March 10, 2014
The nation took notice of the strong week that the Notre Dame women's lacrosse team enjoyed as the Fighting Irish moved up to No. 7 in the IWLCA coaches poll and No. 6 in the Brine media poll on Monday. The leap into the top 10 comes on the heels of Notre Dame's 9-8 win at No. 4 Northwestern on Wednesday and a 12-9 win over a solid Louisville team that continues to receive votes in the polls.
Notre Dame accomplished something rarely done in claiming a win at Northwestern in a contest played on Wednesday night. Northwestern now stands at 101-4 at home since 2004. The Irish became just the second team from the powerful ACC to ever win at Northwestern in 18 games all-time (now 2-16), joining a victory by North Carolina in 2010.
Individually, a couple of Irish players moved up amongst the ACC and national leaders with their efforts this past week.
Cortney Fortunato recorded her 20th goal of the year on Saturday against Louisville. She is one of just 15 players nationally who has hit that plateau thus far in 2014 and the only freshman to score 20 times.
Margaret Smith caused a pair of turnovers on the week to give her a total of 14 in the team's seven games played. Her 2.00 caused turnovers per game lead the ACC and rank 24th nationally. Only three players nationally have forced more that Smith's 14 turnovers this year.
Reflecting both the team's aggressive style of play and its lineup depth, Notre Dame ranks eighth nationally in ground balls, gathering an average of 21.71 per game; however, no individual player is in the national top 25 for ground balls. Smith leads the team with 2.86 per game but ranks 29th nationally. Brie Custis is the only other Notre Dame player in the top 100 nationally, pulling in at No. 62 with 2.57 per game.
Notre Dame has topped all seven of its opponents this year in the ground balls category, amassing a 152-112 advantage for the season in this crucial category.
The momentum built last week will be useful on Tuesday afternoon when the Irish faces off against Richmond (3-2) on the Spiders' home field at Robins Stadium. The contest will be Notre Dame's fifth game in 13 days, none of which have been at the same site. That is of no concern to the confident coach of a youthfully resilient team.
"This team travels so well," Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny said. "The game is a stand-alone package. It doesn't really matter where we are so long as we have a field, 60 minutes and an opportunity to win a game."
It will be the first meeting between the sides since a 14-13 win for the Irish at home on March 12, 2000. The Spiders have lost twice this year when facing ACC opponents, dropping decisions to both Virginia and Maryland while posting wins out of conference over Liberty, American and Old Dominion.
It kicks off a spring break week trip that is a Homecoming for the many members of the Fighting Irish team who grew up in the DC metro area. In all, nine players grew up in either Virginia or Maryland which is where the Irish will head after Richmond, finishing up the week-long trip with an ACC contest at No. 2 Maryland on Saturday at noon in College Park.