ACC Tournament Preview: What to Expect From Notre Dame

Notre Dame all but took Boston College lacrosse’s Kate Weeks out the game. Weeks, the ACC’s fourth-leading scorer, was limited to just one goal on Saturday, and it came in the first 15 minutes. On paper, it appeared as if the senior was shut down. After all, she only whipped up three shots—practically half of her normal output. It was the fifth time all season that Weeks failed to record more than one point.

In those five games, the Eagles are a meager 2-3.

But there’s a reason why one of those two wins came on Saturday. And you won’t find it in the box score. Like Kayla O’Connor and Kaileen Hart—BC’s third- and fourth-leading scorers—Weeks stole the attention of the Notre Dame defense.

Head coach Christine Halfpenny will face the same dilemma on Thursday when the teams face off in the opening round of the ACC Tournament in Richmond, Va.

As long as Weeks was the on the field, she had a target on her back.

Coming into the matchup, Weeks had already tallied 53 goals on the year. Instinctively, Halfpenny game planned to prevent Weeks from adding to her total. But all that did was leave other Eagles open. Weeks, O’Connor, and Hart all drew defenders, creating holes in the Irish defense.

Kenzie Kent and Sam Apuzzo cashed in, leading an 11-goal comeback in the second half. Kent scored a season-best five goals, and the two combined for 12 points. But if you ask head coach Acacia Walker, it could have been anyone.

“I think the reason why one or two people can have a really good game is because there are seven girls out there that are scoring,” Walker said in an April 25 press conference. “And you can’t really pay attention to just one or two, because then the other two or three will step up.”

In ACC competition, No. 12 BC (12-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) averages 13.14 goals per contest—the second-most in the conference. Along with North Carolina, the Eagles are the only team in the league to post 13 or more goals a game. Seven different players have scored at least 10 times this year, and four have eclipsed the 30-goal mark.

On Wednesday, the Eagles’ top two scorers—Apuzzo and Weeks—received All-ACC honors. Defender Elizabeth Miller also earned the distinction. Apuzzo, who racked up the third-most points in the country this year, made the First Team, while Weeks and Miller were listed on the Second Team.     

Fortunately for the No. 13 Irish (11-6, 4-3), they have a few weapons of their own. Thanks to Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall, Notre Dame features the nation’s 22nd-highest scoring offense. The duo strikes a similar resemblance to that of Apuzzo and Weeks. Fortunato fits the mold of a player like Weeks, a pure scorer. On the other hand, Pearsall is the complete package. Identical to Apuzzo, the senior ranks in the top-50 in the assist department, all while possessing the ability to get to the net.

In the teams’ first go around, both Fortunato and Pearsall were relatively quiet. The BC defense held them to a combined four goals. But Walker isn’t taking anything for granted.

“Honestly, it takes an entire defense to stop those two,” Walker said.

Walker noted that the Eagles have placed a huge emphasis on once again restricting Fortunato and Pearsall for Thursday’s game. Samantha Lynch, the team’s third-leading scorer, did not record a goal last weekend. Lynch, who routinely comes off the bench, has provided the Irish with a consistent scoring presence. Considering that the sophomore notched hat tricks in the two games prior to the regular season finale, it will be interesting to see what kind of role she plays on Thursday.

The past two years, BC has lost in the first round of the conference tournament. In 2015, the Eagles dropped a double-overtime thriller to Syracuse. One year later, the Orange relied on two five-goal rallies to bounce BC for the second-consecutive season.

Having defeated four top-25 teams this year, the Eagles’ resumé consists of some pretty big wins. But none would be bigger than one on Thursday.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

April 26, 2017