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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Fortunato explodes for half dozen in second half against Michigan

No. 13 Notre Dame rolled against Michigan in a 21-12 win at Arlotta Stadium on Sunday afternoon, led by sophomore attack Cortney Fortunato’s six second-half goals.

Ten different Irish players found the back of the net, with sophomore attack Heidi Annaheim and sophomore midfielder Casey Pearsall each recording a hat trick and Fortunato tying a school record for the most goals in one half.

The sophomore was scoreless in the first half before exploding after the break. In one five-minute period, Fortunato beat sophomore Michigan goalie Allison Silber four times, and Notre Dame jumped from an 11-7 lead to a 15-8 advantage.

Sophomore Cortney Fortunato cradles the ball down the field during a 17-5 win against Detroit on Feb. 15.
Amy Ackermann | The Observer
Amy Ackermann | The Observer
Sophomore Cortney Fortunato cradles the ball down the field during a 17-5 win against Detroit on Feb. 15.

“When defenses start to get too focused on Cortney, I think that everyone around her is doing their job and stepping up,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “This week in preparation, Cortney was really taking advantage of her dodges around the zone, and we saw that today. Huge day for Casey and big day for Heidi. I thought that was outstanding to see those two really come alive.”

With 6:15 left in the first half, Notre Dame (9-5, 3-3 ACC) held a slim 5-4 lead. Halfpenny called a timeout, and by the midway break, the Irish were up 7-4 thanks to goals by Annaheim and junior attack Kiera McMullan off the bench.

“We got a little slower start than we wanted to, but I think you have to credit that to Michigan coming out really hard,” Halfpenny said. “Kiera, off the bench, talk about needing a spark in the first half and having a junior come off the bench and give us two important goals.”

The Wolverines (5-9, 0-3 Big Ten) would never recover. The Notre Dame offense went off for 14 goals in the second half, including 5 of 7 free position shots and the milestone half-dozen from Fortunato. Notre Dame closed out the game with a 4-0 run.

“It took us a half to warm up, but towards the end it came back, and we started playing like us again,” Fortunato said. “Going forward, I think we just need to make sure we come out every game starting strong and playing like we have the past few games, and we should be good to go.”

The victory was the third in a row for the Irish after upsets of No. 8 Virginia and No. 6 Syracuse last week. Notre Dame will play the final two games of its regular season at home this week against No. 5 Northwestern and No. 12 Louisville before going into the ACC tournament.

“You hear a lot of people saying we’re heating up at the right time, but the truth is we’re just realizing our potential so we’re not surprised about this,” Halfpenny said. “We knew February was going to take some time to get our chemistry together, and March was battling through and finding our identity, and now in April we’re starting to hit our stride.

“It’s just the natural process of a team growing up throughout the course of a season.”

Halfpenny said she was especially pleased with the team chemistry and cooperation she saw on the field Sunday. It showed on the stat sheet as well, with Irish players collecting 12 assists as a group.

“We’re playing so together right now,” Halfpenny said. “The reality is 21 goals is something else, but 12 helpers is something that we’re even more excited about because that’s tougher to defend.”

Notre Dame’s next challenge is Thursday, when the Wildcats visit Arlotta Stadium at 7 p.m.