March 11, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The No. 7/6 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team embodies a team concept so it should come as no surprise that even when claiming individual awards, the Fighting Irish do it as a team. Freshman attack Cortney Fortunato was named the ACC's Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday while her teammate, goalkeeper Allie Murray, was named the Defensive Player of the Week.
They are the program's first two weekly honors in the ACC and come on the heels of a week that saw Notre Dame upset No. 4 Northwestern, 9-8, on the road and then beat Louisville, 12-9, at home to improve to 5-2 on the year. The Northwestern win was of particular note, snapping a 15-game home winning streak for a Wildcat team that, including the win by Notre Dame is 101-4 at home since 2004. Though the conference is perennially laden with elite teams, Notre Dame's win was just the second time an ACC team has beaten the Wildcats on the road in 18 total games (16-2), joining a 2010 win by North Carolina. Although unranked, the tough Cardinals, meanwhile, continue to receive votes in the national polls.
Fortunato netted a hat trick in each of Notre Dame's wins last week and has now scored at least three goals in five of her seven collegiate games. Fortunato is tied for 12th nationally, and leads all freshmen, with 20 goals scored so far this spring. Fortunato was the only Irish player to score more than one goal in the win over the Wildcats and she set the tone for the entire contest, aggressively announcing Notre Dame's presence, by scoring just 11 seconds into the game after Barbara Sullivan controlled the opening draw. Fortunato also scored the critical game-tying goal with 2:21 left to play, knotting the score at 8-8.
Against the Cardinals, Fortunato scored twice in the second half comeback as a part of her three-goal day. Fortunato also controlled two draws against the Cardinals, both of which led to Irish goals, but one of them helped change the complexion of the entire game. With the Irish down 7-4 at halftime and being beaten 11-1 on draw controls, Fortunato controlled the opening draw of the second half, leading to a Brie Custis goal just 20 seconds into the second half to jump start a run where the Irish would score eight out of nine goals to take command of the game.
Murray was honored after her nine-save effort in the landmark win at Northwestern where she held the Wildcats to eight goals or fewer in a home game for just the fourth time since 2006. Murray's biggest save of those nine came on a free position shot with 0:36 seconds left to play in the game, protecting Notre Dame's one-goal lead that lifted the Irish to victory. Murray did more than just make saves during that contest. Murray caused a turnover by intercepting a pass, leading to the Irish goal which tied the game at 5-5 midway through the second half. Murray also collected the ground ball on a Custis caused turnover that eventually led to an Irish goal with 2:55 to play, cutting the Notre Dame deficit to a single goal at 8-7. Murray saved five of Northwestern's eight free position shots in the game, including three in a second half that saw four ties and four lead changes.
Murray also played the first half of Notre Dame's win over Louisville, making five saves in those 30 minutes of action and scooping up four ground balls, finishing the game second on the team despite only playing half of the game.
Through the stingy work in net by both Murray and freshman Liz O'Sullivan, Notre Dame has held five of its seven opponents to single digits on the scoreboard in 2014, including two ranked foes. Only No. 1 North Carolina and current No. 5 Boston College have forced scoreboard operators to light up a one in the second column when facing the Irish this season.
Winners of three in a row, Notre Dame will look to continue this strong run at 3:00 p.m. today when the Irish face Richmond at the Spiders' Robins Stadium.