April 4, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Cortney Fortunato tallied eight points, including six goals, Barbara Sullivan controlled a school-record-tying nine draws and Liz O’Sullivan made a career-high 11 saves as all three areas of the field contributed to the highest ranked true road win in Notre Dame’s women’s lacrosse history on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon as the Irish downed No. 4 Virginia, 14-4, at KlÃƒÆ’Â¶ckner Stadium.
The Irish (7-5, 2-3 ACC) scored the first 11 goals of the game against a Cavalier team (9-5, 2-3 ACC) which entered the day winners of six in a row.
The school’s first-ever win over Virginia, it marks Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory over a ranked team since downing No. 19 Cornell, 20-7, on March 7, 2004. The Irish have only once previously beaten a ranked team on its on-campus home field by double digits, dropping No. 15 Stanford, 16-5, on Feb. 29, 2004 in Stanford.
Sullivan’s nine draw controls tied the school record established by Kaki Orr on May 7, 2006, against Vanderbilt. Sullivan tied it at Vanderbilt on March 13, 2013 and Casey Pearsall also equaled the mark on March 23, 2014 at Villanova.
“The goal of a lot of players who come here to Notre Dame is to make a difference and create history, being a part of firsts,” head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Today we were part of a first. This is our first-ever win over Virginia. This team has incredible desire and determination to put themselves in a position where we have a strong enough resume to go to the NCAA tournament. It’s our seventh win of the season and we’re one step closer. We have to build on this one.”
With her six goals and two assists, Fortunato was one of 11 different Notre Dame players to crack the scoring column, running her season totals to 40 goals and 54 points. Grace Muller scored twice, Pearsall had two assists and Heidi Annaheim had both a goal and an assist for the Irish on Saturday. Rachel Sexton, Stephanie Toy, Alex Dalton, Brie Custis and Katherine Eilers all scored once for Notre Dame while Kiera McMullan and Shauna Pugliese picked up single assists for the Irish.
Notre Dame enjoyed a 32-22 edge in shots on goal and a significant advantage in possession time. The Irish won the battle of ground balls, 20-15, led draw controls, 13-7, and committed one fewer turnover, 13-12.
“I could not be more proud of the effort, execution and spirit that this team brought to the game,” Halfpenny said. “A lot of credit goes to the preparation that we had this week. All 32 girls were on board. Our scout teams were incredible getting us ready. Our young team grew up, got focused and came here ready to play.”
The Irish scored three goals in the game’s first 6:13, making a bold opening statement and controlling the game’s momentum from the get-go. Pearsall fed Fortunato for the first goal 3:52 into the contest. Dalton won the ensuing draw and Fortunato passed it to Eilers for the second Notre Dame goal. The Irish needed just 20 seconds to score the third goal as Pearsall won the draw after the Eilers goal and gave the ball to Custis. The junior midfielder ran free down the field for an unassisted goal.
O’Sullivan started to get on a roll in the Notre Dame net after that third goal, making a pair of saves in quick succession and planting seeds of concern in the homestanding-Hoos that this might not be their day.
“I’m beaming with pride for what Liz has done,” Halfpenny said of her netminder. “She has worked so hard on her game. She’s so focused. She has not been satisfied. Today especially, she was compelled to take her game to the next level. She knows what she’s capable of. She gave us 60 minutes of focus and effort. It started before she got on the plane to come her. She had a great week of preparation. I couldn’t be more pleased with it.”
Fortunato made it a 4-0 game midway through the half when, isolated one-on-one, she rolled off of her defender and scored, unassisted. Dalton intercepted a Virginia pass to give the Irish an offensive possession and, with 7:27 left in the half, Halfpenny called timeout. The plan worked as just 18 seconds later, Toy tallied to give Notre Dame the 5-0 lead it would take into intermission.
The 10-minute cooling off period did nothing to slow the fervent Irish. Sullivan controlled the second half’s opening draw, leading to a Dalton goal just 43 seconds into the final frame. Heidi Annaheim used a great stop-action fake to get loose and run to the net for an unassisted goal at 26:13. Fortunato completed her first hat trick at 25:40 with a free position goal that put the Irish up 8-0 and triggered a timeout from the Cavalier bench.
After Sexton scored Notre Dame’s ninth goal, Muller set the KlÃƒÆ’Â¶ckner clock running at 21:37 when she scored from Fortunato to put the Irish up by double digits. The lead swelled to 11-0 at 18:31 when Fortunato scored from Annaheim. Daniela Eppler finally solved he riddle of O’Sullivan at 17:57 to get Virginia on the scoreboard. Both teams would score three times in the last 10 minutes to account for the 14-4 final.
The Irish will stay in Virginia, spending Easter Sunday with player families in Richmond before heading north to Syracuse, New York on Monday morning. The Irish will face the seventh-ranked Orange at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome. ESPN3 will show the game live.