April 27, 2016
GREENSBORO, N.C. –
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 6 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team, poised tomorrow to wear white as the higher-seeded team in the ACC Championship for the first time, has continued to gain a measure of respect since joining unquestionably the nation’s top conference. Evidence of that has come through the team’s All-ACC selections.
The Irish had one All-ACC pick in 2014 (Margaret Smith) and two in 2015 (Cortney Fortunato and Barbara Sullivan). On Wednesday, five members of the 2016 team received All-ACC accolades. Fortunato and Sullivan made the first-team while Casey Pearsall, Rachel Sexton and Stephanie Toy earned a spot on the second-team.
The five all-conference picks ties for the most for the Irish since the 2004 squad produced a school-record six All-BIG EAST selections.
Fortunato leads the league in goals (54), goals per game (3.18), points (79) and points per game (4.65) while her 25 assists and 1.47 assists per game rank third in the conference. Fortunato has 11 hat tricks in Notre Dame’s 17 games played this year with the Irish posting a 10-1 mark in those contests.
Sullivan can claim Notre Dame’s single-game, single-season and career records for both draw controls and caused turnovers. Likely to become a three-time first-team All-American next month, Sullivan was a finalist for the 2015 Tewaaraton Award, just the sixth defender to reach the final voting stage for the sport’s national player of the year. Sullivan leads the ACC this year at 2.82 caused turnovers per game and is the central cog in an Irish defense which leads the nation by causing 14.76 turnovers per game.
A rock in Notre Dame’s midfield and an All-American last year, Pearsall earns her first all-conference award. Pearsall is third on the Irish with 25 goals and 43 points while ranking second on the squad with 18 assists. Pearsall has alternated on draw controls with Sullivan and controlled 36 of them herself. Pearsall has 19 caused turnovers to her credit this spring and has collected 24 ground balls.
Sexton has career-highs this year with her 39 goals, 14 assists and 53 points. Her 112 career goals rank ninth in school history. Sexton was recently named the IWLCA’s National Player of the Week for her Senior Day performance in a win over Duke. Sexton, a senior herself, scored a hat trick against the Blue Devils, including the game-winning goal in overtime. She also caused a crucial turnover late in the game with the Irish trailing 9-7 and in need of possessions. With the postseason still to go, Fortunato and Sexton are already the first Irish teammates since 2009 to each collect 50 points in a season.
Toy defensive work and efforts in the team’s transition game in particular also did not go unrecognized by the league’s coaches. The senior has caused 18 turnovers and collected 21 ground balls while scoring 12 goals on the offensive end and chipping in seven assists for 19 points.
Notre Dame (12-5) holds the No. 3 seed for the ACC Championships and opens play at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium against sixth-seeded Louisville (12-4).
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.