Oct. 13, 2013
For the second time in four days, the No. 9/5 Fighting Irish battled tooth and nail with a top-10 opponent, but again it didn't yield results, as No. 10/12 Virginia Tech got a goal from second-half substitute Ellie Zoepfl with 3:45 remaining to pull out a 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) victory before a crowd of 1,323 fans on an overcast Sunday afternoon at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va.
Notre Dame (9-4-1, 5-3-1 ACC) now has lost three consecutive matches and is winless in four in a row for the first time since 1989, the program's second season. That year, the Fighting Irish lost their final four matches, their second four-match losing streak of the season.
Notre Dame's losses this year also have been unique, in that three of them have been one-goal decisions at the hands of top-10 opponents (No. 4/2 UCLA, No. 1 Virginia and No. 10/12 Virginia Tech), and in all three cases, the Fighting Irish gave up the decisive goal in the final 11 minutes of regulation (or in the case of Thursday's 3-2 loss at UVa, one minute into double overtime).
Sunday's contest was a physical, gritty affair, with scoring chances at a premium. Notre Dame finished with a 14-9 edge in total shots, while Virginia Tech had a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-1 margin on corner kicks. Fouls also were nearly even (14-11 against the Hokies), while each team received one yellow card.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) went the distance in the Notre Dame goal, making three saves. At the opposite end, Virginia Tech netminder Dayle Colpitts also turned aside three shots for her seventh shutout of the season.
"It's disappointing to have lost three in a row like this and giving away points like this in the ACC," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "I thought we played well enough to win today, especially in the second half, but we're just not doing a good job creating chances offensively and then converting on those chances. Then again, this is what we expect in the ACC -- hard-fought battles every time out and little things make the difference.
"Having this upcoming week off to train will be very important for us," he added. "It gives us plenty of time to heal and work on some areas to get better for the final few games in the regular season."
The Hokies (11-2-1, 6-1-1) were playing their first match in 10 days, and looked the fresher side in the first half with both shots on goal in the period, although each team ended up with four shots overall in that opening 45 minutes. It was also a contrast in styles, with Notre Dame looking to build possession out of the back, while Virginia Tech aimed for direct attack through long balls served towards its forwards in the offensive third.
The best chance for either side in the first half came in the 22nd minute when the Hokies worked a give-and-go down the right edge of the box. Jazmine Reeves tried to slide a through-pass back into the middle for Shannon Mayrose, but the latter was offside by a step as she poked the ball past Little and briefly excited the home crowd.
That same pair almost connected on a goal in the 32nd minute, but Mayrose's shot from eight yards out was snared by Little, making an alert move to her right for the reflex grab.
After some personnel and position changes at halftime, including the addition of freshman midfielder Rilka Noel (West Bloomfield, Mich./Marian) and moving sophomore Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) to the back line to help handle the Hokies' speed, Notre Dame looked sharper in the second half, doubling up Virginia Tech in the shot column, 10-5, as well as a 3-2 advantage in shots on goal.
"Things settled down quite a lot for us in the second half, and it was clear those changes had an effect," Waldrum said. "Rilka was outstanding today and it was really great to see her play well in such a high-profile situation against a tough opponent on the road."
Just past the hour mark, the Fighting Irish created an opportunity as sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) found space on the right side of the box before cutting a pass back for junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) at the right edge of the six-yard area. However, as Bohaboy bodied her defender away from the ball, her off-balance shot was blocked and cleared.
Junior forward Karin Simonian (Westbury, N.Y./W.T. Clarke) provided a spark as a second-half substitute, coming up with two blasts from the top left of the box around the 74-minute mark, one shot with each foot, but the first sailed inches wide of the right post, and the second was gathered in by Colpitts.
Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) also had a handful of chances in the latter stages, including a couple of free kicks on the fringes of the penalty box, but those services were off the mark.
Virginia Tech really didn't get its first good scoring look of the second half until the 82nd minute, when a long ball ahead for Mayrose was cut off by sophomore defender/tri-captain Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove). However, as the two tangled up, the ball popped free, and Mayrose got by a fallen Naughton for a 1-v-1 chance with Little from 10 yards out, but the Fighting Irish goalkeeper, who was initially leaning to her left, came back to her right and paddled the ball just wide of the left post.
The Hokies finally broke the deadlock in the 87th minute, after a long ball down the right flank came near the edge of the penalty area. Little came out to play the ball, but Mayrose got to it first. Her initial cross was blocked by Little, but Mayrose reloaded as the Notre Dame goalkeeper retreated back into the goalmouth and junior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) came out to mark Mayrose. The Virginia Tech forward drove a low cross towards the top of the six, where Zoepfl was making a late unmarked run and poked her shot underneath Little for her first goal of the season.
The Fighting Irish scrambled to try and draw level, earning a golden opportunity on a free kick just outside the top right corner of the box with 2:30 remaining. Andrews' service connected perfectly with Bohaboy, who one-timed a shot from eight yards out, but Colpitts was able to react quickly enough to smother the low shot and preserve the win.
"Lauren had a strong game and really good work rate up top for us, but I think that last opportunity is one she'd like to have back," Waldrum said.
Notre Dame returns to Alumni Stadium to host Duke at 1 p.m. (ET) Oct 20. The match will be streamed live through the Notre Dame multimedia platform, WatchND.
Sunday's match also will serve as the Fighting Irish Senior Day, with the four departing Notre Dame senior players (Mandy Laddish, Nicole Rodriguez, Elizabeth Tucker, Rebecca Twining) and senior manager Tom Feifar honored before the match.
Tickets for the 2013 Notre Dame women's soccer campaign may be purchased through the University's Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office by calling (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets. Groups wishing to attend Fighting Irish soccer matches also can receive a discounted ticket rate -- contact Rita Baxter in the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office to learn more.
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.
#9/10 Virginia Tech 1, #9/5 Notre Dame 0
Notre Dame 0 0 -- 0
VT 1. Ellie Zoepfl 1 (Shannon Mayrose) 86:15.
Total Shots: ND 14 (4-10), VT 9 (4-5)
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director