Sept. 12, 2013
Sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) collected a goal and an assist, while a pair of juniors -- forward Karin Simonian (Westbury, N.Y./W.T. Clarke) and defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) also scored goals as the Fighting Irish became the first Notre Dame athletics program to earn a victory in Atlantic Coast Conference play, posting a 3-1 win at North Carolina State in the league opener for both teams on a muggy Thursday night at the Dail Soccer Field in Raleigh, N.C.
Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) and senior tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) registered assists for the Fighting Irish, who improved to 21-1-1 all-time with a 105-8 aggregate scoring margin in conference openers, including their prior memberships in the Midwestern Collegiate (1991-94) and BIG EAST (1995-2012) conferences.
Notre Dame (5-1, 1-0 ACC) finished with a 22-8 advantage in total shots, including a 12-4 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish, who dominated the possession time in Thursday's win, earned a 9-3 margin on corner kicks, while fouls were 9-6 against the visitors (who also received two of the three yellow cards handed out in the match).
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) bounced back from a slow start to collect the victory in the Notre Dame goal, tallying three saves. N.C. State (5-2, 0-1) tried to stay in the match behind a strong effort from goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes, who notched eight saves and also benefited from a team save, courtesy of Wolfpack defender Dayna Tomayko.
"Aside from the disappointment over that early goal we gave up, I was very pleased with our performance tonight," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "We didn't panic or get rattled after that goal and just came right back and competed, and that's a sign of a team that growing up and maturing every day. Our possession game was really strong, the backline was solid all night, and the midfield is continuing to get better and better, no matter who's in there. We're getting a lot of people out there, and they're all contributing, which was important on a night like this when it's hot and muggy and depth is a factor."
After lightning appeared during pre-match warmups, delaying kickoff for 48 minutes, Notre Dame's debut in the ACC got off to an inauspicious start in the sixth minute. N.C. State earned a free kick just inside the midfield stripe and Shelli Spamer teed up a rocket that seemed to catch Little off-guard with its speed and precision. The Fighting Irish netminder was in position and got her gloves on the shot, but wasn't able to make the clean catch, as the ball dropped just over the line inside the left post (5:13).
That score aside, Notre Dame was on the front foot almost all night, with the host Wolfpack rarely able to string more than 3-4 consecutive passes together. After the early goal, N.C. State tried to bunker in and protect its lead, but as soccer experts will tell you, it's a tall task for even the best teams to sit back and lock in a lead for nearly 85 minutes.
As it turned out, it took the Fighting Irish slightly more than 10 minutes to get back on level terms, courtesy of their own set piece. Off a free kick near the midfield circle, Bohaboy got a boot to a loose ball near the penalty spot, with Stelljes going down to block the shot. However, the ball squirted to the left of the six-yard box, and Thomas beat her mark to poke in her first goal of the season (15:56).
"We were still confident in ourselves and our game plan, and we knew if we could continue to stay aggressive, good things would happen," Thomas said. "I was just in the right place at the right time and it was good to get that one back pretty quickly after their goal."
Notre Dame fans know Thomas is one of the team's scrappiest players, always hustling and it was that work ethic that put the Fighting Irish in front in the 27th minute. Notre Dame pinged the ball through the top of the box, but N.C. State appeared to have stopped the foray only to have its clearing attempt go awry. Thomas didn't give up on the play, racing to the left side of the box and smartly whipping a cross back across the face of goal. Simonian was parked on the doorstep and one-timed her left-footed volley past Stelljes to put Notre Dame in front to stay (26:38) and give Simonian her first career match-winning goal.
The remainder of the first half was played largely in the Fighting Irish offensive third, although the Wolfpack did have their chances. The best look at an equalizer for the hosts came with a little more than one minute left in the period, when Jackie Stengel fired a rising shot from the top of the area, but it sailed harmlessly over the cage.
Although Notre Dame continued to keep up the pressure in the second half (12 shots, including seven on goal, and eight corner kicks), N.C. State would have another good look at the tying score in the 64th minute. This time, the Fighting Irish had some trouble clearing their lines from a Wolfpack offensive threat and it left Jessica Baity with room to blast a 20-yard shot that was ticketed for the upper right corner. However, Little came up with the save of the night, leaping back and to her left to parry the shot away.
"What a tremendous save that was by Kaela," Waldrum said. "After that first goal, she could have easily hung her head and lost focus, but she stayed engaged and was ready when we needed her to come up with the big stop, which came at such an important time in the game when we were still holding a 2-1 lead."
From that point on, Notre Dame didn't give N.C. State room to breathe, using its depth and possession game to keep the Wolfpack on their heels. Thomas nearly connected on a left-side cross for sophomore midfielder Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip), whose flick header slipped inches wide of the right post in the 69th minute. Moments later, Bohaboy got behind the N.C. State retaining line, but Stelljes alertly came off her line to knock the ball away at the top of the box.
The Fighting Irish finally got their insurance goal in the 75th minute, and it started with a yellow card issued to Baity after a foul in the right channel 35 yards from goal. N.C. State cleared away the initial service, but it landed right at the feet of Laddish at the edge of the attacking third. She then smartly chipped the Wolfpack defense which was attempted to push forward, with Scofield finding tons of room at the top right of the box, taking a touch and cracking a waist-high shot into the middle of the left side netting (74:42).
"That was all Mandy," Scofield said. "Her chip was perfect and all I really had to do was finish. I think it was good to get some results after all the pressure we'd been putting on them, especially in the second half."
Notre Dame had two more golden chances to pad its lead in the 82nd minute, as sophomore forward Mary Schwappach (Denver, Colo./Mullen) nimbly weaved through traffic at the edge of the area before drilling a low shot that Stelljes did well to turn aside. However, her defense wasn't able to sweep away the loose change, as freshman midfielder Rilka Noel (West Bloomfield, Mich./Marian) latched on to the failed clearance at the top of the box and hammered a daisy-cutter that had beaten Stelljes, only to be kicked wide of the right post by Tomayko, denying Noel her first college score.
After two days of recovery and training in the Research Triangle area, Notre Dame will return to the pitch at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday when it takes on No. 1 North Carolina at Fetzer Field in an ACC match that will be televised live on ESPN3. It will mark the first time the two most successful programs in NCAA Division I women's soccer history will do battle in conference play.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, follow the Fighting Irish on Twitter (@NDsoccernews and @NDsoccer), 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.
#8 Notre Dame 3, North Carolina State 1
Sept. 12, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. (Dail Soccer Stadium)
Notre Dame 2 - 1 - 3
North Carolina State 1 - 0 - 1
Total Shots: ND 22 (10-12), NCSU 8 (5-3)
Shots On Goal: ND 12 (6-6), NCSU 4 (3-1)
Saves: ND 3 (Kaela Little 3 in 90:00), NCSU 9 (Mackenzie Stelljes 8 in 90:00, Team 1)
Corner Kicks: ND 9 (1-8), NCSU 3 (1-2)
Fouls: ND 9 (6-3), NCSU 6 (4-2)
Yellow Cards: Morgan Andrews (ND) 11:12, Jessica Baity (NCSU) 74:22, Bohaboy (ND) 76:32
Offsides: ND 1, NCSU 0
Records: ND 5-1 (1-0 ACC), NCSU 5-2 (0-1 ACC)
Next Up For ND: at No. 1 North Carolina, 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday - live on ESPN3
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director