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Notre Dame Women’s Lacrosse: #8 Irish Beat Ohio State

Irish overcome shaky goalie play to prevail, 16-13.

Samantha Giacolone
Bobbie Arlotta

By day, Samantha Giacolone was being named the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the week. By night, the sophomore goalkeeper was having her third worst game as a collegiate athlete.

Giacolone surrendered 13 goals - including eight in the second half, but her Notre Dame Fighting Irish teammates could barely be contained by the unranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Irish’s 16-13 win Tuesday at Arlotta Stadium extended their winning streak to eight games, the third-longest in program history.

Notre Dame (8-1) and Ohio State (5-2) delivered exactly the shootout fans expected from two of the highest scoring offenses in Division I. Attacker Nikki Ortega and freshman midfielder Savannah Buchanan led the Irish with three goals and one assist apiece, while senior midfielder Casey Pearsall had two goals and two assists.

Freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez lead the Buckeyes with three goals and four assists.

The Irish dominated the first half of play, showing off a fast-paced transition offense and limiting mistakes. Their 11-5 halftime lead was built on a 25 to 10 shot advantage and by committing just six turnovers (compared to the Buckeyes’ 10).

Pearsall, who left the Irish’s Saturday win over Louisville with a neck injury, opened the scoring and assisted on sophomore attacker Samantha Lynch’s diving goal which made it 3-0.

Giacolone, who boasted a .496 save percentage entering the game, was honored for her nine save performance and for holding the Cardinals to a season-low seven goals Saturday. The Buckeyes - or the swirling wind - vexed her and Ohio State made the most of their limited time in the offensive zone by narrowing the score to 4-3.

The Irish, who have come from behind to win their previous two games, opened their widest lead in two weeks when senior attacker Cortney Fortunato scored her 30th goal of the season to extend the lead to 10-4. Senior attacker Grace Muller closed the first half scoring by converting a free position attempt; the Irish were 4-for-9 in these post-foul calls after going just 2-for-14 last game.

Coming into today’s game, the Irish had dominated opponents in the second half. They had outscored them 65-24, and controlled 40 draws in the second halves of the past four games (compared to 30 in the first half).

The women, playing their second game in four days, looked sluggish in the second half. The Buckeyes ratched up the pressure on Giacolone, who only had two first half saves. With their 15 second-half shots, Ohio State converted on eight of them. Giacolone finished with 5 saves, for a .278 save percentage. It was her worst peformance in net since she yielded 17 goals last April against Northwestern against just four saves. Buckeyes freshman goalie Jillian Rizzo had 13 saves in a losing effort.

While the Irish were outshot, outscored and yielded nine draw controls in the second half, they limited the turnovers and did enough to preserve the victory. Sophomore defensewoman Hannah Proctor scored her first collegiate goal with 7:58 remaining, burying a free position attempt to give the Irish a 14-10 lead.

“I would have liked to put more pressure on their goalkeeper,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny told UND.com. “But it comes down to possession time, and I think Ohio State probably had more time of possession and more scoring plays in the second half. We probably won the first half. Down the stretch, we did a great job of game management with the possession clock.”

The Irish now hold a 15-8 all-time advantage over the Buckeyes, including 8-2 in the two teams’ last 10 meetings. The game was a homecoming of sorts for Jill Byers ‘09, a four-time All-American who is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in goals, points and draw controls. Byers is now an assistant coach at Ohio State. Fortunato moved past Byers on Saturday for fifth place on the university’s all-time assist rankings. (She moved into a tie for fourth place tonight.)

The Irish next travel to New Jersey to play the No. 10 Princeton Tigers at 1 p.m. Saturday.