjustments on the circle with Brie Custis and that will be something we build off of heading into spring break.”
Notre Dame outscored the Cardinals 8-2 after intermission, twice going on four-goal runs. The Irish scored the half’s first four goals. Fortunato controlled the second half’s opening draw for Notre Dame and found Custis who cut back, ran to the net, and scored just 20 seconds into the second half, cutting the deficit to 7-5. McMullan completed her hat trick at 223:15 on freshman Katherine Eilers’ first collegiate assist and then Alex Dalton tied the score on a free position shot at 22:39, tallying just her second goal of the season. Gargan capped the run at 21:10, scoring with an assist to Hannah Hartman, to give Notre Dame its first lead at 8-7. Botlja responded just 31 seconds later to tie the game for Louisville at 8-8.
Fortunato gave the Irish a lead it would not relinquish at 11:25. Holding the ball behind the Louisville net following a time out, Fortunato came around the right side of the night, rolled off of her defender and beat the goalie low, giving Notre Dame a 9-8 lead. Brie Custis took the ensuing draw for the Irish and flipped it straight to McMullan who ran down the field and scored just 12 seconds later to give Notre Dame a 10-8 lead with 11:13 left in the game.
Fortunato and McMullan connected for one of the prettiest goals of the year at 9:42. McMullan held the ball even with the side of the goal and whipped a centering pass to Fortunato who dove and redirected it into the Cardinal net. Gargan capped the home team’s scoring at 7:24 with a goal from Custis.
Notre Dame split time in the net on Saturday and both made critical saves. Murray started and made five stops in the first half while allowing seven goals. O’Sullivan played the second half of the game and turned away four shots while permitting a pair of goals. It was the third game in a row and the fifth in seven games this year where the Irish have held their opposition to nine goals or less.
“We split goalkeepers with Allie and Liz and they were both able to come up with big saves,” Halfpenny said. “They made nine saves and we kept our opponent to single digit goals. Kudos to the defense in front of them and our goalies for being the final line of defense.”
The Fighting Irish will be back in action on Tuesday afternoon when they face Richmond on the road at 3:00 p.m.