NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Sophomore defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) picked the perfect time to score her first career goal, heading in a service from junior midfielder/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) with 18:25 remaining to help Notre Dame defeat No. 24/16 Santa Clara, 2-1 on Friday night in the adidas Invitational opener for both teams before a crowd of 1,271 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Freshman forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) gave the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead at 37:58, converting a penalty kick, before SCU tied the match 1:46 into the second half on an unassisted goal by Olivia Klei.
Freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight (Edmond, Okla./Bishop McGuinness) went the distance between the pipes for Notre Dame, registering three saves. Her opposite number, Andi Tostanoski had five saves, including three dynamic stops in the second half for Santa Clara (2-2).
The Fighting Irish (3-1) earned their third consecutive win by outshooting the Broncos, 17-11, including a 7-4 edge in shots on goal. Each team registered four corner kicks during the match, while SCU committed 13 fouls, one more than Notre Dame.
"That was an important win for us," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "We didn't get rattled when they tied it up early in the second half and I can't say enough about our work rate, especially down the stretch after we went back ahead. There were some strong contributions from a lot of different players and we showed good poise and composure in the closing minutes, maintaining possession and protecting our lead. It's still a learning process for us, but I like the direction we're headed."
Notre Dame looked to have drawn first blood in the fifth minute on Friday night, as freshman defender Stephanie Campo (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge) delivered a precision left-side cross that Thomas poked home from short range, but Thomas was called for a foul battling for position at the edge of the six-yard box, negating the score.
The first half was a tense back-and-forth battle that played out largely in the middle, with occasional forays by both teams into the attacking third. Santa Clara's best chance in the opening half came in the 32nd minute, as Sarah Jackson knifed down the middle, but Scofield cut her off near the penalty spot and prevented the SCU striker from getting a shot off before the rest of the Fighting Irish defense arrived to help clear the ball from danger.
Notre Dame had a look in the 35th minute, as freshman forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) found Thomas with a searching ball down the right channel. Thomas cut back on two Santa Clara defenders to create a shooting angle, but her 15-yard shot twisted wide of the left post.
Less than three minutes later, another Fighting Irish rookie helped create the first goal of the night, as forward Mary Schwappach (Denver, Colo./Mullen) was bowled over from behind by SCU's Kat McAuliffe at the top of the six-yard box, leading to a penalty kick for the home side. Thomas then confidently stepped to the spot and sent Tostanoski the wrong way for her second goal of the season.
Schwappach and Thomas nearly combined for a second Notre Dame goal in the 40th minute, as Schwappach's perfectly-weighted service dropped behind the Bronco back line with Thomas racing in from the right side. However, Tostanoski charged quickly off her line as Thomas tried to deke the SCU goalkeeper, who eventually smothered the ball before the Fighting Irish got a shot off.
After taking a hard-earned 1-0 lead into halftime, Notre Dame saw it disappear less than two minutes into the second half. Santa Clara won a free kick in the right channel, 35 yards from goal, and Meleana Shim's delivery landed in the midst of several players from both teams in the penalty area. The Fighting Irish looked to be well-positioned to clear the ball out of the box, but a shanked clearance ended up on the foot of Klei at the left edge of the six-yard box and she drove a sharp-angled shot past Hight to put the match back on level terms.
Notre Dame needed a few minutes to regain its footing after that equalizer, but the Fighting Irish slowly began to build up their possession and exert pressure on the Bronco defense. In the 59th minute, senior defender/tri-captain Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) weaved through a pair of defenders on the left side before sending a tantalizing cross to the heart of the area. Schwappach read the pass superbly and drove a sharp header that beat Tostanoski, but rang hard off the left post (58:40).
With a little more than 20 minutes left, Notre Dame had two brilliant scoring chances that were thwarted by equally strong saves from Tostanoski. Tucker ran on to a through-ball from junior forward Rebecca Twining (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist School), just left of center in the penalty area, but her left-footed shot from 10 yards out was denied on a reflex kick save from Tostanoski. The rebound found its way out to the top of the box, where sophomore midfielder Karin Simonian (Westbury, N.Y./W.T. Clarke) drove a shot ticketed for the roof of the net, only to be tipped over the bar by the SCU goalkeeper.
Those two saves only briefly prolonged the deadlock, as the Fighting Irish found the winning combination 90 seconds later. Tucker battled to win a free kick in the right channel, 40 yards from goal, and after a quick restart from freshman defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels), Tucker took a purposeful touch and lofted a dangerous serve towards the middle of the area. Scofield found space behind her defender, rose high and snapped a header from eight yards out that beat Tostanoski low inside the right post (71:35).
Much like its first goal, Notre Dame nearly followed up its second score with another tally, as sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) made a bid from 20 yards out, but Tostanoski was equal to the task, going up the ladder to push a second Fighting Irish shot over the bar in a five-minute span.
Santa Clara tried valiantly to draw even once again, taking four shots in the closing quarter-hour, but only one got through on goal and Shim's attempt was gathered in by Hight. Notre Dame also did a masterful job of holding the ball during the final three minutes, with Thomas and Bohaboy teaming up to bleed out the remaining time near the corner flag.
The Fighting Irish return to action at 1:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday when they play host to No. 19 North Carolina on the second and final day of the adidas Invitational at Alumni Stadium. That match will be webcast live and free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com. The Tar Heels defeated Connecticut, 2-0 in Friday's other tournament match -- UConn will face Santa Clara in Sunday's first match at 11 a.m. (ET).
To purchase a season pass or single-match tickets for the 2012 Notre Dame women's soccer season, call the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356, visit the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets or stop by the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office windows during normal business hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday). Tickets also can be purchased at Alumni Stadium on match days.
For more information on the Fighting Irish women's soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDsoccer or @NDsoccernews), like them 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.
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POST-MATCH NOTES: Notre Dame earns its first win over a ranked opponent since Oct. 30, 2011, when the Fighting Irish posted a 1-0 victory at No. 5/9 Marquette in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals ... it's the first Top 25 win for Notre Dame at Alumni Stadium since Nov. 14, 2010, when the Fighting Irish ousted 22nd-ranked USC, 4-0 in the second round of the NCAA Championship ...Santa Clara is the highest-ranked opponent Notre Dame has defeated at home since the Fighting Irish edged the eighth-ranked Broncos, 1-0 on Sept. 3, 2010, also at Alumni Stadium ... the Fighting Irish improve to 11-6-1 all-time against Santa Clara, including an 8-1 record at home ... Notre Dame also rises to 22-11-1 (.662) all-time against current West Coast Conference teams, including a 10-5 record in South Bend ... the Fighting Irish move to 32-5-2 (.846) all-time in the adidas Invitational, now owning a 110-39 aggregate scoring margin in their home tournament ... four of the past six Notre Dame goals have been scored by players who found the back of the net for the first time in their careers, with Scofield joining the list after Thomas, Gilbertson and Simonian opened their career accounts in the 5-0 win over East Carolina on Aug. 26 at Alumni Stadium.
#24/16 Santa Clara 0 - 1 -- 1
Notre Dame 1 - 1 -- 2
Total Shots: Santa Clara 11 (4-7), Notre Dame 17 (5-12) Shots On Goal: Santa Clara 4 (2-2), Notre Dame 7 (2-5) Saves: Santa Clara 5 (Andi Tostanoski 5 in 90:00), Notre Dame 3 (Elyse Hight 3 in 90:00) Corner Kicks: Santa Clara 4 (1-3), Notre Dame 4 (0-4) Fouls: Santa Clara 13 (7-6), Notre Dame 12 (8-4) Offsides: Santa Clara 2, Notre Dame 2 Records: Santa Clara 2-2, Notre Dame 3-1