May 15, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
For the first time in the history of the Tewaaraton Award, annually presented to the top women’s lacrosse player in the nation, there is a two-time finalist who plays defense. Notre Dame graduate student Barbara Sullivan was named tonight as one of five 2016 finalists, just as she was in 2015.
Last year, Sullivan became the sixth defensive player ever to reach this final stage of the voting. This year she has eclipsed several of her 2015 seasonal totals, including a school-record 54 caused turnovers. Her 64 draw controls in 2016 rank only behind her own 83 in 2015 and her 67 in 2013 at Notre Dame lore. She also has gathered 47 ground balls this year.
Sullivan holds the school single-game, single-season and career records for both caused turnovers and ground balls. Twice this spring, Sullivan matched the school-record with seven caused turnovers in one game with those efforts coming against NCAA Championship participants Stanford and Princeton.
The two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year entered today leading the elite conference in caused turnovers while spear-heading an Irish team that by far leads the nation in caused turnovers.
While the voting was conducted earlier this week, Sullivan certainly made a fine statement for her finalist worthiness on Sunday as the Irish routed Northwestern, 15-3, in the second round of the NCAA Championship. Sullivan caused three turnovers, got three ground balls and controlled five draws at the top of an Irish defense that held the Wildcats to their lowest goal-scoring total since 2003.
“Having Barbara Sullivan here with her maturity and the miles she’s travelled with this team, – you saw that all come together today,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said of her three-year team captain earlier today after the win. “Having her as the mother hen to this unit is something everyone here is grateful for. We’re just so excited that she’s putting the cap on the career she wanted to have when she decided that Notre Dame was the school she wanted to lead to national prominence.”
The Northwestern game marked the school-record eighth time this spring the Irish have held a team to five goals or fewer.
Joining Sullivan on the Tewaaraton finalists roll is Irish men’s lacrosse defender Matt Landis. Notre Dame is the only school this year with a finalist on both the men’s and women’s sides.
The Irish women’s team will be back in action on Saturday when No. 6 Notre Dame faces No. 3 North Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team while serving as the football publicity team’s top lieutenant. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.