NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Despite another gritty, blue-collar performance from its young but increasingly poised back line, Notre Dame could not find the combination in the offensive third, and No. 19 North Carolina finally broke through for a goal with 5:44 remaining for a 1-0 victory to claim the title at the 20th annual adidas Invitational on Sunday afternoon before a spirited crowd of 1,925 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight (Edmond, Okla./Bishop McGuinness) did all she could to keep the Fighting Irish (3-2) in contention, registering a season-high seven saves to earn a spot on the all-tournament team with sophomore defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and freshman midfielder Glory Williams (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands). The loss snapped Notre Dame's three-match winning streak in what was its second match in three days against a Top 25 opponent.
Maria Lubrano was the hero for North Carolina, taking a pass from the tournament's Offensive Most Valuable Player, Summer Green, and scoring from close range at 84:16. Brooke Elby was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, making a winner of goalkeeper Anna Sieloff, who came on at halftime for Adelaide Gay and was not called upon to make a save.
UNC (2-2-1) finished with an 18-3 edge in total shots, as well as an 8-0 advantage in shots on goal. The Tar Heels also earned six of the eight corner kicks on the afternoon, while fouls were almost even (8-7 against the Fighting Irish).
"For a defense that started three on the back line and another in goal, I thought they all did a tremendous job for us today," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "On the other hand, I was very disappointed at our inability to create chances on the offensive end. We had some good looks and our possession was pretty solid in the first half, but we got away from that after halftime and we couldn't seem to string passes together to build up some consistency. We could only ask our defense to do so much, and without getting any help up top, it was probably a matter of time before they got a goal.
"These games are excellent teaching tools for us to illustrate the points we've been making in practice," Waldrum added. "There were many things, good and bad, that came out of both games this weekend. I think we're all hungry to get back on the practice field and work on getting better because we will have another challenge ahead of us next weekend at Portland and Washington."
North Carolina gave the Fighting Irish an early wake-up call when Green rang a shot off the outside of the left post just 1:26 into the match. However, after that teaser, Notre Dame steadied itself and created a handful of solid opportunities in the first half.
In the 11th minute, Williams found freshman forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) on a run down the right channel, but the rookie's cross from the by-line was picked off by Gay.
Five minutes later, sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) played a deft through-ball to Gilbertson on the right edge of the box, but Gilbertson's drive from 15 yards out was blocked away for a corner kick that didn't result in any damage.
Perhaps Notre Dame's best chance of the match came in the 18th minute, when Gilbertson managed to poke the ball free from a UNC defender at the edge of the attacking third and slid it over to Bohaboy near the top of the arc. In turn, she put junior midfielder/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) through to the right of the penalty spot, but Tucker took an extra touch that allowed the Tar Heel defense to recover and prevent a look on frame.
Hight then showed she would be up to the task on Sunday, reacting well to Green's drive from the top left corner of the box and going high to tip the shot over the bar (19:55). Minutes later, she came hard off her line to challenge Green racing down the left side of the area, and while the Fighting Irish netminder didn't smother the ball, she did force Green towards the by-line, leading the UNC striker to retreat and reload with a longer-range try that sailed well over the cage.
Notre Dame had two more promising offensive runs in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Hight started the initial charge with a well-placed distribution to Tucker, leading to a quick Fighting Irish counterattack that culminated with Williams weaving through traffic at the top of the area and driving a low shot that skipped in on Gay (38:44).
Tucker herself then found real estate in the left channel, running on to a long service from sophomore defender Taylor Schneider (Southlake, Texas/Carroll Senior) and driving into the left side of the box, but Tucker's rushed shot was blocked before it could get through on goal (40:28).
North Carolina raised the pressure another notch in the second half, but for much of the period, Notre Dame was equal to the challenge. In the 58th minute, the tournament's Defensive MVP Amber Brooks sent a cross to the far right side of the box, where it was headed down by Paige Nielsen, and Alyssa Rich then tried a right-footed side volley from 10 yards out, but Hight was there for the save. Rich had another look less than three minutes later, picking off a clearing pass in the left channel and attempting to beat Hight with a curling right-footed shot to the far right post, but Hight was well-positioned and the try was never on the mark.
Notre Dame then nearly flipped the match on its ear with less than 17 minutes to go. After winning a free kick 40 yards out in the left channel, Schneider drove a hard service that cleared the UNC back line and nearly connected with freshman defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) sliding through at the back post, but the timing was slightly off and the threat dissipated (74:15).
As the match moved into the final 10 minutes, it was apparent one goal would likely decide matters, but the Fighting Irish defense continued to remain strong. In the 83rd minute, UNC worked an intricate passing sequence at the edge of the attacking third, finishing with Ranee Premji finding a seam down the middle of the box and going 1-v-1 with Hight. However, the Notre Dame rookie goalkeeper won the battle, diving to her right to make the save and keep the status quo (82:10).
North Carolina finally netted the decisive score after Elby sent a long pass down the left side for Green, who raced to the by-line. She then cut back just before running out of room and slid a pass through to the six-yard box, where Lubrano was parked on the doorstep and scored high into the roof of the net before Hight could react (84:16).
Notre Dame goes back on the road next weekend as it travels to the Pacific Northwest, beginning at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) Friday when it takes on No. 20/23 Portland at Merlo Field in Portland, Ore., in the Nike Showcase. The Fighting Irish then head north to Seattle for a 3 p.m. ET (noon PT) match on Sunday against Washington at the Husky Soccer Stadium.
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POST-MATCH NOTES: Notre Dame falls to 32-6-2 all-time in the adidas Invitational, with this marking just the fourth time the Fighting Irish have been shut out in their home tournament since the event debuted in 1992 (Notre Dame still has a 110-40 aggregate scoring margin in the 20-year history of the adidas Invitational) ... the Fighting Irish were held without a shot on goal for the first time in program history, with the previous low of one shot on goal being set on a handful of occasions, most recently on Dec. 4, 2009, against North Carolina in the NCAA College Cup semifinals at College Station, Texas (UNC also won that match 1-0 in similar fashion to Sunday's contest, netting the match-winning goal with 7:58 to play) ... for the second time in five matches this season, Notre Dame started seven freshmen, with the other being in a 1-0 loss at Wisconsin on Aug. 17 ... both Fighting Irish losses this season have come by 1-0 scores with the lone goal coming inside the final seven minutes (Wisconsin scored with 6:19 to play) ... just how unkind has the fickle finger of fate been lately for Notre Dame? In the past two seasons, nine of the 10 Fighting Irish defeats have come by one goal, with two occuring in overtime and another four when the match-winning goal was scored in the final 14 minutes of regulation ... Sunday's loss also was unusual for Notre Dame, which has been very solid when playing on Sundays (usually on the back half of a two-match weekend set) in the past five years, with the Fighting Irish now posting a 41-6-5 (.837) record on that day of the week since September 2007, when they dropped three consecutive Sunday matches to nationally-ranked opponents Stanford, Oklahoma State and Penn State, all by 2-1 scores and the first two in overtime ... Hight, Scofield and Williams each earned all-tournament team honors for the first time in their respective careers ... Hight and Williams are the first Notre Dame freshmen to make a regular-season all-tournament team since 2006, when Michele Weissenhofer was named to the adidas Invitational squad (when the tournament was known as the Inn at Saint Mary's Classic) ... Santa Clara and Connecticut played to a 1-1 draw in Sunday's first match at the adidas Invitational, just the third draw in tournament history and first since 1997 (when Notre Dame and North Carolina played a 2-2 deadlock at old Alumni Field in a match called in the 72nd minute by lightning).
Notre Dame adidas Invitational All-Tournament Team
Amber Brooks (North Carolina) - Defensive MVP
Summer Green (North Carolina) - Offensive MVP Elyse Hight (Notre Dame)
Satara Murray (North Carolina)
Ranee Premji (North Carolina)
Danielle Schulmann (Connecticut) Sammy Scofield (Notre Dame)
Meleana Shim (Santa Clara)
Andi Tostanoski (Santa Clara) - Goalkeeper MVP (Golden Glove)
Allie Vernon (Santa Clara) Glory Williams (Notre Dame)