If Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans are looking for silver linings to this 5-5 start to the women’s lacrosse season, they may want to consult the stat sheet.
The Irish’s leaders in points, goals, shots and draw controls are freshmen. Savannah Buchanan, their leader in ground balls and caused turnovers, is a sophomore. And if freshman goaltender Bridget Deehan had logged more minutes between the pipes, her save percentage would be third in the nation.
There’s no doubt that the Irish have recruited well in the past two seasons. But it’s also undeniable that the graduations of Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall have left a leadership void that Notre Dame still has not filled halfway through its season.
The Irish’s 17-10 loss to No. 8 Virginia (6-2, 2-1) was their third loss in conference, their third loss at home and their third loss in a row. Notre Dame dropped a mid-week road game to High Point, 13-7; those offensive woes carried over to Saturday.
The ladies looked good early, sporting green uniforms on St. Patrick’s Day and staking out to an early 3-1 lead on the sticks of freshmen Maddie Howe, Diana Kelly and Katie Enrietto. Yet that early surge turned out to be fool’s gold as the Cavaliers ripped off six unanswered goals en route to an 11-6 halftime lead.
Deehan replaced Samantha Giacolone with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, as the junior goaltender — and Tewaarton Award watch list nominee — continued her roller-coaster season.
The Irish trimmed its deficit to three, 12-9, behind Howe’s fourth goal of the game. But Cavaliers put a punctuation mark on their dominating performance by scoring 5 of the last six goals of the game.
“I’m really proud of how our team battled today from the first draw to the final whistle against an experienced UVA team,” head coach Christine Halfpenny told the university’s official site, UND.com. “We played hard, we played together and we never quit. The draw game was critical and it went UVA’s way which, unfortunately at times, made it a ‘make it take it’ game for UVA. There’s a ton of fight in this team and we look forward to a great week ahead as we set our sights on preparing for Syracuse.”
Virginia won almost every statistical category Saturday, including a 42-25 shot advantage, a 21-16 lead in ground balls, and an 18-11 dominance in draw controls. Notre Dame committed 43 fouls — its most this year and twice the season average — to Virginia’s 19. And the Irish also committed one more turnover (13) than the Cavaliers did.
Cavaliers midfielder Maggie Jackson led all players with 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists), while three players — Virginia’s midfielder Kasey Behr, attacker Avery Shoemaker and Notre Dame’s midfielder Howe — scored four goals. Buchanan had three goals and an assist in the loss, while junior attack Nikki Ortega added three assists.
The Irish stay at home, and will host Syracuse (5-2, 0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Arlotta Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network & Watch ESPN.