March 28, 2016
MILWAUKEE, Wisc. -
By Leigh Torbin
As the Notre Dame women's lacrosse team, currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, continues to march through one of the most promising seasons in school history, the Irish will continue to be reminded that the bull's-eye on its back is just a tad larger than previous years. With a growing national reputation and gaudy numbers, such as the nation's top scoring offense entering this long holiday weekend, teams will keep Notre Dame more finely in their cross hairs.
Such was the case on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee as a feisty Marquette team brought an energy and vigor to the Valley Fields turf and fought tenaciously. Notre Dame's runs were regularly countered keeping the game within reach for the home side. Finally, the Irish scored five of the final six goals of the game to pull away from the Golden Eagles for a 17-9 win, improving to 10-2 on a season marred only by one-goal losses to a pair of top-six teams.
A steady defensive showing by graduate student Barbara Sullivan (six caused turnovers, five ground balls and three draw controls) and hat tricks from a senior (Rachel Sexton), a junior (Grace Muller) and a freshman (Nikki Ortega) fueled the effort that ultimately allowed the Irish to prevail. Freshman Samantha Giacolone stopped eight shots in the Notre Dame net to help the Irish carry a "W" on the bus back to Indiana.
Notre Dame ran out to a 3-0 lead in the first 4:11 of the game. Just 10 seconds after Ortega scored from Stephanie Toy to make it 2-0, Alex Dalton controlled the draw and fed Muller for the goal that made it 3-0. Marquette had an answer though, scoring three straight goals to knot the score at 3-3 by the midpoint of the first half.
The Irish answered the 3-0 Golden Eagle spurt with a 7-2 run, taking a 10-5 advantage with 5:36 to go until halftime after Sexton scored two goals in 27 seconds. Marquette scored twice before intermission, however, and the Notre Dame halftime lead stood at just three goals at 10-7.
Like the opening half, Notre Dame took charge early in the second half. Dalton scored on a free position 55 seconds into the period and Cortney Fortunato made good on a Kiera McMullan feed to give the Irish back their five-goal lead at 12-7 with 26:38 to play. Marquette scored next but Notre Dame put the game in the bag by scoring five of the game's final six goals to post a 17-9 win.
The Irish enjoyed a 35-26 advantage in shots on Monday, held a 15-13 lead on draw controls and caused 13 of Marquette's 18 turnovers while relinquishing the ball just 12 times themselves.
On Monday, the Irish had an uneven but ultimately successful afternoon. Milwaukee, Algonquin for "the good land," was home to a good but not great performance by Notre Dame. Sunday, the Irish will be at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The stakes will be high with precious slots in the ACC standings on the line against the third-ranked Tar Heels, the fourth top 10 team the Irish have faced in their last five games. Successfully climbing the hill to the top of the ACC requires nothing less than the greatness Notre Dame holds inside.
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.