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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

No. 13 Irish snap losing streak by trouncing No. 11 Syracuse

No. 13 Notre Dame bounced back from a string of three straight defeats in a big way Sunday, going on the road to No. 11 Syracuse and putting together a complete team performance in a convincing 16-7 win.

During their three-game losing streak, the Irish (9-4, 3-1 ACC) had been outscored 24-10 in the first half, and that pattern threatened to repeat when the Orange (8-3, 2-1), who were riding a six-game home winning streak, scored twice within a minute to take a 3-2 lead with 13:42 left in the half. But the Irish, who had seven seniors in the starting lineup, responded with a four-goal run to take a 6-3 lead. Senior attack Cortney Fortunato closed out the period with a goal to give her a first-half hat trick, and the Irish went into the break up 7-4.

Notre Dame’s strong suit this season has been the second half, and the Irish continued that trend with a little luck. After senior midfielder Casey Pearsall opened the half with a goal to push the cushion to four, Orange sophomore attack Nicole Levy — who earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors last year — was called for an illegal stick, putting the Irish up a player for two minutes. Notre Dame capitalized with three straight goals to take firm control of the game at 10-4. Sophomore goalkeeper Samantha Giacolone said although her team performs well in the second half, it would prefer to be able to put together a strong, complete 60 minutes.

“We’ve been known as a second half team, but I think we’re trying to change that a little bit and be a full-game team, just because we’re getting down to the wire, and every team is good that we play,” Giacolone said. “We can’t just keep betting on coming back in the second half. I think that first-half performance really fueled our second-half performance. … I’m really proud of how we came out and how we ended.”

The Irish did not look back, as they pushed their advantage with long offensive possessions that ate up the clock as well as a strong defensive effort, highlighted by Giacolone’s 13 saves, which tied a career-high. Giacolone said she was excited by her statistical milestone, but her main focus is always getting the win.

“[Tying my career-high is] a great feeling, you always want to do your personal best,” Giacolone said. “But overall, I just really want to get the win, and we had our backs against the wall with that three-game losing streak, and we really needed a win for ACCs and for NCAAs, so going in, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Let me tie my career-high or break my career-high.’ It was just, ‘Make as many saves as possible because if you make saves, we’re going to win.’”

Although the Orange scored two straight to make it 12-6 with 14:37 to go, the Irish squashed the comeback with two goals from sophomore attack Nikki Ortega, who also had a hat trick, and another from freshman attack Jessi Masinko for her second that day. Senior attack Heidi Annaheim added an exclamation point with one minute to go, scoring her second of the day to seal a 16-7 win.

Giacolone said the win was a much-needed one, potentially giving the Irish the spark they need to finish out the season on a strong note.

“I think it’s an amazing feeling. I think as a team, we really needed to get that win just to fuel our energy for the rest of the season,” Giacolone said. “We only have four more weeks left until ACCs, and coming back from a three-game losing streak is huge, especially against such a big team like Syracuse.”

Giacolone said she saw a difference in the energy the Irish brought to the table against the Orange, which ultimately played a role in their success.

“I think we just had a lot more fire and fight within ourselves and within our team,” Giacolone said. “We came out with a lot of passion, and we never let up. Our energy was always there, our fight was always there, our aggression, our fast play was always there. We didn’t take one rep off or one play off the entire game and just put our foot on the throttle and kept going.”

Notre Dame will look to build momentum in the ACC with a home game of major consequence against No. 2 North Carolina. Game time is set for noon Sunday at Arlotta Stadium.