Sept. 17, 2010
CHICAGO - Notre Dame freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) netted a pair of goals, including the clincher with 1:48 to play as the No. 7/11 Fighting Irish kicked off their BIG EAST Conference season with a 2-0 victory over DePaul on Friday afternoon at Wish Field in Chicago.
Senior forward Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) set up Tucker's first goal, and both junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) and senior forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) did likewise on the second, as Notre Dame extended its NCAA Division I-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 67 matches (64-0-3).
Tucker not only potted her second gamewinning goal of the season, but also became the first Fighting Irish rookie to post a multi-goal match since Oct. 26, 2008, when Henderson found the back of the net twice in a 6-0 victory over Seton Hall at old Alumni Field.
Senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) went the distance for her sixth shutout in seven matches this season. She was called upon to make just one save, that coming on a harmless long-range shot midway through the second half. Claire Hanold made two saves in the Blue Demons' net.
Notre Dame (6-1, 1-0 BIG EAST) more than doubled up DePaul in the shot column, 13-6, including a 4-1 edge in shots on goal. The Blue Demons held a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks, while the fouls were nearly even (5-4 against the Fighting Irish).
"It's always good to get the conference season started with a win," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Elizabeth (Tucker) had an outstanding afternoon, particularly in her first BIG EAST match. I also really liked what we got off the bench from Erica Iantorno and Adriana Leon. This (DePaul's Wish Field) can be a tricky place to play with the slick turf and the tight confines, but we seemed to manage it fairly well with a good showing from our possession game. There's definitely more we can do to improve, and we'll need to show that development on Sunday against a talented Northwestern team."
Augustin had hearts skipping a beat less than four minutes into the match, as she found space in the left channel and uncorked a 35-yard blast that had Hanold retreating as the ball skimmed off the top of the crossbar. In the 12th minute, Augustin and Henderson worked a pretty passing sequence, connecting with Knaack at the top of the box, but Knaack's shot whistled wide left.
DePaul (4-3-2, 0-1) had its first good chance of the day come just before the midpoint of the first half, as Callie Hemming rose up to head Kelly Blumberg's corner kick wide of the left post.
Moments later, the Fighting Irish broke through for the opening score. Augustin won the ball on the right flank and squared off a pass to Tucker in the channel. The rookie took a touch inside for a better angle and uncorked a rising left-footed shot from 25 yards out that eluded Hanold and pinged off the inside of the far left post before settling into the net (26:49).
Five minutes after the first goal, two more Notre Dame freshmen nearly combined to double the lead. Midfielder Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) gained possession near the midfield circle in her own end and set forward on a mad dash through the Blue Demons' defense before springing Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) with a timely through-ball in the offensive third. However, Leon's final touch on the speedy FieldTurf was a bit heavy and Hanold alertly raced off her line to corral the loose ball.
Leon would get two more shots off in the final quarter-hour of the first half, both coming from the top left of the box. The first twisted just high and wide of the upper right corner, while the second nutmegged a DePaul defender with a low liner, but Hanold was not screened enough to prevent her from making the stop at the left post.
The Blue Demons wouldn't go quietly, and had a solid look from distance in the 57th minute, as Arianna Foster latched on to a pass just outside the "D", but her try sailed well over the bar. Meanwhile, Notre Dame's offense continued to threaten, but its timing was a bit off after the intermission, with the Fighting Irish getting flagged for all four of their offsides calls in the second half.
DePaul pushed up a third attacker in the closing minutes, and Notre Dame countered with some added pressure against the Blue Demons' back line. Augustin and Tucker almost teamed up agains with 10 minutes to play, as the veteran settled a long lead pass at the top of the area and sent a pass to Tucker on the left side of the box, but the DePaul defense backtracked well to quash the threat. Henderson then tried to connect with Tucker in the 85th minute, but her right-side cross was behind the rookie, whose shot drifted wide left.
Senior defender/co-captain Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) had her own golden opportunity with four minutes left, as Augustin's free kick from the right channel caromed off a Blue Demon defender to Fowlkes on the left side of the box. However, Hanold read the play well and was able to get enough of Fowlkes' 10-yard shot to steer it wide of the target.
Notre Dame's late-match pressure finally paid off at 88:12, and it was the result of a deft passing sequence, starting with Laddish who dished it off to Tucker in the right channel, who in turn pushed the ball up to Knaack at the edge of penalty box. Knaack sent the ball wide to Henderson on the right flank, and she one-timed a dangerous cross into the penalty area. Tucker stayed up with the play, knifing in from the left side and drilling a sharp header back across the grain into the right side of the net for the all-important insurance goal.
The Fighting Irish will remain in the Windy City through the weekend, as they close out their regular-season non-conference slate at 4:30 p.m. CT/5:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Northwestern.
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POST GAME NOTES: Knaack's assist on Tucker's second goal was a late scoring change following post-match film review ... Notre Dame improves to 16-0 in conference openers since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, with a 74-2 scoring margin in those matches ... the Fighting Irish move to 6-0 all-time against DePaul, with a 22-0 scoring margin in the series (five of which have been decided by at least a two-goal spread) ... in addition to extending Notre Dame's 67-match unbeaten streak in BIG EAST play, Friday's win also lifts the Fighting Irish all-time BIG EAST regular-season record to 135-8-5 (.929), record in all matches against BIG EAST foes to 172-11-6 (.926), and have a 715-85 scoring edge since that first conference season in 1995 ... Tucker is the second Notre Dame player to score two goals in a match this season, following Augustin's two-goal effort on Aug. 22 in a 3-0 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Alumni Stadium ... the Fighting Irish rises to 319-0-1 all-time when taking a 2-0 lead and are unbeaten in their last 296 such contests (since a 3-3 tie vs. Vanderbilt in Cincinnati on Sept. 15, 1991) -- only two of the past 208 Notre Dame opponents to face a 2-0 deficit have managed to come back and tie, something only four Fighting Irish foes have done in the program's 23-year history ... DePaul's six total shots and one shot on goal both are Notre Dame opponent season lows (previous was seven shots and four on goal, both attained by Loyola Marymount on Sept. 12) ... the Fighting Irish now are 33-0 all-time when Henderson tallies a point (which she's done in 13 of the past 17 Notre Dame contests) ... the Fighting Irish earned their sixth shutout in seven matches this season and raise their all-time record when allowing 0-1 goals to 394-10-15 (.958) ... in its last 22 matches, Notre Dame has limited 21 opponents to one goal or fewer, going 19-2-1 in that time with 16 shutouts (13 solo and three shared by Weiss), a 49-9 scoring margin and an 0.40 goals-against average (GAA).