Notre Dame nips Virginia in ACC tourney, 7-6

No. 11 Irish top No. 5 Cavaliers for second time this season despite Boyd’s hat trick

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Junior attacker Kelly Boyd scored three goals to lead the Cavaliers. 

John Pappas | Cavalier Daily

For the second time this season, the No. 5 Virginia women’s lacrosse team suffered a loss at the hands of No. 11 Notre Dame — this time in a more defensive battle between the two teams for a final score of 7-6 in the quarterfinal round of the ACC tournament held Thursday afternoon at Klöckner Stadium.

“I think we’re all heartbroken,” senior midfielder Courtney Swan said. “If we had just played a little bit better, we would’ve came out on top.”

In the April 4 regular-season matchup between the two teams, Notre Dame (10-7, 3-4 ACC) held an 11-0 lead before Virginia (11-6, 4-3 ACC) finally scored with 17:57 remaining in the second half.

“They have a bunch of really good defenders with a lot of experience,” junior attacker Kelly Boyd said. “[And] they just throw a lot of good checks that other teams we play don’t do, so we’re not really used to that.”

This time, nearly 14 minutes had passed before the Irish opened the scoring. Neither team would score for another 13 minutes, when Notre Dame took a 2-0 lead on a shot by sophomore attacker Heidi Annaheim with 3:49 remaining. Virginia countered 35 seconds later before Swan tied up the score at two just three minutes later.

“They play a different defense,” Swan said. “It’s sort of a 3-2-2 zone, so we really worked on that. I still don’t think we got inside as much as we wanted to, but our defense played amazing today.”

After finishing the first half with only seven shots, the Cavaliers — who average 28.2 shots per game — made it to 25 overall but only converted on six. Similarly, the Fighting Irish attempted a total of 22 shots — well below their season average of 28 per game — after only attempting nine in the first half, but came away with the win by securing all but one second-half draw control.

“I think Notre Dame did a great job on draws,” coach Julie Myers said. “They use their bodies really well, so it looks legal because they just smash you with their bodies and not their sticks. Clearly we need to be bigger and stronger and hold our ground better, but I thought we did a nice job of not turning the ball over too many times and causing a few of their turnovers as well. We beat them to ground balls too, so I feel like we were able to get possession other ways.”

Of the Cavaliers’ seven first-half shots, six were on goal, but four of those attempts were saved by Notre Dame sophomore goalie Liz O’Sullivan. Virginia freshman goalie Rachel Vander Kolk also had four saves in the half but finished the game with two fewer than O’Sullivan.

After failing to score until the 16:51 mark in the first half, Notre Dame got the scoring started early in the second, finding the back of the net at the 28:32 mark to take a 3-2 lead. Virginia countered three minutes later, and neither team would score for another 10 minutes.

During that span, Swan had a chance to give her team its first lead of the game on a one-on-one breakaway against O’Sullivan but just couldn’t find the net. The shot went wide, a telltale sign of Virginia’s offensive efforts in the game.

“I just pulled it,” Swan said. “It’s almost worse when it’s one-on-one and you get a little bit nervous, and that was just my bad — I just pulled the shot wide.”

Virginia sophomore defender Wyatt Whitley was just as unlucky as Swan. After Notre Dame caused a turnover on the defensive end, Whitley fell down while guarding a Notre Dame attacker, allowing her to drive to the goal and pass it off to a teammate for the Irish’s fourth goal of the game.

Notre Dame scored again five minutes later to take a two-goal lead. Virginia countered, but Notre Dame scored two unanswered after that to take a 7-4 lead with 5:16 remaining. After Virginia scored to make it 7-5 with 2:47 remaining, Notre Dame won the draw control but failed to retain possession to run down the clock. However, the Cavaliers were unable to capitalize until the clock had ticked down to 20 seconds.

“Now two games into it, I would say that we don’t match up that well with Notre Dame,” Myers said. “Clearly we did a much better job today. We did a much better job with our defense — we changed some things there. Our attack for whatever reason was tentative with how they passed, how they cut and how they went to goal. I think everybody has a moment that they would like to redo — to shoot from a better spot or with more accuracy.”

Both teams turned the ball over fewer times in the second half (eight to four for Notre Dame and five to three for Virginia) while committing more fouls. After combining for only 16 fouls in the first half, the two teams racked up 41 in the second, with 24 of them coming from the home team.

Boyd led the Cavaliers with three goals for a hat trick, while Notre Dame junior attacker Rachel Sexton and sophomore attacker Heidi Annaheim both scored two goals to lead the Irish.

Notre Dame will face North Carolina in the semifinal round of the tournament Friday at 1 p.m., while the Cavaliers will await their NCAA tournament fate.

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