Notre Dame Rebounds from Louisville Loss, Tops Princeton
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – After dropping a double overtime contest this past weekend to Louisville, No. 6 Notre Dame won its third game in six days behind a six-goal run spanning the first and second halves to top the previously unbeaten No. 7 Princeton 16-11.
Continuing their momentum from convincing wins over Virginia Tech and Liberty by a combined 44-12 score earlier this week, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said the team has more than capitalized on their loss to the Cardinals.
"I give a lot of credit to the team," Halfpenny said. "I think we learned a lot from that loss. The reality is that we really didn't belabor it at all. We were able to look at it and say we lost to a solid team in Louisville and have been able to turn it around quickly to getting back to do what we do."
"We're grateful for that Louisville game, though not necessarily the loss," she added. "I think it got our offense moving again. We just have to keep disciplined in doing what we need to be doing. It started to take form on Tuesday and Wednesday and today against an incredible Princeton opponent."
Senior Rachel Sexton (four goals) and junior Courtney Fortunato (three goals, two assists) led the way offensively for Notre Dame (8-1), while the 2015 Tewaaraton finalist Barbara Sullivan tallied seven caused turnovers to tie the program's single-game record, which she also matched against Stanford on Feb. 13.
The Irish began their surge with 1:46 left in the first half when Stephanie Toy scored to go ahead two goals. Then Grace Muller found the back of the net off a Kierra McMullan assist with 14 seconds remaining before halftime to extend the Notre Dame lead to 8-5.
The team kept the run alive into the second half with goals coming from Nikki Ortega, Alex Dalton, Sexton and Jenn Casadonte in the opening 10:30 for a 12-5 advantage.
"That 6-0 run was critical," said Halfpenny. "And Barbara Sullivan's breaking records? We're good with that."
Sullivan is quick to shift the weight of her success to the entire Fighting Irish defense that gives her the freedom to be as active as she is.
"The defensive unit lets me sometimes take those risks that I wouldn't be able to normally take," said Sullivan. "Having that confidence and belief in what's behind me is a great luxury. We all learned a lot from the Louisville loss. You never want to lose, but you can learn a lot from losing. We've displayed our true talents since."
Sexton scored Notre Dame's first three goals of the day, all assisted by freshman Nikki Ortega. Her third goal, with 19:16 left in the first half, put Notre Dame ahead 3-2 for a lead the Irish didn't surrender for the rest of the day.
"Nikki Ortega and I spend a lot of time practicing during the week, and our chemistry is something that we've been building throughout the season," Sexton said. "We're definitely getting used to playing with each other."
In addition to Sexton's offensive output, Fortunato tallied her 25th hat trick of her career. The Irish are 21-4 in games that Fortunato scores at least three goals, while their record is 7-15 when she doesn't.
"We had a great overall game," Fortunato said. "Our defense was real strong and our attack isdefinitely clicking with good ball movement. We had a lull against Louisville, but I think we're back in a good groove offensively."
Freshman goalie Samantha Giacolone made seven saves for Notre Dame, while graduate student Barbara Sullivan caused seven turnovers. (TD Paulius)
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