Freshman forward Crystal Thomas scored twice in a span of 6:04 midway through the first half, as No. 24/25 Notre Dame ran its unbeaten streak to eight matches with a 2-2 draw against Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Freshman forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) scored twice in a span of 6:04 midway through the first half, with the second score putting Notre Dame in front, but Rutgers answered with the tying goal 66 seconds later and the teams wound up playing to a 2-2 double-overtime draw in BIG EAST Conference action on a soggy Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
Freshman defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) had a hand in both Fighting Irish goals, although only officially earning an assist on Thomas' second score. Sophomore defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) also was credited with an assist on the second Notre Dame goal, as the Fighting Irish stretched their current unbeaten streak to eight matches.
Notre Dame (10-3-2, 6-0-1 BIG EAST) tripled Rutgers' output in total shots by a 27-9 margin. The Fighting Irish also held a 10-4 edge in shots on goal, along with a 14-3 advantage on corner kicks.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Voigt (Middleburg, Fla./St. John's Country Day School) started and made one save in the first half before giving way to freshman Elyse Hight (Edmond, Okla./Bishop McGuinness), who also turned aside one shot while playing the entire second half and both overtime periods in the Fighting Irish net. At the other end of the pitch, Emmy Simpkins went the distance in goal for Rutgers, making eight saves.
"Aside from the two goals we gave up, I thought we continued to show improvement and growth today," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "We're creating good scoring chances and were probably a bit unlucky, between the crossbar, the post and a strong day from their keeper, not to have a few more goals on the board. This was good for us, to be tested and playing from behind, in some difficult weather conditions, and we answered that challenge pretty well, especially in the second half and overtime."
Rutgers (9-6-1, 2-5-1) got on the board first in the 11th minute, starting with a corner kick from Cassie Inacio. The service from the right-side flag came off a Fighting Irish defender and landed at the feet of Shannon Woeller, whose initial shot was knocked down by Voigt. However, the rebound came right back to Woeller 12 yards out on the left side of the box and she drove a left-footed shot through traffic inside the left post (10:10).
Notre Dame noticeably picked up its intensity after the Scarlet Knights' goal and went on work, earning four corner kicks and putting two shots on frame in the ensuing seven minutes. The pressure didn't produce immediate results, but it did lay the foundation for the coming Fighting Irish offensive later in the period.
Just past the midpoint of the first half, Notre Dame won another corner kick that led to a pair of shots, the second a header from freshman defender Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) that rang hard off the left post. Shortly after RU cleared away the danger, junior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) had her own brush with the woodwork, driving her shot from the top of the box off the crossbar (27:20).
Off the ensuing goal kick, the Fighting Irish regained possession and were back on the attack, earning a free kick in the left channel. Von Rueden's service flew into the goalmouth and was not handled cleanly by Simpkins, with the ball spilling to Thomas on the right side of the six-yard box. Her initial shot was saved by the Rutgers goalkeeper, but the rebound popped right back to Thomas, and her reload was true, beating Simpkins low inside the near right post (28:41).
A little more than six minutes later, Notre Dame had the lead, and again Von Rueden and Thomas were center stage. Von Rueden's free kick from 45 yards out on the left flank connected with Scofield near the top of the box, and the second-year defender flicked a header out to the right side of the area for Thomas. The rookie striker then settled the ball and then hammered home a shot from 12 yards out for her first career two-goal match (34:45).
However, just when it seemed the momentum was all in Notre Dame's corner, Rutgers came back with the equalizer. Tricia DiPaolo fired a free kick from the right flank, with the ball dipping just as it got to Voigt 10 yards out in the goalmouth. Voigt tried to catch the ball on the short-hop, but the ball squirted free behind her and Stefanie Scholz outraced her mark to the rebound, poking it into the vacated net (35:51).
Thomas nearly flipped the match back in Notre Dame's favor, and chalked up a hat trick in the process, taking a pass on the right side of the area and ripping a rising shot that twisted across the face of goal towards the upper left corner. The shot beat Simpkins, but couldn't solve the crossbar, the third time in the match (all in a span of less than 13 minutes) that the woodwork denied a Fighting Irish score (38:20).
The second half and overtime periods were a physical battle that saw RU pick up three yellow cards while the Fighting Irish maintained the balance of possession and the prime scoring chances. The Scarlet Knights did test Hight 3:40 of the second half, as Amy Pietrangelo's header from the top of the box tried to catch the rookie off her line, but Hight tracked it well and made the stop. As it turned out that would be Rutgers' last shot on goal of the match, as the Notre Dame defense stiffened and did not allow the Scarlet Knights to get a look on frame during the final 63:20 of play.
While the Fighting Irish had the better offensive threats during the second half and overtime, the best two looks came in the extra sessions. In the first overtime, senior defender/tri-captain Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) lofted a cross from just outside the left edge of the box, with the ball fading towards the crossbar. Simpkins had to be alert to tip the ball off the frame, then watched as Laddish's reload from the top of the area went wide right (91:20).
Early in the second overtime, Thomas made another strong bid for the hat trick, this time knocking down an attempted Rutgers clearance off a corner kick. Thomas cracked a rising left-footed shot from the top of the box that Simpkins did well to parry over the bar, allowing her defense to recover and ultimately turn back the best scoring chance for either side for the remainder of the afternoon (101:05).
Notre Dame now heads back on the road for its final three matches of the regular season, beginning at 3 p.m. (ET) Friday when it travels to Washington, D.C., to take on No. 11 Georgetown at North Kehoe Field in a battle of unbeatens in the BIG EAST's National Division (both teams currently are 6-0-1). The Fighting Irish then head up the East Coast to Villanova, Pa., for a noon (ET) Sunday contest with Villanova at the VU Soccer Stadium.
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POST-MATCH NOTES: Notre Dame played its second overtime match of the season, having finished in a 1-1 draw at No. 18/19 Portland on Sept. 7 ... Sunday's contest was the first home overtime contest for the Fighting Irish women's soccer team since it moved into its new home, Alumni Stadium, in 2009 -- the last home OT match for the Notre Dame women had been Nov. 21, 2008, at old Alumni Field, when two-time Hermann Trophy recipient Kerri Hanks scored on a penalty kick at 6:54 of the first overtime to give the Fighting Irish a 1-0 win over Minnesota in the third round of the NCAA Championship (a match as well-known for the post-match celebration that included Hanks and her teammates leaping into a snowbank in front of the east grandstand) ... Notre Dame is 20-6-16 (.667) in overtime matches during the 14-year Waldrum era (1999-present), and is now unbeaten in 14 of its last 17 overtime contests ... Thomas' two-goal afternoon marked the second time in as many matches (and third time this season) a Notre Dame player scored twice in the same contest -- junior midfielder/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) had two markers in Friday's 5-1 win over Seton Hall, and also scored both goals in Notre Dame's 2-0 win at Tulsa on Aug. 24 ... Thomas is the first Fighting Irish rookie with a two-goal match since Sept. 30, 2011, when current Notre Dame sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) scored twice in a 3-0 win over Connecticut at Alumni Stadium ... Thomas' six shots on goal were the most by a Fighting Irish player this season, one more than Tucker's five on frame in the win at Tulsa ... Thomas' nine total shots were one shy of Bohaboy's season-best for a Notre Dame player (10 vs. East Carolina on Aug. 26) ... coming into the weekend, Von Rueden had one assist during her rookie season, but the Wisconsin native had three helpers in two matches, and also set up a fourth Fighting Irish goal (Thomas' first on Sunday vs. Rutgers) ... Scofield's assist was her first of the season and second of her career (she had one on Oct. 2, 2011, in a 3-0 win over Providence at Alumni Stadium) ... Notre Dame tied its Alumni Stadium record with 14 corner kicks on Sunday, with the 14 tries from the flag tying for the third-most by a Fighting Irish team in the Waldrum era and most since it also had 14 corners on Oct. 8, 2010, in a 2-1 win over Seton Hall at Alumni Stadium ... Notre Dame is 18-1-4 all-time against Rutgers (9-0-2 in South Bend), and is unbeaten in its last 13 matches against the Scarlet Knights (10-0-3), with the teams drawing for the second consecutive season (they played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer on Oct. 9, 2011, in Piscataway. N.J.) ... Rutgers' 18 fouls and three yellow cards were the most by a Fighting Irish opponent this season, while Simpkins' eight saves were one off the Notre Dame opponent season high set by Oakland's Shannon Coley on Sept. 23 in a 3-0 Fighting Irish win at Alumni Stadium ... Sunday was Notre Dame's annual Kicks Against Cancer match, with the Fighting Irish wearing special gold jerseys (with blue trim) that will be available for public bidding through an on-line auction later this week (UND.com/auctions), with all proceeds (as well as those from on-site donations and sales of Irish Soccer supporters' scarves) going to Kicks Against Cancer (a national women's soccer initiative to raise funds for breast cancer research) and a local outlet, Michiana Hematology/Oncology.