Rachel Sexton scores one of her three goals.

No. 13 Notre Dame Downs No. 7 Syracuse, 12-11 in OT

April 7, 2015

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The game had been tied on five occasions but Notre Dame goalkeeper Liz O’Sullivan did not permit a sixth leveling of the score, saving a free position opportunity by No. 7 Syracuse’s Kayla Treanor with 1:45 left in overtime, helping the No. 13 Irish emerge from the Carrier Dome with a 12-11 win on Tuesday night.

O’Sullivan made eight of her nine saves in the second half and overtime while Rachel Sexton and Stephanie Toy both netted hat tricks to help the Irish (8-5, 3-3 ACC) to their second road win over a top seven team in four days. Stephanie Peragallo caused a career-high five turnovers and Barbara Sullivan got five ground balls to help on the defensive end as the Irish handed the Orange (9-5, 2-3 ACC) just its second home loss of the year in a facility.

Coupled with Saturday’s 14-4 win at No. 4 Virginia, the Irish have now won two road games over top seven teams in the same season for just the second time in school history. The 2008 Irish beat both No. 7 Duke and No. 7 Georgetown on their respective home fields. Tonight’s win was also Notre Dame’s first win at the Carrier Dome in nine tries all-time.

The win also improved the Irish to 3-1 under Halfpenny in overtime games with all three wins coming on the road (2012 at Georgetown, 2013 at Louisville and tonight).

The reigning ACC co-defensive player of the week, O’Sullivan helped limit the Orange to just a two for 12 conversion rate on free position shot attempts (.167 percent) after entering the contest at .500 on the year (28 for 56). Notre Dame, which converted on its only free position try of the night, scored on 12 of its 22 overall shots. The Irish led the Orange on ground balls 22-18 and helped negate a 17-9 deficit on draw controls by forcing 21 Syracuse turnovers.

The Irish scored each of the first two goals of the game, both in transition, to take a 2-0 lead just 5:17 into the contest. Casey Pearsall caused a turnover at the defensive end of the field for Notre Dame and Toy scored shortly thereafter on the offensive end to make it 1-0. Just over two minutes later, also in transition, Sexton fed Cortney Fortunato for a low and hard shot that found the back of the net to make it a 2-0 Irish lead. Syracuse would storm back, however, and score each of the game’s next four goals to take a 4-2 advantage by the midway point of the first half.

Undeterred, Notre Dame played literally to the end of the first half to tie the game at 4-4 heading to the locker rooms. Pearsall scored from Toy 4:29 before the break. Sexton took a pass from Brie Custis in the half’s waning moments and made a mad dash to the goal with her shot entering the net just as the clock hit 0.0.

Syracuse scored the second half’s first goal, taking its final lead of the game, 5-4, at the 25:37 mark on a Halle Majorana tally. Notre Dame scored the next three goals to claim a 7-5 advantage. Dalton began the run by bouncing home the team’s lone free position goal of the night, leveling the score for the third time. Sexton scored on a wrap-around and Toy tallied, unassisted, with 19:30 to play, finishing the Irish spurt.

Twice the Orange would trim the Notre Dame lead to a single goal, but twice the Irish would respond to maintain its two-goal edge at 9-7 with Notre Dame’s goals coming from Fortunato and Toy, both set up by Gargan.

After Taylor Gait scored for Syracuse making it 9-8 with 7:45 to play, alas the Orange would net an equalizer as Gait scored from Treanor with 5:07 to play, making it a 9-9 game. O’Sullivan made three saves just seconds apart at the defensive end of the field affording the Irish an opportunity to retake the lead with 3:44 to play. Gargan fed the ball to Heidi Annaheim who faked out her Orange defender and scored to make the score 10-9 in favor of Notre Dame. Syracuse tied the score again at 10-10 with 2:31 to play on an Erica Bodt goal set up by Majorana. Both O’Sullivan and Syracuse goalkeeper Kelsey Richardson would be called upon to make saves in the final 30 seconds of regulation as the contest headed, dramatically, to overtime.

The first half of overtime was played at a stalemate but the tide turned after Richardson turned the ball over midway through the three-minute session on an overthrown outlet pass. On the ensuing possession, Pearsall would find Sexton as the junior completed her hat trick and put the Irish on top 11-10 with 54.2 seconds before the break. Just 12 seconds later, Notre Dame doubled its lead. Annaheim controlled the draw after Sexton’s goal, rushed it upfield to the side of the net and fed Gargan who scored to make it 12-10. Devon Collins scored for Syracuse moments later, making it a 12-11 game at the overtime break.

The Orange controlled the draw to begin the second half of overtime and attacked with a vengeance. Syracuse was granted three free position attempts in the first 1:15 of the three-minute session but could not convert, most-dramatically with O’Sullivan’s kick save on Treanor with 1:45 to play. Sullivan grabbed the ground ball for the Irish and Halfpenny called time out with 1:36 to play. The Irish were able to maintain possession until the game’s final whistle when the team jubilantly ran onto the field to boisterously celebrate a hard-earned victory.

The Irish will return home tonight after a successful five-day, three-city road trip. The team is back in action on Sunday when the Irish play host to Michigan at 1 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium in the first-ever meeting between the sides. The Wolverines are in their second-year as a varsity program. The contest kicks off a three-game homestand for Notre Dame that also includes contests against No. 5 Northwestern on April 16 and No. 11 Louisville on April 19.