March 28, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
FIGHTING IRISH PLAY HOST TO CARDINAL
Notre Dame will play host to No. 11 Stanford at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday at noon.
The Cardinal stands at 7-1 this year after beating Cornell, 17-9, on Tuesday afternoon in Ithaca. The Cardinal has a pair of ranked wins this year, beating Georgetown and Towson, both on the road and in overtime. Stanford's only loss in 2014 is a 16-15 overtime game at home against Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 9-5, including a 4-2 mark at home.
This 15th meeting between the sides moves Stanford past Rutgers (14) and ties UConn for the sixth-longest series in Notre Dame's women's lacrosse history. Georgetown tops that chart with 19.
The series extends back to Notre Dame's first varsity season as the Fighting Irish claimed a 19-13 win over the Cardinal on March 24, 1997 at home.
Another significant game in the series was the February 19, 2012 contest at Notre Dame which marked the Fighting Irish coaching debut for Christine Halfpenny. Notre Dame won that game 17-14.
The two teams met for the first time in the postseason last year with the Cardinal taking an 8-7 win at Northwestern's Lakeside Field.
The Irish are looking to avenge an NCAA Tournament loss in the following season for the first time since 2005-06 when Notre Dame lost to Ohio State, 14-10, in the 2005 NCAAs but beat the Buckeyes, 13-6, in 2006 in Columbus.
DEPTH IN SCORING
Through 11 games in 2014, Notre Dame has seen 18 different players score a goal.
The 18 different goal scorers tie for the second-most in school history. Notre Dame had 19 different players score a goal in 2012. The 2001 and 2002 teams both featured 18 goal scorers.
Five different players have reached double figures in goals through 11 games (Cortney Fortunato-28, Rachel Sexton-21, Caitlin Gargan-19, Kiera McMullan-17 and Stephanie Toy-11).
Six different Notre Dame players have recorded a hat trick so far this spring (Brie Custis, Cortney Fortunato, Caitlin Gargan, Kiera McMullan, Grace Muller and Rachel Sexton).
In all, nine different players have scored as many goals or more this year as games they have started. Eight different Notre Dame players who have scored a goal have yet to start a game in 2014.
IRISH IN THE POLLS
Notre Dame is presently ranked No. 6 in the nation in both the IWLCA Coaches Poll and the Brine/Inside Lacrosse Poll.
The current IWLCA ranking matches the season-high for Notre Dame. It is the third straight week at No. 6 in the media poll and the second week in a row at No. 6 in the IWLCA poll.
A total of 10 of Notre Dame's 16 regular season opponents are ranked in this week's polls.
Every team that Notre Dame is scheduled to face for the remainder of the year is ranked in the top 20.
The Irish began the season ranked No. 11 in both polls.
GROUND BALL COUNT HARDLY GROUNDED
A deep and aggressive team, Notre Dame has continued to rank amongst the nation's elite in terms of gobbling up ground balls.
The Irish rank third nationally and first in the ACC by digging out 22.36 ground balls per game.
This builds upon a 2013 season which saw the Irish rank fifth nationally in ground balls.
Individually, Margaret Smith leads the ACC and ranks 13th in the nation, scooping up 3.09 ground balls per game.
Of the 31 people who have played in a game for the Irish this spring, 24 have collected at least one ground ball. This includes every player who has appeared in at least five games.
A total of 10 different Notre Dame players are in double digits for ground balls this year after 11 games played.
WHOLE ARLOTTA LOVE
The Fighting Irish finally played their first game of the year at Arlotta Stadium on March 19, a 12-5 win over Marquette, after each of the team's first four home dates were forced inside the Loftus Sports Center by a lengthy winter.
Notre Dame stands at 18-6 (.750) all-time at Arlotta Stadium which opened in 2010.
Last year the Irish won a school-record five games at Arlotta Stadium, going 5-2 overall.
Notre Dame is 10-3 (.769) at Arlotta Stadium under current head coach Christine Halfpenny.
8-3 IS THE PLACE TO BE
Notre Dame stands at 8-3 (.727) on the year, a quality start that is nothing new to the program.
The Fighting Irish have started 8-3 or better in 11 of the last 16 seasons, dating back to 1999.
Notre Dame has gone 8-3 or better to open each of its three campaigns under head coach Christine Halfpenny.
SINGLE DIGIT DEFENSE
In eight of Notre Dame's 11 games this year, its opposition has been held to nine goals or less.
The eight single-digit defensive efforts ties for the most since 2007 when nine Notre Dame foes were held to single digit scoring.
The school record is 13, set in 2002. Notre Dame had 12 in 2004 and nine in both 2006 and 2007.
This year's eight matches the 2001, 2009 and 2013 Irish squads.
Not surprisingly, Notre Dame has won all eight of the games when holding its opposition to single digit goals. The Irish have won 26 of their last 27 such games, the lone exception being an 8-7 loss to Stanford in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The core of the defense has been consistent this year with Alex Dalton (11 starts), Leah Gallagher (9), Stephanie Peragallo (10) and Margaret Smith (9) generally holding down the fort in front of Allie Murray (10 starts in goal). Molly Shawhan has also seen time in all 11 games with three starts.
Notre Dame puts a young team on the field as nine of the team's 12 most frequent starters are either freshmen or sophomores.
Of Notre Dame's top 12 scorers, 11 are either freshmen or sophomores, a group joined by junior Caitlin Gargan.
Notre Dame's top senior goal scorer is Lauren Sullivan with three. She is matched in the point column amongst seniors by Kaitlyn Brosco who has three assists on the year.
Players who will return to the Irish in 2014 have accounted for 193 of the team's 203 points (95-percent) this spring.
GOOD POSITION ON FREE POSITIONS
Notre Dame has scored 32 free position goals already this fall and had 70 attempts.
Since 2010, only the 2012 team (47) scored more free position goals over an entire season than the 2014 Irish have in just 11 games.
In 17 games last year, Notre Dame had the same 70 attempts and converted on just 27 of them.
Cortney Fortunato and Margaret Smith were both recognized by Inside Lacrosse on March 25 in its midseason report.
Both Fortunato and Smith were named to the All-America second-team as the season reached its halfway point.
Additionally, Fortunato topped the magazine's list of national Rookie of the Year candidates.
Margaret Smith and Barbara Sullivan are making a name for themselves in the Notre Dame career record book.
Both Barbara Sullivan and Margaret Smith are amongst the tops in Irish lore on draw controls. Smith ranks fourth with 125 in her career while Sullivan is sixth with 123.
Smith has 102 caused turnovers in her Notre Dame career, ranking fifth all-time at the school. Sullivan ranks ninth with 69.
With 138 career ground balls, Smith has the fifth-most ever at Notre Dame.
Smith's draw control total is boosted by the eight she scooped up in Notre Dame's win at Virginia Tech on March 2. That sum was just one shy of the school record of nine set by Kaki Orr against Vanderbilt on May 7, 2006 and matched by both Sullivan on March 13, 2013 at Vanderbilt and Casey Pearsall on March 23, 2014 at Villanova.
In addition, Cortney Fortunato has already produced one of the top freshman seasons ever at Notre Dame. Her 38 points tie Crysti Foote (2003) for seventh-best by a Fighting Irish freshman. Fortunato's 28 goals tie Caitlin McKinney (2005) for fifth-best by a freshman in school history.
The Irish have faced a tough slate so far when it comes to draw controls. The Irish have already opposed four of the top seven draw control teams nationally in North Carolina (3rd), Maryland (4th), Louisville (6th) and Northwestern (7th).
Notre Dame is 6-0 this year when winning the battle of draw controls.
The Irish have had 19 different players control a draw so far this year, something that 18 different players did over a span of 17 games in 2013.
MARGARET SMITH PLAYING STRONG
Named a third-team All-American in 2012, senior captain Margaret Smith is making a fine case to earn another All-America award in 2014.
Smith's balanced stat line includes 34 ground balls, 23 draw controls and 23 caused turnovers on the year.
In addition to leading the ACC in both categories, in Monday's weekly NCAA stat update, Smith also ranked amongst the national leaders in both caused turnovers (13th) and ground balls (13th).
Smith has also done fine work in her role as a team captain, leading the young team as Notre Dame's lone senior starter.
Widely considered the country's top recruit last year, freshman Cortney Fortunato has not disappointed, scoring 28 goals in her first 11 games at the collegiate level.
Fortunato led all freshmen in goal scoring in the March 17 NCAA stat update.
As of this Monday's weekly NCAA stat update, her 28 goals were the third most by any freshman in the nation and tie for the 18th-most overall.
As of Monday, Fortunato had 38 points on the year including her 10 assists. That sum tied for 25th nationally and ranks third amongst freshmen.
Fortunato has a hat trick in six of the team's 11 games this year. ND has won all six of those games.
She was recognized twice this year on a national level. She was the Brine Player of the Week by Inside Lacrosse on March 11 and the WomensLax.com Rookie of the Week on Feb. 24.
Fortunato has done more than just score goals as a rookie too. She has 17 ground balls and 14 draw controls, making her one of four on the team with at least 14 of both, joining Casey Pearsall (16-23) and Margaret Smith (34-23).
DUAL ACC HONOREES
Not only did Notre Dame earn recognition by the ACC on March 11 after beating both Northwestern and Louisville, but it earned the league's full recognition, taking both weekly awards.
Cortney Fortunato was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Week after netting a hat trick in both games.
Allie Murray was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week after making nine saves at Northwestern and backstopping a defense that held the Wildcats to eight goals.
Notre Dame's 9-8 win over No. 4 Northwestern on March 5 at the Lake Barrington Field House was meaningful beyond just the regional implications. A few notes on the win:
It snapped a 15-game home winning streak for the Wildcats. Northwestern entered the game 101-3 at home since 2004.
It was just the fourth time that a team had held the Wildcats to eight goals or less at home since 2006.
Beating No. 4 marked the highest road win in Notre Dame history. Previously, the Irish had thrice beaten No. 7-ranked teams on the road, most recently Georgetown in 2008.
The 33-21 edge in shots marked the largest margin for a visiting team to outshoot Northwestern by since Ohio State outshot the Wildcats by 13 on March 23, 2003.
The 33 shots that Notre Dame was able to line up at the Wildcat net was the most taken against Northwestern in a home game since Maryland ripped off 35 on April 16, 2007.
ALLIE MURRAY STRONG IN GOAL
In her first year as the starting goalkeeper for the Irish, junior Allie Murray has held her ground, recording a 6-3 record and 9.95 goals against average.
Murray made nine saves in the win over No. 4 Northwestern, none of them more critical than the one on a free position shot in the final minute of play to preserve Notre Dame's 9-8 lead.
Murray has started 10 of the team's 11 games, missing only the Marquette game on March 19 with a minor injury.
LIZ HAS BEEN A WHIZ
In addition to Allie Murray, freshman Liz O'Sullivan has played well in the Fighting Irish net, giving the team a measure of depth that is not normally seen.
O'Sullivan has seen action in eight of Notre Dame's 11 games this year, including a start against Marquette on March 19 in a 12-5 win.
O'Sullivan is 2-0 this spring, earning the win over Louisville in addition to Marquette.
The 2014 season is the first time since Notre Dame's inaugural campaign in 1997 that the Irish have had two goalies eclipse the 200-minutes played plateau in a season. That first spring, Beth Murray played 282:41 and Catherine Simmons played 257:19.
NUMBER FIVE HAS COME ALIVE
Sophomore Rachel Sexton has made a loud statement to be the team's most improved player in 2014 amongst a deep pool of applicants.
Sexton has started all 11 games and is second on the team with 21 goals. Her 26 points are third on the squad.
Last fall as a freshman, Sexton played in just six games with no starts, scoring three goals with one assist for four points.
In one game Sexton eclipsed her freshman year goal total as she scored four times in the season-opening win over Cincinnati on Feb. 12.
That opening day hat trick against the Bearcats was the first of five so far this year for Sexton, second-best on the team behind only Cortney Fortunato's six.
Freshman Alex Dalton has stepped right into a starting role in Notre Dame's stern defense this season, starting all 11 games.
Dalton has 21 ground balls on the year, 11 draw controls and eight caused turnovers. The 21 ground balls rank third on the team behind only Margaret Smith and Brie Custis. She is one of just four Irish players to be in double digits for both ground balls and draw controls, joining Smith, Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall.
Dalton also leads the team's defensive players with both her three goals and her four points on the year.
Junior Caitlin Gargan is another player who has made good use of increased playing time in 2014, standing second on the team with a career-high 28 points on the year and third with a career-high tying 19 goals.
Gargan started three games as a freshman in 2012 and nine last year as a sophomore. She has not missed a start through 11 games in 2014.
The Long Island native matched her career high by scoring four goals on two occasions this year, against Boston College on Feb. 15 and at Virginia Tech on March 2.
She also matched her single game career high with six points, adding two assists to her four goals against the Eagles. Gargan has had five-point games this year against both Cincinnati (Feb. 12) and the Hokies.
Gargan scored the game-winning goal at Virginia Tech in Notre Dame's first ACC win.
SHA-KIERA'S GOALS DON'T LIE
Kiera McMullan, nicknamed "Shakira" by her teammates in reference to the Colombian pop superstar, has been able score whenever and from wherever this spring.
McMullan is fourth on the team with both 17 goals and 22 points, playing in all 11 games with six starts.
Those numbers are a marked improvement from a freshman year in 2013 which saw McMullan score six goals with five assists for 11 points.
McMullan is second on the team with five free position goals and trails only Cortney Fortunato with two game-winning goals on the year (coming against Louisville and Villanova).
The game-winner against the Cardinals on March 8 was one of a career-high four goals against Louisville, a game where she also added an assist for a five-point day.
McMullan also played an active role in the win at Northwestern on March 5, scooping up a team-high five ground balls .
PEARSALL DOING IT ALL
Freshman midfielder Casey Pearsall has produced a diverse and robust stat line in most games and even made some history at Villanova on March 23.
Pearsall controlled nine draws against the Wildcats, matching the school record. Six of those nine draw controls resulted in Notre Dame goals.
Starting all 11 games, Pearsall has five goals and nine assists for 14 points, 16 ground balls, 23 draw controls and five caused turnovers. She joins Fortunato as the only Irish players in double figures for points, ground balls and draw controls.
One assist shy of the team lead with her nine, Pearsall's biggest helper of the year was the pass that setup Lauren Sullivan's game-winning goal with 1:16 left to play at over No. 4 Northwestern that broke an 8-8 deadlock in Notre Dame's 9-8 victory.
BARBARA SULLIVAN OUT FOR YEAR
Preseason All-American Barbara Sullivan will miss the remainder of the 2014 season with a back injury.
Sullivan was a first-team All-American in 2013 and played through the injury for six games but issues persisted. The school will petition the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility due to the injury.
In the six games that Sullivan did play, she was mainly used as a draw control specialist and she found success in that role, controlling 22, including seven against one of the country's best draw control units in No. 1 North Carolina on Feb. 27.
Sullivan also helped keep NCAA record holder Alyssa Leonard in check during the team's win at No 4 Northwestern. Leonard only had four draw controls against the Irish, her lowest total of the season to date in a year where she averages 8.43 per game.
IRISH TEAM CAPTAINS
Four team captains were named prior to the start of the 2014 season, seniors Julia Giorgio, Molly Shawhan and Margaret Smith, along with junior Barbara Sullivan.
Smith is a two-year captain, having also served in that role last spring. She is the first two-time team captain since Shaylyn Blaney (2010-11).
HEAD COACH CHRISTINE HALFPENNY
Christine Halfpenny is 33-13 in her third season as head coach at Notre Dame, having led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament in each of her first two seasons.
Halfpenny came from William & Mary where the Tribe won 10 games in each of the final four of her five years as head coach in Williamsburg.
Before becoming a head coach, she worked as a collegiate assistant coach at Duke, Virginia Tech (her alma mater) and Brown.
HISTORIC ROUT OF BEARCATS
Notre Dame left a mark on the school record book in its 25-1 win over Cincinnati to open the season on Feb. 12 at the Loftus Sports Center.
Notre Dame's 25 goals scored and 24-goal margin of victory were both school records.
The nine free position goals scored by the Irish were the team's most since at least 2004.
The Bearcats scored with 46 seconds left in the game, denying Notre Dame what would have been just the second shutout in school history.