No. 4 Cavaliers fall to No. 17 Notre Dame

Irish snap Virginia's six-game win streak

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The No. 4 Virginia women’s lacrosse team didn’t score until the 17:17 mark midway through the second half of its contest with No. 17 Notre Dame, as the Cavaliers’ six-game win streak came to an end on Saturday with a 14-4 loss to the Irish at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Sports are humbling," coach Julie Myers said. "Notre Dame played a really good game. They came in with their backs against the wall and they fought for everything. They kind of caught us by surprise. We didn't play particularly well anywhere. Loose balls were an issue for us—draw controls as well as ground balls.”

Notre Dame (7-5, 2-3 ACC) and Virginia (9-5, 2-3 ACC) had roughly the same number of total turnovers — 12 for Notre Dame and 13 for Virginia — but the Fighting Irish were able to pick up five more ground balls off those turnovers than the Cavaliers. The Irish were also 16-17 on clears, while Virginia went 10-15 on clears.

Both teams committed 23 fouls, but the Irish were able to win six more draw controls than the Cavaliers, 13-7. The Irish also dominated time of possession and outshot the Cavaliers 32-22.

“That was their game plan coming in,” Myers said. “If they could get a lead, then they would take some air out of the ball. They kind of stand around and force our defense to play a different defensive set than what we would want to. They took a lot of time off the clock and really got under our attackers’ skin.”

Virginia had the first shot in the game, but Notre Dame would take the next seven, missing their first shot wide and meeting the hands of Virginia’s freshman goalie Rachel Vander Kolk the next two times. But once the Irish scored, they didn’t stop, scoring three goals in a span of less than three minutes.

After taking the 3-0 lead, the Irish hit a bit of a drought, but Virginia could not buy a score as Notre Dame’s sophomore goalkeeper Liz O’Sullivan made six saves on 10 Cavalier shots in the first half. She would finish with 11 saves overall.

“They definitely executed better in the beginning of the game, which threw us off our game plan,” senior midfielder Daniela Eppler said. “We started playing scared not to lose, so it was hard to execute. We weren’t that confident shooting to begin with, and she [O’Sullivan] was coming out a little bit far from the goal, so it was hard to see the open net and score.”

Meanwhile, Vander Kolk, who had been so solid for the Cavaliers and was named ACC Defensive Player of the week coming into the game, only made five more saves after her first two, as time after time, Irish attackers were able to get one-on-one opportunities at the goal.

The Irish added another five goals within the opening 12 minutes of the second half, including one in the opening possession after Virginia went a man-down, to double their 5-0 halftime lead.

“We’ve been in a big hole like this before, but usually we start chipping away and come back,” Eppler said. “I’ve never been in a game where we hadn’t really score after the first half.”

Eppler scored the Cavaliers’ first goal of the game but neither team scored for exactly nine more minutes until Virginia added its second goal of the game on a free position shot by senior attacker Casey Bocklet.

Eppler would score another free position goal after a Notre Dame counter, but it was too little too late for the Cavaliers who were still down by nine with five minutes to go. Senior attacker Liza Blue added a goal for the Cavaliers with less than a minute remaining, but it was the Irish who had the last laugh just 19 seconds later when sophomore attacker Cortney Fortunato put an emphatic touch on Notre Dame’s victory with a behind-the-back shot with 35 seconds left on the clock.

“The biggest thing we had to change was our defense,” Eppler said. “We had to start coming out to the ball because they were holding the ball and that was tough on our legs — it tired us out — so it was harder to execute on attack when we had the ball, and that was a huge change for us and it made a big difference in the game.”

Fortunato finished the game with game-high six goals and two assists, while Eppler led the Cavaliers with her two goals.

The Cavaliers will have a weeklong break before resuming play on the 12th against Louisville.

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