Christine Halfpenny enters her eighth season as head coach of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program in 2019 after leading the Irish to the NCAA tournament in six of the previous seven seasons.
Known on the field for a “fast, aggressive and passionate” style of play, Halfpenny’s teams have led their respective conference in caused turnovers each of the past five seasons.
Notre Dame made its sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships in 2017. The Irish ultimately finished the season 11-8 with a 4-3 record in ACC play, matching the program’s best record since joining the conference in 2013-14. Notre Dame, which finished third overall in the ACC, led the conference in ground balls and caused turnovers per game. Notre Dame’s season was highlighted by a 16-7 victory over then-No. 4 Syracuse in which the Irish seniors tallied 13 points. The Irish landed three All-ACC selections, including Casey Pearsall (first team), Cortney Fortunato (first team) and Alex Dalton (second team). Both Casey Pearsall and Cortney Fortunato were named to the Tewaaraton Watch List, and both players received All-America honors.
The 2016 Irish earned a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. Notre Dame finished 14-7 overall and 4-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Halfpenny’s team played a schedule that featured five regular-season, top-10 opponents and 12 teams eventually selected to play in the NCAA Championship. She coached her team to an 8-2 record on their home turf, including two top-10 wins at Arlotta Stadium. Her squad included three IWLCA All-Americans: Cortney Fortunato (first team), Barbara Sullivan (first team) and Casey Pearsall (third team). Three Irish players, including Alex Dalton, Cortney Fortunato and Barbara Sullivan, landed on the Tewaaraton Watch List. Halfpenny’s roster received five All-ACC accolades, the most all-conference picks by an Irish team since 2004 (six Big East selections).
The 2015 Irish continued striding towards Halfpenny’s lofty goals for the program as the Irish beat three top-seven teams on the road en route to an ACC semifinal berth and another trip to the NCAAs. The squad saw four of its members pick up All-America honors in Cortney Fortunato (first-team), Barbara Sullivan (first-team), Alex Dalton (second-team) and Casey Pearsall (third-team). Sullivan also became the school’s first-ever defensive finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy and just its second finalist overall. Meanwhile, Katherine McManus earned the Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award for her well-rounded contributions to the community and Caitlin Gargan became the latest in a succession of IWLCA Academic Honor Roll recipients.
That success built off of a 2014 season which saw Notre Dame earn a top-eight NCAA Championship seed and play host to its NCAA regional for the first time since 2009. Margaret Smith picked up first-team All-America honors while Cortney Fortunato claimed a second-team award along with WomensLax.com Rookie of the Year award. Smith was a Tewaaraton Trophy nominee and the co-Defensive Player of the Year nationally. Senior Molly Shawhan earned her second consecutive Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero finalist spot for her tireless work off of the field as well.
The Irish suffered no sophomore slump under Halfpenny in 2013 as the team went 12-5 and again secured a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame beat three ranked foes in 2013 and opened the season on a 10-game winning streak, matching the 2004 school record. Barbara Sullivan was named a first-team All-American after the season, leading a defense that ranked amongst the top five teams nationally in both caused turnovers and ground balls. Overall, the 2013 Irish featured five All-BIG EAST players, five IWLCA West/Midwest all-region picks and 18 BIG EAST Academic All-Stars.
The Irish turned in quite a year in Halfpenny’s first campaign at the helm of the program as they finished 13-5 in 2012 and earned bids to both the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournaments. The 13 regular season wins was tied for first in school history, while the 13 wins overall was tied for third in school annals. Notre Dame knocked off five ranked teams during the year as it raced out to an 8-0 start, which was the second-best start in school history and the best since 2004. Halfpenny became the first coach in BIG EAST history to start out 8-0 in their opening year at the helm of their program.
Halfpenny helped tutor five All-BIG EAST and IWLCA West/Midwest all-region performers and two All-Americans. Earning All-BIG EAST and All-Region honors were Maggie Tamasitis, Margaret Smith, Barbara Sullivan, Megan Sullivan and Lindsay Powell. Tamasitis went on to earn second team All-America honors, while Smith was a third teamer.
In the classroom, the 2012 squad was an IWLCA Academic Squad team (combined GPA of 3.0 or higher), while three student-athletes made the IWLCA Academic Honor Roll (Kelly Driscoll, McKenzie Brown and Adelle Bruggeman).
Halfpenny came to Notre Dame from William & Mary, where her teams achieved four straight 10-win seasons and a pair of regular-season conference titles over her final four seasons with the program.
Halfpenny’s Tribe squads captured Colonial Athletic Association regular-season titles in both 2008 and 2009 – and she merited CAA coach-of-the-year honors in 2008. Her teams combined for a 20-8 record in league play (including four straight conference tournament bids) – as William & Mary reached double digits in victories each of the last four seasons (10-7 in 2011 and 2009, 10-8 in 2010, 10-9 in 2008). Those four consecutive 10-win seasons matched the best previous stretch in program history.
“Chris brings to Notre Dame the experiences of having been involved with multiple programs and teams that have been to the NCAA final four, won conference titles and produced All-Americans,” said Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick at the time of her hire. “From a coaching, recruiting and academic standpoint, she understands exactly what the expectations are here at Notre Dame and what it will take for our program to take the next set of steps forward.”
Notre Dame’s newest head coach tutored two All-Americans at William & Mary, to go along with 26 all-conference selections and 10 all-region honorees. Her 2011 squad became the first in CAA history to receive awards for player of the year, defensive player of the year and rookie of the year in the same season.
Her five seasons with the Tribe produced single-season records for points (347 in 2009), goals (244 in 2009), draw controls (269 in 2009), caused turnovers (third nationally in 2010 at 12.61 per game) and saves (211 in 2008).
In the classroom Halfpenny’s players earned 59 combined CAA Commissioner’s Academic Awards from 2007-2010, as well as five William & Mary Provost Awards.
Halfpenny went to Williamsburg in the summer of 2006 after three years (2004-2006) as the top women’s lacrosse assistant coach at Duke University.
The Blue Devils won the 2005 Atlantic Coast Conference postseason tournament title, won or shared three straight ACC regular-season crowns and made three straight NCAA Championships appearances, advancing to the national semifinals in both 2005 and 2006.
Halfpenny worked specifically with goaltenders at Duke, assisting Megan Huether in 2005 in earning first-team All-America honors. She played a key role in producing three recruiting classes at Duke that ranked among the top four in the nation (including the number-one-rated class in 2005 by Inside Lacrosse). The 2004 Duke team produced the top women’s lacrosse grade-point average in the country (3.46).
Halfpenny also spent a season as an assistant women’s lacrosse coach at her alma mater, Virginia Tech, in 2003, directing recruiting and serving as offensive coordinator. She began her coaching career as an assistant coach at Brown University in 2001 and 2002.
Off the field Halfpenny has worked with several national committees including the IWLCA All-American committee, NCAA regional advisory committee, the Tewaaraton Award committee and the IWLCA North-South Game selections.
Before joining the college coaching ranks she spent one year as boys’ and girls’ swimming coach and assistant varsity tennis coach (winning the Virginia Boys AAA state swimming title) at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va.
A four-year letter-winner in women’s lacrosse at Virginia Tech, Halfpenny started on the 1999 Hokie team that won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship, finished 11-6 and achieved a program-first top-20 ranking. She received the coaches award that year and was a two-time member of the athletic director’s honor roll (1998, 1999). She graduated in 1999 with a degree in health and physical education.
Born in Latham, N.Y., Halfpenny and her husband Matt are parents of two sons – Jackson and Cole.