Casey Pearsall had her first career hat trick on Sunday.

No. 13 Notre Dame Claims First Meeting With Michigan, 21-12

April 12, 2015

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Tying a school record by scoring six goals in the second half, Cortney Fortunato helped ensure that the first meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan on the women’s lacrosse field would be a joyous one for the 13th-ranked Irish as another chapter in a venerable all-sports rivalry began with a 21-12 Notre Dame victory on Sunday afternoon at Arlotta Stadium.

The Irish (9-5) saw 10 players score at least once, including the first career hat trick for Casey Pearsall, in a high-scoring affair that featured 33 goals scored, the most ever for a Notre Dame home game and tied for the second-most overall. Heidi Annaheim netted a hat trick for Notre Dame while Kiera McMullan had a four-point day off of the Irish bench with two goals and two assists. Michigan (5-9) was able to tally 12 times itself to add to this high offensive total, keyed by a Wolverine-record five assists from Jess Angerman and a hat trick by Madeline Dion.

In addition to the diverse goal scoring roll for the Irish, Notre Dame had 12 assists on the day, one shy of the school record and its most since having 12 in a 22-1 win over Detroit on March 5, 2013. Freshman Molly Cobb had the first two helpers of her collegiate career while McMullan also had two, and eight other players had one.

Fortunato played one of the top all-area games of her career on Sunday as, in addition to her six goals, the sophomore tied career highs with both four caused turnovers and four ground balls. Fortunato now boasts 48 goals on the year over Notre Dame’s 14 games, surpassing the 46 she scored last spring over 19 games in her All-American freshman campaign. Fortunato hit the 125-career point barrier in Sunday in her 33rd career game played for the Irish (3.79 per game). Her six goals in the second half made her the fourth Irish player to reach that benchmark and the first since Danielle Shearer scored six times in the first half against Rutgers on April 27, 2003.

Notre Dame’s victory was aided by a school-record 22 draw controls against just 13 for Michigan. The previous record for draw controls was 21, set against Ohio on March 2, 2006 and matched at Hofstra on March 25, 2008. The Irish were led individually by Alex Dalton and Barbara Sullivan with six apiece. Dalton’s six tied a career-high while Sullivan’s sextet brings her school-record career total to 181.

The Irish converted on eight of 11 free position attempts against Michigan on Sunday, including a pair of goals by both Annaheim and Pearsall. The Irish held a slight 20-19 advantage in ground balls and committed three fewer turnovers (21-18). Liz O’Sullivan made seven saves in the Notre Dame net while Allison Silber stopped eight shots for the Wolverines.

Perhaps most importantly, the win is Notre Dame’s ninth of the year and ensures that, in May, the team will be considered for what would be a school-record fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

“I could not be more excited about what we’re seeing here,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “We’re finding different ways to win. Whether it’s a settled game or finding ways on our fast break. Our fast break game has come alive and that’s exciting for us as we head down the stretch. Having the ability to use our speed in the fast break is something I couldn’t be more excited about.”

As a demonstration of that fast-break ability, beginning with draw controls in particular, the Irish scored five goals on Saturday less than 30 seconds after a previous goal had been scored and 11 goals under a minute after the previous score. Notre Dame also scored several times in transition after Michigan’s turnovers, 15 of which were caused directly by the pressure exerted by the Irish.

Notre Dame opened the scoring 2:57 into the game when Casey Pearsall scored on a free position. The Wolverines would score next to knot the score at 1-1, but Notre Dame scored four of the next five goals to go up 5-2. Michigan battled back and made it a 5-4 game with 6:15 left in the half but goals by McMullan and Annaheim sent the teams into the locker rooms with the Irish on top, 7-4. Five different Notre Dame players scored in this first half of action but Fortunato was not one of them and that did not bother her coach at all.

“In the first half, that was exciting,” Halfpenny said. “Our next-woman-in mentality was definitely there. When defenses get too focused on Cortney, I think everyone around her is doing their jobs.”

The second half opened with the teams trading goals for the first third of the frame. On three occasions, the Irish scored to open up a four-goal lead and on three occasions, the Wolverines countered to cut their deficit back to three. Notre Dame started to pull ahead more comfortably with a four-goal run over a three-minute span from the 20:17 mark to the 17:20 mark to go up 14-7, with three of those goals coming off of Fortunato’s stick. Michigan continued its tenacious play, thrice cutting its deficit back to five goals, the last one coming at 17-12 on a Tess Korten goal from Angerman with 6:02 left in the game. Notre Dame would get the game’s final four goals, however, to claim its 21-12 victory.

With an NCAA tournament berth securely back on the table, the Irish can both solidify its spot, and push towards contention to host its regional for the second year in a row, with a crucial final week of the regular season. The Irish will play host to its biggest women’s lacrosse rival, No. 5 Northwestern, on Thursday night at Arlotta Stadium in a key regional contest. Notre Dame will then wrap up Atlantic Coast Conference play on Sunday by playing host to No. 11 Louisville at noon.