March 2, 2014
BLACKSBURG, Va. - The No. 12 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team went to Virginia Tech in search of its first ACC win and came away with just what it needed. Three Fighting Irish players, Caitlin Gargan, Cortney Fortunato and Rachel Sexton all recorded hat tricks as Notre Dame (3-2, 1-2) picked up an 18-9 win over Virginia Tech (3-2, 0-1) on a blustery Sunday afternoon at the Hokies' Thompson Field.
In addition to the offensive stars, Margaret Smith had a career-high eight draw controls to accompany three ground balls and four caused turnovers. Brie Custis also filled out her line in the postgame stat book as well with four ground balls, three caused turnovers and a pair of draw controls along with her third goal of the year.
Notre Dame began the game on a 5-1 run and led 11-5 at halftime, The Hokies whittled that edge down to 11-8 midway through the second half, but Notre Dame showed its fight and closed the game on a 7-1 run over the final 15:32 to claim a comfortable victory.
"That run shows the growth," a happy Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. "A majority of the players who were out there are very young. They have to do just as much leading as the older kids. The fact that they broke that run was huge. It started with Brie Custis' goal which shows her leadership in the midfield. I'm excited because we saw growth."
Notre Dame wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Smith controlled the opening draw, pushed it forwards and eventually Sexton wound up with it, scoring the game's first goal just 29 seconds into the contest. Fortunato scored on a Kiera McMullan assist during a fast break to put the Irish up 2-0 only 1:39 into the game. The Hokies scored next but Alex Dalton responded almost instantly, controlling the draw and running 70 yards to score just 10 seconds after VT's goal. Notre Dame would score the next two goals as well, taking a 5-1 edge at 23:21 when Fortunato scored on a rebound.
Fortunato completed her third hat trick in five games just 10:26 into the game to put the Irish up 6-2. Sexton completed her hat trick on a free position with 12:49 to go in the opening stanza pushing the Irish edge to 8-3. After the Hokies cut their deficit to 8-5 with 3:56 left in the half, the Irish as, a whole and Gargan in particular, would not allow Virginia Tech to take momentum into the break. In the half's final 2:56, Gargan set up goal by Hannah Hartman and then scored herself on both a rocket to the top corner and again off of a Kaitlyn Brosco feed to put Notre Dame on top 11-5.
Virginia Tech scored each of the second half's first three goals and cut Notre Dame's cushion to just three goals at 11-8. Custis grabbed a loose ball and ran straight through the middle of the Hokie defense to score, unassisted, at 15:32 to snap the streak and spark a ferocious Irish run as Notre Dame would score each of the next six goals. Casey Pearsall ripped a shot into the VT net at 14:39 which snowballed into a goal by Grace Muller two from Gargan and one by McMullan before Virginia Tech would score again. Lauren Sullivan scored coming out of a timeout with 2:55 to play to cap the game's scoring.
Allie Murray and Liz O'Sullivan both played a half in the Irish net. Murray started the contest and got the win, allowing five goals and making six saves. O'Sullivan made three stops while allowing four goals in her 30 minutes of action.
"I'm proud of the team," Halfpenny said. "They got our first ACC victory and did it in strong fashion playing our brand of lacrosse - fast aggressive and passionate. I couldn't be happier for my team. What we see is that they keep growing and getting better, top to bottom. I'm thrilled with the win but even more so with the fashion how we got it. Now we're looking forward to our backyard rival, Northwestern."
The Fighting Irish will be back in action on Wednesday night when they face No. 4 Northwestern at 9:30 p.m. ET at the Lake Barrington Field House.