Aug. 6, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Three Notre Dame women's soccer alums were involved in one of the most dramatic moments of the 2012 Summer Olympics, as Shannon Boxx ('99) and the United States faced Melissa Tancredi ('04), Candace Chapman ('05) and Canada in the semifinals of the Olympic tournament on Monday night in Manchester, England.
In arguably the most thrilling match in Olympic women's soccer history, the United States scored with less than a minute remaining in the second half of extra time (123rd minute) to pull out a 4-3 victory over Canada in the Olympic semifinals on Monday night in Manchester at legendary Old Trafford, the home of famed English soccer club, Manchester United.
Tancredi did all she could to help Canada's cause, playing every minute while assisting on the first two Canadian goals (of three scored by Christine Sinclair) in the 22nd and 67th minutes. Canada, which was playing in the Olympic semifinals for the first time, led on three separate occasions (after not holding a lead against the Americans in any match since 2003), before the United States tied the match, 3-3 on a penalty kick in the 80th minute, setting the stage for the extra time drama. Canada also became the first nation to score three goals against the United States in any women's soccer match since May 3, 2008, when the Americans pulled out a 5-4 extra-time win over Australia in a friendly played in Birmingham, Ala.
With Monday's win, the Americans move into the gold medal match for the fifth time in as many Olympiads since women's soccer was added as a medal sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The United States has won the past two Olympic gold medals (with Boxx and fellow Notre Dame alumna Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf ('98) in the starting lineup), and will face Japan in this year's Olympic final at 2:45 p.m. (ET) Thursday at Wembley Stadium in London, with the match televised live on NBC Sports Network and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, as well as on-line through nbcolympics.com and the NBC Live Extra mobile app. The final will be a rematch of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup title contest that ended in a 2-2 draw before Japan won the championship, 3-1 on penalties. The United States and Japan also have met in the past two Olympic tournaments, with the Americans winning in both the 2004 quarterfinals (2-1) and 2008 semifinals (4-2).
Boxx (who has not played for the U.S. since its 4-2 opening-day win over France due to a hamstring injury) will be seeking to earn her third consecutive gold medal and become the first Notre Dame alum with three golds (Markgraf and fencer Mariel Zagunis also have two). In addition, she is assured of tying Markgraf (who also took silver with Team USA in 2000) and Zagunis (gold in 2004 and 2008 individual sabre; bronze in 2008 team sabre) for the second-most total Olympic medals earned by a Fighting Irish athlete, behind only legendary track & field athlete/coach Alex Wilson ('32), who earned four medals in two Olympiads for his native Canada (bronze in 4x400-meter relay in both 1928 and 1932, as well as silver in the 800 meters and bronze in the 400 meters in 1932).
Meanwhile, Canada will look to regroup as it faces France for the bronze medal at 8 a.m. (ET) Thursday at City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry, England, with that match to be televised live on NBC Sports Network and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, as well as on-line through nbcolympics.com and ctvolympics.ca, and through the NBC Live Extra mobile app. Like the gold medal match, the Canada-France pairing also is a replay from the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, with France earning a 4-0 victory during the group stage. The two countries will be meeting for the first time in Olympic play.
Canada is seeking its first Olympic medal in a traditional team sport (other than rowing or equestrian) since 1936, when its men's basketball team won the silver medal at the Berlin Olympics. What's more, should Tancredi (who has four goals in this year's Olympic tournament) and Chapman (who has not played since suffering a calf injury late in Canada's 2-1 opening-day loss Japan) help their nation to a bronze medal, it would assure Notre Dame of its largest medal haul (five) in one Olympiad, when adding in the bronze medals earned by current senior fencer Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren) and her sister, Kelley Hurley ('10) in the women's team epee competition. Fighting Irish athletes have earned four medals in each of the past two Olympiads, claiming four golds at the 2004 Athens Games (Boxx, Markgraf, Zagunis and Ruth Riley ('04) for Team USA in women's basketball), and three golds and a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (Boxx, Markgraf and two from Zagunis).
COMING UP TUESDAY...
For the second consecutive day, the United States and Canada will square off in Olympic women's sports competition, as current Notre Dame women's basketball junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) leads Canada into a quarterfinal game against the Americans at 9 a.m. (ET) Tuesday at the Olympic Basketball Arena in London. The game to be televised live on the NBC Sports Network and the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, on-line at nbcolympics.com and ctvolympics.ca, and through the NBC Live Extra mobile app.
Canada (2-3) is making its first Olympic quarterfinal appearance since 1984, when it finished fourth at the six-team tournament in Los Angeles during a competition significantly affected by the Soviet-led boycott. The Canadians placed fourth in Group B at this year's Olympic tournament, with all three of their three preliminary-round losses all coming by single digits and all being one-possession games inside the final two minutes.
Achonwa averaged 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds during the group stage of this year's Olympics, including 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds against group winner France on Aug. 1, and 11 points in a win over Brazil on Aug. 3 that helped Canada earn its quarterfinal berth.
Team USA (5-0) won Group A by an average of 36.6 points per game (including a 114-66 victory over China on Sunday), and has registered 38 consecutive wins in Olympic play, dating back to a 1992 semifinal loss to the Unified Team.
Canada and the United States will be meeting in Olympic competition for the first time in almost exactly 28 years, dating back to a 92-61 American victory on Aug. 5, 1984, in Inglewood, Calif., at The Forum (then the home of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers).
Also on Tuesday, both of Notre Dame's representatives on the track will be in action, as Selim Nurudeen ('05) competes in the preliminaries of the 110-meter hurdles at 5:10 a.m. (ET), followed by Molly Huddle ('07) in the preliminary heat of the 5,000-meter run at 5:55 a.m. (ET). Nurudeen, a 15-time all-BIG EAST Conference performer and multi-time All-American at Notre Dame, is representing Nigeria for the second consecutive Olympics, having advanced to the 110-meter hurdle quarterfinals in 2008. Meanwhile, Huddle, the first Notre Dame women's distance runner to earn an Olympic berth, is making her Olympic debut and is the American record holder at 5,000 meters (14:44.76, set in 2010), in addition to winning a national title in 2011. The 10-time All-American Huddle also is aiming to challenge the best-ever finish by a U.S. runner in the women's 5,000 meters, currently a ninth-place finish by both Lynn Jennings (1996) and Kara Goucher (2008).
The respective preliminary heats for the Notre Dame runners will be shown live on-line at nbcolympics.com and may be shown on a tape-delayed basis during NBC's coverage later in the day.
For more information on Notre Dame participants at the 2012 London Olympics, visit the special Notre Dame Olympics microsite (und.com/olympics), the official London Olympics web site (london2012.com) or the official NBC Olympics web site (nbcolympics.com).