May 9, 2015
EVANSTON, Ill. – Ohio State’s women’s lacrosse team raced out to a 7-4 lead late in the first half but a resilient Notre Dame squad scored seven straight goals to seize control of their NCAA tournament first round matchup late Friday night and roll to a 13-11 victory at Northwestern’s Lakeside Field.
Scoring the first six goals of the second half against the Buckeyes (13-8), the Irish (11-8) earned themselves a matchup with the homestanding Wildcats at 1 p.m. CDT on Sunday in the tournament’s second round and a matchup of the top two teams in the Midwest.
Cortney Fortunato compiled a robust stat line for the Irish, scoring twice, adding two assists, controlling four draws, scooping up three ground balls and causing a turnover. The four draw controls matched her career high.
“When you take a look at what Cortney did for us today with a huge caused turnover, four draw controls and four points to lead this offense – that’s just All-American kind of stuff,” Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “I’m excited about her continuing her journey leading the offense and Rachel (Sexton) and Heidi (Annaheim) continuing to do what they do. That unit showed up strong.”
Along with Fortunato, Annaheim also had a four-point night on two goals and two assists. Stephanie Toy netted a hat trick while freshman Molly Cobb chipped in three assists. Cobb entered tonight with just two assists spread over 15 games played. A team which relies heavily on its starters, the Irish got five points off of its bench tonight with Cobb’s three assists and Kiera McMullan’s two goals. Sexton had a goal and an assist. This year, Notre Dame is 10-2 when Sexton picks up at least two points and just 1-6 when she is held to one or zero points.
“The credit goes to my players,” Halfpenny said. “They did a great job of taking what we’ve been working on in practice. There was a two-week break after (the ACC tournament) and, I’ve been talking about the maturity this year, but they took what we worked on the past two weeks and we absolutely executed it. Our players knew what their jobs were and none disappointed.”
Tonight marked Notre Dame’s first win this year when trailing at the half and could not have come at a better time than in the NCAA tournament.
The two teams had met on March 21 at Notre Dame’s Arlotta Stadium with a similar result – a close first half and then an Irish runaway in the second half. Notre Dame won that first meeting 13-5 after leading 3-2 at intermission. Tonight the Buckeye led 7-5 at halftime but eight second-half goals pushed the Irish over the top.
“You have to give credit to an outstanding Ohio State team,” Halfpenny said. “It’s fun to have a rematch with someone that you’ve seen six weeks ago when both teams have changed so much. It was a hard fought battle in every aspect. We both made adjustments from the first time out and it was exciting.”
One category which made a significant difference in the game on Friday night was Notre Dame’s draw controls, leading the Buckeyes 18-8, going 9-4 in both half. Barbara Sullivan led the way with eight draw controls, one shy of her own school single-game record sum of nine.
“You can’t say enough about our entire draw unit, coming off of the line and doing a great job where we win 18 of 26 draws and give ourselves those possessions and opportunities to win big games,” Halfpenny said.
Ohio State enjoyed a 14-12 edge on ground balls and committed just 11 turnovers to Notre Dame’s 14. The officiating-related stats were fascinating as Notre Dame was whistled for 43 fouls to just 14 for Ohio State, but Ohio State picked up six yellow cards against just two for the Irish. Notre Dame scored five man-up goals on Friday night.
The Buckeyes drew first blood on a Molly Wood free position goal but Notre Dame scored each of the next three goals over a 1:15 burst to take a 3-1 advantage. After the initial Buckeye goal, Brie Custis controlled the ensuing draw for the Irish. At the offensive end, Sexton found Fortunato for the goal, knotting the score at 1-1. Just nine second later, the Irish were on the board again. Annaheim controlled the draw and rushed up field, feeding McMullan for a goal. The Irish made it a 3-1 game when Toy rolled off of a defender and scored unassisted.
Ohio State scored six of the next seven goals, sandwiched around a Annaheim goal from Fortunato, to take a 7-4 edge by the time 8:11 left in the first half. Notre Dame got one of the goals back before intermission when McMullan scored on a free position with 7:56 to go, making it a 7-5 score at halftime.
The six-goal run to open the second half began when Custis set up Toy 1:05 into the half. Notre Dame forced the fourth and final tie of the game at 7-7 just 48 seconds later. Fortunato controlled the draw and dished to Katherine Eilers, a native of neighboring Winnteka, Illinois, who found the back of the net against the Buckeyes. The Irish took the lead for good three minutes later on Fortunato’s 56th goal of the year. Sexton, Annaheim and Caitlin Gargan would also add goals for Notre Dame in this run that upped the Irish lead to 11-7.
Ohio State snapped the seven-goal Irish run on a Mary Kate Faccina free position goal at 17:42 of the second half, the first Buckeye goal in 21:29 of game action. It remained an 11-8 Irish lead until a crazy final 3:05 in which the Irish scored a pair of empty net goals but the Buckeyes continued to fight on the offensive end. Five goals were scored in those final 3:05, three of them by Ohio State, accounting for the 13-11 final.
Katie Chase, Cian Dabrowski and Wood each scored a pair of goals for Ohio State, the runner-up at last weekend’s Big Ten championship after handing No. 1 Maryland its only loss of the year in the semifinal round.