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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame takes down Louisville in first home game of season

The No. 8 Irish got off on the right foot to start conference play Saturday, as they toppled No. 20 Louisville 9-7 in their first game at Arlotta Stadium this season.

Notre Dame (7-1, 2-0 ACC) had a back-and-forth start to the game, trading goals and one-goal leads with the Cardinals (6-2, 0-1) to keep the game tight. Senior attack Cortney Fortunato started her squad off, scoring the first Notre Dame goal of the game. Senior attack Grace Muller followed Fortunato, bring the game to a 2-2 tie early in the first period.

Irish sophomore midfielder Makenna Pearsall surveys the field during Notre Dame’s 24-9 victory over Detroit on Feb. 11 at Loftus Sports Complex. Pearsall has four goals and one assist on the season.
Eddie Griesedieck
Irish sophomore midfielder Makenna Pearsall surveys the field during Notre Dame’s 24-9 victory over Detroit on Feb. 11 at Loftus Sports Complex. Pearsall has four goals and one assist on the season.

Muller was followed by goals from freshman midfielder Savannah Buchanan and junior midfielder Molly Cobb. In total, eight players contributed to Notre Dame’s nine goals on the day. Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny was pleased with her team’s ability to spread the ball and score despite a tough shooting day.

“You look at the youngsters getting on the board. [Freshman midfielder] Erin McBride goes one-for-one, [sophomore midfielder] Makenna Pearsall goes one-for-one, a freshman and a redshirt freshman, and when they go that in a two-goal win, that’s just huge,” Halfpenny said. “It’s great to see us have the ability to share the ball and to see not just our attackers shoulder that job of putting the ball in the back of the net, but also seeing our middies come alive there too. And that was big, really big, to see our middies put the ball in the back of the net and Molly Cobb has another big day and Savannah’s doing so much for us all over the place. So, it’s really great for us to see all that come together.”

Notre Dame’s win came courtesy of a 5-0 run that started with Cobb’s goal in the first period and carried over to halfway through the second. Halfpenny accredited the run to her team’s defensive adjustments that prevented the majority of Louisville’s top scorers from making a major impact on the game.

“I think that we just hunkered down and did our jobs [in the second half],” Halfpenny said. “We made some good adjustments. We play two different styles of defense and we threw both of them at them, made some adjustments as the flow of the game just kept going, so I think that was really great. I also think, you know, when you take a look, we were able to keep them in check and make them spread the wealth around, where none of their big, big ones got going too much. We forced their [senior attack Hannah Koloski] to go 2-for-9 on the day and that says a lot because she’s a very powerful player. Two-for-6 on [sophomore midfielder Meghan Siverson] and that’s another big one, and we limited [freshman attack Ashley Lynch] to just that one assist. They’ve been very big playmakers, so I was really, really happy with the defense’s ability to do that.

“I think our defense started with our ride, we were able to shorten their possessions, their average possession time was probably about anywhere from 50 to 60 seconds once they got through our ride. So, they adjusted our ride to the way they were playing and I certainly think that helped our defense attack one they were inside the 30.”

Despite the strong defensive showing and ultimate ability to score nine goals, the Irish struggled offensively as a unit, shooting only 9-for-36 over the course of the game. Halfpenny discussed the fact that the Irish have work to do before their next contest, but she took a number of positives from the victory.

“We have a lot of work to do right now on offense,” she said. “We had a really bad day shooting and that’s just not acceptable. Twenty-five percent is not who we are. We are way too talented to do that. Our team knows it. They’re not happy with it, they’re far from satisfied.

“I’m excited for them to refocus their efforts, but to find a way to win and to find another way to win, I should say, when you’re not winning the draw, but you’re able to get the ball back, you’re able to win the ground ball war, was huge for us. Also, our ball control. I thought that under their pressure, to limit our unforced errors was good. That was a focus for us and that’s what absolutely kept us in the game and that’s what allowed us to have another strong second half.”

The Irish will next take the field and look to extend their seven-game winning streak on Tuesday against Ohio State. First draw is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium.