Freshman forward Kaleigh Olmsted had a goal and an assist in her first collegiate match, helping #10/5 Notre Dame to a 4-1 win over #RV/25 Illinois on Friday night in the season opener for both teams at Alumni Stadium.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- It's about this time of year when the Notre Dame campus begins buzzing with activity, as freshmen and their parents arrive for orientation weekend. The new students often have their heads spinning, eyes buried in a campus map trying to find their way from their dorm to the library to the dining hall.
You can count Fighting Irish freshman forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) among the many newcomers who are still trying to get acclimated to their surroundings. However, there's one place Olmsted is already quite familiar with -- the goal at Alumni Stadium.
Olmsted collected a goal and an assist in her first college match to help No. 10/5 Notre Dame roll to a 4-1 victory over No. RV/25 Illinois in the season opener for both teams on Friday night at Alumni Stadium. The Fighting Irish continue to sparkle in their first match of the season, improving to 22-3-1 (.865) all-time on opening night, including a 12-2-1 (.833) record under head coach Randy Waldrum.
The Fighting Irish (1-0-0) featured a balanced scoring attack, as junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita), sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) and senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) also opened their goal scoring accounts on Friday. Junior forward Karin Simonian (Westbury, N.Y./W.T. Clarke) earned a point by picking up the assist on Bohaboy's tally.
Notre Dame nearly doubled up Illinois in total shots (25-13) and shots on goal (13-7), while compiling a 6-1 edge on corner kicks. The Fighting Irish also had twice as many fouls as the visitors (8-4), although Illinois did receive the lone yellow card of the match.
Another Fighting Irish freshman, goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley), registered her first collegiate win, going the distance in the Notre Dame net and making six saves.
Illinois (0-1-0) avoided the shutout on Casey Conine's goal in the 66th minute. Fighting Illini goalkeeper Claire Wheatley was under duress for much of the night and finished with nine saves.
"This was a good first step for us," Waldrum said. "Our creativity up front was high and resulted in some really strong scoring chances. We also did a solid job in the midfield keeping Vanessa (Hermann Trophy candidate Vanessa DiBernardo) from causing too much havoc. There's still plenty of areas we can clean up, and I wasn't real pleased with that goal we gave up, but it's opening night and you're going to see some mistakes like that. The key was we came right back down and answered their goal with one of our own and that's a good sign moving forward.
"Lauren (Bohaboy) has had such a great preseason for us, and we've asked to be more aggressive and physical around the goal, so it was good to see her come out and get that first one tonight," he continued. "I also thought Kaleigh (Olmsted) really had a nice game for us, as did a lot of our front line players. Then, in the back, to see Kaela (Little) play the way she did, exuding the kind of confidence she brings to the goalkeeper position, it was another in a long list of positives from the night."
Bohaboy lit the fuse for the Fighting Irish, scoring just 4:22 into the match, taking a delicate chip from Simonian at the top right corner of the box and making a deft move inside her mark before poking home her shot from 10 yards out. It was the fourth-fastest season-opening goal in school history and quickest since Aug. 26, 2006, when eventual Hermann Trophy recipient Kerri Hanks needed only 1:19 to get Notre Dame on the board in a 9-0 win over Iowa State at old Alumni Field.
The Fighting Irish came close to doubling their lead just a minute later, as freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) lashed a strong left-footed shot from the top of the box that was ticketed for the upper right corner, only to be denied by Wheatley with an athletic leap to her left.
Notre Dame did get its second goal like a bolt from the blue in the 22nd minute. After Illinois had seemingly cleared its lines, Gilbertson collected a loose ball in the right channel, 30 yards from goal and drove a knuckling shot towards the far left post. Wheatley backpedaled slightly and seemed to misjudge the speed of the shot, with the ball slipping through her fingers into the net (21:56).
Waldrum brought Olmsted and sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) off the bench after that second goal, and the front line duo set about prying apart the Fighting Illini defense with a series of darting runs along the flanks and throughout the attacking third.
Thomas would end up creating Notre Dame's third score in the 38th minute, racing on to a ball on the right wing and aggressively taking on her defender. After a nifty step-over move opened a lane to the end-line, Thomas snapped a cross back through the six-yard box, where Olmsted appeared to try and backheel a shot past Wheatley on the doorstep. The Illinois goalkeeper made the reflex stop on Olmsted, but Tucker was in the right place at the right time and quickly jabbed home the rebound (37:21).
The Fighting Illini, who had a respectable statistical first half at the offensive end, but not much to show for it in terms of quality scoring chances, chose to focus on battening down the hatches defensively to start the second half, holding Notre Dame to just one shot in the first 20 minutes.
That stand on the defensive end helped Illinois manufacture its lone offensive threat of the night. Following a corner kick by DiBernardo, the Fighting Irish had trouble clearing the ball from danger. Amy Feher was parked on the right edge of the six-yard box and headed the ball back across the face, where Conine beat her mark to the spot and nodded home her first collegiate goal (65:57).
Yet, as quickly as Illinois celebrated its goal, Notre Dame pulled one back. Just 43 seconds after the Fighting Illini score, Thomas found room to roam in the right channel before sliding a pass through to Bohaboy near the penalty spot. In turn, she flipped a pass on the left side of the box for Olmsted, who was closely guarded. However, she shook free from her defender with two quick dribbles and fired a rising shot from 10 yards out high into the far right side netting (66:40).
"It's always a great feeling when you see the ball go in the back of the net, but to do it in your first college game on opening night is just amazing," Olmsted said. "I just wanted to come in and give us some energy off the bench and try to make things happen. We've got a lot of things we need to work on, but it's always nice to start off on the right foot with a win."
The Fighting Irish, specifically Thomas, nearly poached two more goals in the closing moments, first when she headed in Olmsted's cross in the 79th minute, only to be flagged for offsides. Then, with less than 30 seconds play, Thomas raced in from the right flank and uncorked a 15-yard shot that beat Wheatley, but was denied by the crossbar.
Notre Dame continues its season-opening five-match homestand at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday when it welcomes Northwestern to Alumni Stadium. The Wildcats, who opened their season on Friday night at home against Western Illinois, will be making their first trip to South Bend since 2009.
Season ticket packages for the 2013 Notre Dame women's soccer season may be purchased through the University's Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office by calling (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets. Groups wishing to attend Fighting Irish soccer matches also can receive a discounted ticket rate -- contact Rita Baxter in the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office to learn more.
For more information on the Fighting Irish women's soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDsoccernews or @NDsoccer), like the Fighting Irish on Facebook (facebook.com/NDWomenSoccer) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.