Sept. 19, 2013
Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) dug deep and found a way to get her team a "W".
Scofield went high to head in a deflected free kick with three seconds to play, giving No. 7/4 Notre Dame a dramatic 1-0 win over Syracuse in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play Thursday night before an enthusiastic crowd of 1,607 fans at Alumni Stadium. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Fighting Irish, with three of those victories coming via shutout.
Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) started the winning sequence with a free kick 30 yards out on the left side, driving her service towards the underside of the crossbar. Syracuse goalkeeper Brittany Anghel retreated and was able to punch the ball up into the air near the penalty spot, where junior defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) headed the ball back towards the six-yard box. Scofield was perfectly positioned and quickly went up to snap her header into the net past another Syracuse defender, sending the Fighting Irish faithful into delirium.
"Morgan hit a tremendous free kick and it looked like it put their keeper on her heels a bit when she punched it out," Scofield said. "Britt did a great job to keep the play alive and I was able to put it away."
Scofield's goal is easily the latest match-winning goal in Notre Dame women's soccer history, either in regulation or overtime. For any match, Michelle McCarthy had the previous latest match-winning goal on Sept. 11, 1994, scoring with 25 seconds remaining in the second overtime for a 4-3 victory at 10th-ranked William & Mary (overtime periods were 15 minutes in that era, so her goal came at 119:35 elapsed time). In a regulation match, Ragen Coyne had the latest decisive goal on Nov. 1, 1992, scoring with 36 seconds left in a 2-1 win at Wright State.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) made two saves to record her second consecutive shutout and third in the past four matches. Anghel had four saves for Syracuse (4-5-0, 0-3-0 ACC), while also benefitting from two other saves by her defensive backline.
Notre Dame (7-1-0, 3-0-0) finished with a sizeable edge in all of the statistical categories on Thursday, including total shots (19-4), shots on goal (7-2) and corner kicks (8-2).
"It wasn't pretty, but this is the kind of game we've got to expect in the ACC," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Give Syracuse a lot of the credit, because they came in with a great game plan and it seemed to frustrate us at times. In the end, good teams find a way to win when they're not playing their best, and for us to stay the course and get the winning goal in the final seconds, that's an important building block for us going forward."
Playing its third match in seven days, Notre Dame was coming off an emotionally-charged 1-0 win at then-No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday afternoon. The Fighting Irish also had to deal with a completely different style of play from Syracuse, which was content to play deep in the defensive third, often putting eight or nine players behind the ball and then waiting for the occasional counterattack.
Still, it looked as though Notre Dame would break through in the opening quarter-hour, thanks in part to several probing runs down the left flank by senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny). The last of her forays in the 13th minute led to a pinpoint cross into the six-yard box, where Anghel tipped the ball up. However, junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) looked to be in prime position to head in the night's first goal, but her shot was cleared off the line by SU midfielder Rachel Blum, keeping the match scoreless.
Syracuse had a pair of shots in the first half, but only one on goal and that came 29 minutes into the period, when Cecilia Borgstrom latched on to a pass on the right side of the area, and drove a 15-yard shot towards the far left post, but Little alertly made the save to snuff out the threat.
The second half would prove to be nearly one-way traffic to the Notre Dame offensive third, starting in the 51st minute, when sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) rifled a 25-yard shot from the right channel that clipped the top of the crossbar.
The Fighting Irish would ring up six more shots and earn two more corner kicks in the ensuing 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Borgstrom found another counterattack opportunity in the 59th minute, but again Little was equal to the task and the scoreboard remained unblemished.
That second look from Borgstrom seemed to perk up the Orange, who got another solid scoring chance in the 66th minute, as Stephanie Skilton sough to test Little from outside the top of the box. However, her low drive skittered just wide of the left post.
Three minutes later, it appeared Notre Dame would finally solve the Syracuse defense off the seventh of its eight corner kicks. Von Rueden slipped inside her mark and after the service took a deflection and pulled Anghel out of position, Von Rueden was able to nod the ball back into the heart of the goal mouth. However, the Orange once again swept away trouble from the doorstep, as an unidentified defender cleared the shot off the line.
Inside the final minute, Little started the transition attack that would lead to the eventual deciding score. Her outlet throw connected perfectly with Tucker on the left side and the veteran back raced across midfield before playing a ball up to sophomore midfielder Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) in the left channel. Roccaro was almost immediately run down from behind by a Syracuse defender, resulting in a free kick with 30 seconds to play.
It took the better part of the next 20 seconds to back up the Orange defenders, who initially stood directly in front of the ball before moved away to the 10-yard restraining distance. Andrews then alertly drove her service into the penalty area and moments later, Scofield found herself swallowed up by a mob of her Fighting Irish teammates celebrating the hard-fought win.
"It was kind of like one of those last-second buzzer beaters that you see in college basketball," Waldrum said. "I don't think I've ever been a part of anything like that, definitely not in my 15 years here at Notre Dame."
"I think everyone in a white uniform would agree we didn't play that well tonight," Scofield said. "There's no excuse for it, we just need to execute and be sharper all the way around. It's good to get the win, but if we play like that again, we're going to get beat. Hopefully, this will open our eyes a little and remind us just how tough the ACC is every night."
The Fighting Irish will be back in action at 7 p.m. (ET) Sept. 26, when they play host to No. 21/23 Maryland at Alumni Stadium. The match will be streamed live and free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
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.
#7/4 Notre Dame 1, Syracuse 0
Syracuse 0 0 -- 0
Total Shots: SU 4 (2-2), ND 19 (7-12)
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director