April 19, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
With seven different players scoring a goal, the No. 9 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team played No. 1 Syracuse to a stalemate over the final 47:07 of Saturday’s contest at Arlotta Stadium, but an 8-0 Orange run to open the game proved too much to overcome as Syracuse picked up an 18-10 win over the Fighting Irish.
It was the final regular season game for Notre Dame (9-7, 2-5 ACC) which will hold the 7-seed for the upcoming ACC Tournament and, in an odd twist, again face 2-seed Syracuse (15-1, 6-1). The ACC quarterfinal matchup at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium is tentatively set for 3:00 p.m. The Irish and Orange split a pair of postseason meetings when the two schools competed in the BIG EAST Conference.
On Senior Day, senior Kaitlyn Brosco led the Irish with four points on a goal and three assists. Since entering the starting lineup three games ago, Brosco has now amassed 12 points (five goals and seven assists). Cortney Fortunato, Kiera McMullan and Casey Pearsall each scored a pair of goals for Notre Dame. Katherine Eilers scored her first career goal and added an assist. Eilers became the 20th different Notre Dame player to score a goal this spring, breaking the previous school record of 19 set in 2012.
“Out of the gate, you have to hand it to Syracuse. They showed up, defended their number one ranking and played like the number one team in the country,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Our goal has been to continue to learn and improve and get better from every experience that we gain and this was one of those experiences today. We had an opportunity to play a number one team in the country and now our goal is going to be to take away the positives and improve upon areas of our game that we want to get better.”
Playing for a share of the ACC Championship, Syracuse roared out of the gates, building an 8-0 lead over the first 12 minutes of the game. Kailah Kempney scored three goals in this run while Kayla Treanor, the nation’s leader in points per game, picked up two goals and an assist in the run, part of a five-point day that is actually below her average. Syracuse won six of the first seven draws in building the lead.
The young Irish settled down at that point. Seeing her most extensive playing time of the year, 5-foot-10 sophomore Austin Pruitt controlled the next draw and, a minute later, Brosco found Fortunato for the freshman’s milestone 40th goal of the year. This goal started a 3-0 run for Notre Dame as it was followed by a Pearsall free position goal and a second strike from Fortunato, this one off of a Brie Custis feed. Syracuse scored twice more to make it a 10-3 game, but the Irish responded again. McMullan scored on a free position at 4:22 and, after Brosco controlled the ensuing draw, she eventually found her fellow senior Lauren Sullivan for a goal to make it 10-5 at the 3:25 mark. Syracuse scored twice more before halftime to hold a 12-5 lead at intermission.
“A huge positive is that this young team has shown such resilience throughout the course of 60 minutes,” Halfpenny said. “When you’re down 8-0, you can fold. You can roll over and die. But, the way my team hung in there, focused on one another and continued to battle, was something that we’re really excited about as a coaching staff because that means that they are believing in what the Notre Dame lacrosse program is doing. We’re really excited about their ability to battle in the face of adversity.”
Notre Dame not only scored both of the second half’s first two goals to cut the deficit back to five, but the Irish defense held Syracuse off of the scoreboard for the first 17:36 of the second half. The Orange had entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring offense. A Brosco goal and one from Grace Muller, assisted by Rachel Sexton, made it a 12-7 game at 13:04. After Syracuse broke its 18:38 scoreless drought dating back to the first half on a Katie Webster goal at 12:24, Notre Dame got the goal back when Eilers fed McMullan for a goal at 7:41. At that point, Notre Dame had outscored the Orange 8-5 after the initial 8-0 run for Syracuse.
Syracuse scored five of the game’s seven goals over a frantic six-minute span to close out play, accounting for the 18-10 final. Pearsall scored her second of the day in this stretch, set up by Shauna Pugliese, while Eilers tallied with just 7.8 seconds left to play, assisted by Brosco.
“Another huge positive was, in the second half, holding the number one team, and one of the most potent scoring offenses in the country, scoreless for 17 and a half minutes,” Halfpenny said. “We got some huge stops defensively and in the goalkeeping area and were able to finish out some really nice plays.”
Notre Dame actually won the battle of ground balls 17 to 15 and had four fewer turnovers than the Orange (18 to 14). Both teams made eight saves with Liz O’Sullivan accounting for seven of Notre Dame’s. Unfortunately, a 22-8 edge in draw controls hurt the Irish.
“We don’t have to wish that we get this game back,” Halfpenny said. “We’ll be playing Syracuse and we’re excited to show improvement between now and our next outing against them on Thursday. We don’t have to go back to the drawing board. It’s tightening some things up here and there. Solving the draw is something that we’re going to go back over with a fine tooth comb although give credit to (Syracuse’s Kempney and Kirkland Locey). We’re confident that we have personnel and we have the right attitude to do that.”