Oct. 9, 2009
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The No. 8/9 ranked Notre Dame women's soccer team outlasted the No. 10/12 ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a physical battle of BIG EAST National Division rivals Friday night at Yurcak Field on the strength of a Lauren Fowlkes strike in the 84th minute and Nikki Weiss' second consecutive shutout.
Notre Dame moves to 9-3-1 (5-0-1 BIG EAST) with the win, while Rutgers falls to 9-2-3 (3-1-2 BIG EAST) on the season. The win also marked Weiss' second consecutive solo shutout and she added a career-high six saves.
On a mild night in New Jersey the game got underway and Rutgers earned the first scoring chance in the fifth minute when Karla Schacher took a shot from the top of the box that forced Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) to slide to her right to make a diving catch.
Notre Dame answered in the 12th minute with a chance of its own as Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) settled a cross at the top of the box for Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin), who ran onto the pass and had a go from the top of the box that Scarlet Knights goalkeeper Erin Guthrie saved.
Rutgers threatened again in the 29th minute when Ashley Jones crossed a ball into the box that landed at the feet of Stefanee Pace, whose subsequent shot was blocked out of play for a corner kick by the Irish defense. Notre Dame then had to defend three straight corners, but got out of trouble when Weiss corralled a header off RU's third corner kick. Weiss then came off her line to diffuse another Rutgers attack in the 35th minute, sliding across the middle of the box to corral the ball away from an onrushing April Price.
Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) had Notre Dame's next scoring chance, unleashing a trademark shot from outside of the top of the box that Guthrie grabbed, though it may have gone just wide of the target. Notre Dame kept up the pressure in the 41st minute, as Fowlkes fed sophomore forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) with a ball that the sophomore forward dribbled through three Rutgers defenders and took a low shot, but Guthrie was equal to the task. Moments later, Henderson had another attempt from in close saved by Guthrie.
The second half began with more open play and Rutgers almost capitalized in the 47th minute when it looked as if a through-ball from the midfield was going to send Jones in alone on Weiss, but Molly Campbell (Mission Hills, Kan./St. Teresa's Academy) slid over from the center of the Irish defense to clear the threat.
Knaack followed in the 50th minute by crossing a ball into the far side of the box that almost met the end of Amanda Clark's (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) run from the midfield, but Guthrie came off her line to negate Clark's chance at getting on the end of the bouncing ball.
After an extended spell of Irish possession, sophomore Courtney Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West) attempted to solve Guthrie with a drive from ten yards outside the Rutgers box that forced Guthrie to make one of her toughest saves of the night in the 55th minute. Play then reverted to the midfield as each team searched for a way to end the tie.
Then, after a Notre Dame foul, Julie Lancos almost ended the deadlock in the 82nd minute when she sent a free-kick swerving in on Weiss, who did well to deflect the shot around her near post. Weiss then made a save after the ensuing corner kick to keep the game at 0-0.
After Weiss' goal kick, the Irish were able to push forward with possession, eventually working the ball to freshman Jazmin Hall (Highland Vllage, Texas/Marcus) on the left flank. Hall then chipped a ball into the Rutgers box that Fowlkes ran under and volleyed into the top corner of the net for what proved to be the decisive strike at 83:55. The assist marked Hall's first career point with the Irish.
With the game on the line, Rutgers had one last flurry on the Irish net in the 87th minute that resulted on a blocked shot by the Irish defense, a save from Weiss and a header that RU's Maura McGlaughlin put just wide of the post.
Guthrie ended the night with five saves, as each team had six shots on net. The Scarlet Knights took a total of 12 shots to Notre Dame's nine, while RU also held the advantage in corner kicks, 4-2.
With the win, the Fighting Irish moved their NCAA-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 58 games (55-0-3) and also extended their conference road unbeaten streak to 25 games (22-0-3). Both of those BIG EAST streaks started with a 4-0 win at South Florida on Oct. 2, 2005.
Notre Dame will play Seton Hall on Sunday, October 11 to close out its regular-season BIG EAST road schedule. The game, slated to begin at 1:00 p.m., will be played at Carroll Field in South Orange, N.J.