February 13, 2016
Tewaaraton finalist Barbara Sullivan led Notre Dame past Stanford with a team-high seven caused turnovers and six draw controls. (Rich Barnes)
Tewaaraton finalist Barbara Sullivan led Notre Dame past Stanford with a team-high seven caused turnovers and six draw controls. (Rich Barnes)

Second Half Surge Leads Notre Dame Past Stanford

by Daniel O'Boyle | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Box Score

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Behind an 8-0 run in the second period and a dominant performance from Tewaaraton finalist Barbara Sullivan, No. 7 Notre Dame overcame an early three-goal deficit to defeat No. 15 Stanford 13-9. 

After 15 minutes of play, the Irish (2-0) dominated the shot count by a margin of 11-4. However, all four shots for Stanford (0-1) came from free position opportunities that gave the Cardinal an early 4-1 lead. Despite her team's impressive start, Stanford coach Amy Bokker knew the Irish had a chance of coming back into the game.

"I think we exposed the pressure really well at the beginning of the game," Bokker said. "I'm not sure if we got overconfident or just kind of complacent, but I know Notre Dame's a tough opponent, so I didn't expect it not to be a battle the whole time."

Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said the slow start was never a cause for concern for her.

"When you look at it, I think that Stanford controlled 25 percent of the game and we controlled 75 percent," Halfpenny said. "Like I said, we want to come out fast, we want to come out strong, but we also understand that we're playing one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedules in the country, and that'll play itself out as the season goes."

"But we know that's what the first 15 minutes of a game will look like," Halfpenny added. "We're feeling each other out. We're reading each other's defenses. We're reading each other's scout reports. So I wasn't really concerned at all because we were still battling. Their first four goals were all off the 8-meter. So it wasn't so much that we were getting torched. It was more that we just had to get out on their hands a little bit earlier so we weren't giving away those fouls."

Two Notre Dame goals before halftime helped close the gap, but Stanford was able to bring the difference back to three goals with 20 minutes remaining. From there, the Irish took over.

Eight unanswered goals in the next 15 minutes handed Notre Dame a 12-7 lead. Stanford junior attacker Kelsey Murray — who had five goals on the day — ended the run, but another Notre Dame goal from junior midfielder Alex Dalton just nine seconds after the draw put any Cardinal hopes of a comeback to rest. Irish attacker Cortney Fortunato led her team's scoring with four goals.

Bokker said her team struggled to deal with Notre Dame's high-pressure defense, which recorded 18 caused turnovers.

"I thought we played a great game defensively," Bokker said. "Off the draw we were even, so we made some good adjustments there, but we just didn't really have the opportunity for our attackers to get going and that's credit to Notre Dame. I don't think there's anything we could have done differently except have the ball a little bit more."

"Obviously our number of turnovers was really disappointing," continued Bokker. "We knew Notre Dame played a great pressure defense, so credit to the pressure they put out there, but I think we could have done a much better job at handling the pressure during the game. That caused a lot of turnovers and we lost a lot of possessions that way, which led to the big shot differential as well."

Sullivan, Notre Dame's defensive leader who is finishing out her final year of eligibility as a graduate student, tied a school record with seven turnovers and added a game-high six draw controls plus three ground balls. According to Halfpenny, that's the norm for Sullivan.

"That's just Barbara doing what Barbara does," Halfpenny said. "She's a unique and special athlete and she's a winner. I know that sounds cliche, but the reality is Barbara's willing to do whatever it takes to put her team on her back, to do the little things. She fuels and motivates everybody to do their jobs and I think the way she battles again was just a signature of who she is and obviously it's synonymous with our brand. We fight. We're aggressive. We're fast. We're passionate. Barbara was so passionate today, and we were so thrilled that she got her fifth year here."

Stanford will return to action on Tuesday for its home opener against St. Mary's (Cal.). On February 28, Notre Dame hosts Boston College to open ACC play. 

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