Freshman midfielder Glory Williams scored her first college goal in the 58th minute of Friday night's match against Pittsburgh and it proved to be the decisive tally as Notre Dame earned a 2-1 victory over the Panthers at Alumni Stadium.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame used goals from freshmen Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) and Glory Williams (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands), along with a dominant edge in possession time, to remain unbeaten in BIG EAST Conference play with a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night before a crowd of 1,345 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Roccaro netted her second goal in as many matches, converting a short-range volley in the 16th minute off a cross from senior defender Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus). Williams then doubled the Fighting Irish lead with her first college goal, heading in a corner kick by junior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) in the 58th minute.
Pittsburgh spoiled the shutout when Ashley Cuba scored an unassisted goal with 4:39 remaining. However, it was the lone blemish for Notre Dame on a night when the Fighting Irish outshot the Panthers, 21-6, including a 9-2 edge in shots on goal (not counting two other Notre Dame shots that hit the post and a goal that was wiped out by an offensive foul in the penalty area). Notre Dame also chalked up a season-high 12 corner kicks en route to its third consecutive victory.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Voigt (Middleburg, Fla./St. John's Country Day School) went the distance in the Fighting Irish cage on Friday night, making one save. Nicole D'Agostino also played the full 90 minutes in the Pittsburgh goal and registered seven saves.
"I'm happy to get the win because I thought we played pretty well most of the game," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "I'm disappointed that we gave up a late goal, again. We've done that too many times this season, and when you do that, you keep teams in it, (especially) when you don't finish your chances. I think what we're seeing is it's helping to start to clarify some player positions for us. We had a pretty young backline in there, and (they) made a couple of mistakes, and they have got to learn from it. Outside of that, you take that last five minutes away, and I was pretty pleased."
From the outset, it was apparent that Pittsburgh was content to adopt a defensive posture, making the occasional counterattacking run when space allowed. Meanwhile, Notre Dame (6-3-1, 3-0-0 BIG EAST) wasted little time in pressuring the Panthers' goal, as sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) drove a shot from the top of the box in the fourth minute that was redirected off the right post. The rebound caromed out to sophomore defender Taylor Schneider (Southlake, Texas/Carroll Senior), who reloaded from the right side of the area with a shot that D'Agostino tipped over the bar.
Pittsburgh (5-6-1, 0-2-1) tried to catch the Fighting Irish napping with a quick clearance off the ensuing corner kick and it almost worked, as Riliegh McHugh ran on to a long service at the edge of her attacking third and drove into the left side of the box. However, Voigt alertly came out to cut down the angle and was able to stop McHugh's 15-yard shot with a dive to her left before the Notre Dame defense cleared away the rebound.
After that brief scare, the Fighting Irish resumed their methodical offensive build-up, eventually resulting in the first score of the match. Hall found room down the left side on an overlapping run and was able to turn the corner on her defender, angling into the penalty area. She then snapped a crisp service to the top of the six-yard box, where Roccaro was virtually unmarked and simply volleyed the cross high into the net (15:34).
Notre Dame's next solid chance came in the 31st minute, when Laddish collected the ball near the top of the box with her back to goal and turned to her left, sliding a pass to freshman forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) on the right side. The rookie's low shot, bidding for the far left corner, was stopped by a diving D'Agostino, but the rebound spilled to the left side of the six-yard box. Freshman forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) came charging in from the back side, but slightly rushed her shot, driving it just wide of the left post as D'Agostino scrambled back into position.
Gilbertson and Thomas nearly found the right combination in the 43rd minute, as Gilbertson raced into the area to pick off a soft backpass from the Pittsburgh back line, dispossessing D'Agostino to the left of the six-yard box. Gilbertson then calmly dropped a pass back to Thomas 12 yards out, but the pass hopped a bit on the wet turf and Thomas wasn't able to get a shot off before the Panthers' defense recovered.
The halftime respite did little to blunt Notre Dame's offensive pressure. Roccaro almost got a brace in the 52nd minute, taking a one-touch pass from junior midfielder/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) in the right channel and lashing a low 15-yard shot that squirted through D'Agostino's hands and was headed for goal, only to be denied by the Pittsburgh goalkeeper, who managed to dive on the loose ball merely a yard from her line.
Five minutes later, the Fighting Irish had their insurance goal. Laddish drove a corner kick from the right-side flag and Williams rose high to smash a header through traffic that just snuck over the line before D'Agostino could reach back and paddle it to safety. Play continued briefly before the assistant referee could signal to his central counterpart that the ball had indeed crossed the line, opening the career scoring account for the Notre Dame rookie midfielder (57:52).
The Fighting Irish seemed to add another to their tally in the 72nd minute, as Thomas apparently had scored an "Olimpico" (a direct goal from a corner kick) and a short celebration ensued. However, the score was wiped out when the referee judged D'Agostino to have been fouled while trying to play the service.
To that point, Pittsburgh had just one shot in the second half, a harmless try from outside the box by Dana DelleFemine in the 64th minute, but the Panthers made things interesting down the stretch. After Notre Dame cleared out a Pittsburgh corner kick in the 85th minute, Williams was slow to get up and temporarily left the Fighting Irish shorthanded in the defensive third. The Panthers gathered in the clearance and recycled it into the area, where the ball bounced around near the six-yard box, before Cuba found herself in the right place at the right time and quickly slotted home the loose ball (85:21).
In the end, the goal would only prevent the Fighting Irish from earning a shutout, but not much else, as the hosts were able to maintain possession for the balance of the final five minutes and secure the win.
Notre Dame steps out of conference play for the final time in the 2012 regular season at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday when it plays host to Oakland at Alumni Stadium. Tickets for all regular-season Fighting Irish soccer matches can be purchased on-line at UND.com/tickets, by calling (574) 631-7356, or by visiting the Alumni Stadium ticket windows on the day of the match.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, follow the Fighting Irish on Twitter (@NDSoccer and @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: Williams becomes the 12th different Notre Dame player to score a goal this season, while Hall is the 14th separate Fighting Irish player to tally a point ... Williams also is the eighth different Notre Dame player to score her first career goal this year, and the fifth Fighting Irish freshman to find the back of the net ... Hall's assist was her first point since Oct. 30, 2011, when she set up Melissa Henderson for the lone goal 8:04 into a BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal win at No. 5/9 Marquette ... Notre Dame held Pittsburgh to an opponent season-low six total shots, two fewer than the Fighting Irish allowed in their first two matches this year (at Wisconsin on Aug. 17 and at Tulsa on Aug. 24) ... Friday marked the third time this season the Fighting Irish have given up two or fewer shots on goal, having allowed two at Wisconsin (Aug. 17) and a season-low one in their previous outing on Sept. 16 against Cincinnati at Alumni Stadium ... Notre Dame registered a season-high 12 corner kicks, two more than its previous best on Sept. 14 against Louisville ... the Fighting Irish improve to 10-0-1 all-time against Pittsburgh, including a 6-0 record in South Bend (where the Panthers were visiting for the first time since the 2006 season) ... Notre Dame has a 40-4 aggregate scoring margin in the series with Pittsburgh, although Friday's goal was the first scored by Pittsburgh in the series since Sept. 24, 2004 (a 3-1 Fighting Irish win at old Alumni Field) ... Notre Dame is 6-0 this season when leading at halftime ... the Fighting Irish continue their remarkable historical streak when taking a 2-0 lead, improving to 337-0-1 all-time when claiming that advantage, including wins in its last 314 such contests (since a 3-3 draw against Vanderbilt on Sept. 15, 1991, in Cincinnati) ... Waldrum coached his 500th women's college soccer match, raising his 23-year record to 376-97-27 (.779), including a 269-47-15 (.835) in his 14 seasons at Notre Dame.