Oct. 22, 2010
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Freshman forward Adriana Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) scored midway through the first half and the No. 4/5 Notre Dame women's soccer team kept Villanova on its heels for much of the afternoon during a 1-0 BIG EAST Conference victory over the Wildcats on a blustery cold Friday at the West Campus Soccer Complex in Villanova, Pa.
With the win, the Fighting Irish lengthened their NCAA Division I-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 76 consecutive matches (72-0-4), while extending their current unbeaten streak this season to 12 matches (11-0-1). Notre Dame also picked up a victory at a location that has traditionally been very difficult for the Fighting Irish, with this marking the fifth one-goal margin in their last six visits to suburban Philadelphia.
Leon netted her second goal of the year, and her first career game-winning score, at 22:45 of the first half, converting a cross from senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit). Notre Dame (15-1-1, 9-0-1 BIG EAST) outshot Villanova, 19-6 in the contest, including an 8-3 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish also earned all six corner kicks during the match.
Senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) went the distance in the Notre Dame net, making three saves to record her seventh solo shutout of the season and the 10th clean sheet for the Fighting Irish this year. Jami Kranich tallied seven saves in the Villanova goal to keep the hosts in the running.
"This was a good win for us, especially in a place where we've historically had some close results," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "We really controlled the run of play and had some good build-up in the attacking third, but didn't do as well as we could have with our final touches. I thought it was important for our defense to turn in a strong effort and they did that, so we can take a lot of positive things from today's win."
The Fighting Irish used steady pressure in the early going to create some sharp early chances. In the ninth minute, junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) hit Augustin on an overlapping run down the right side, with Augustin whipping a cross into the penalty area. The Villanova defense was overloaded to Augustin's side of the pitch, which left Leon unmarked on the back post, but rushed her shot slightly and lifted it high and wide right of the target.
Three minutes later, sophomore defender Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) slipped an entry pass to Henderson on the left edge of the box. Henderson turned past her defender at the end line and lofted a cross that got caught up in the wind, clipped the top of the crossbar and skidded out of play.
Villanova (6-12, 1-9) made its first concerted offensive push in the 16th minute, but the best the Wildcats could do was a long left-footed shot by Channing Press from outside the top left corner of the box that looped easily into Weiss' waiting arms.
After VU's Megan Verdeur picked up a yellow card at 17:46 for a late reckless challenge on Notre Dame freshman midfielder Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit), the Fighting Irish broke through for what turned out to be the lone score of the day. Junior defender/co-captain Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) swung a pass out on the right flank for Augustin, who charged into the attacking third and struck a firm cross through the area. Leon made a well-timed angled run from the left side of the area, and the Canadian striker simply had to volley the pass into the net from close range (22:45).
Notre Dame had a chance to double its lead in the 27th minute, as a botched Villanova clearance gave Henderson a 1-v-1 opportunity in the box. However, Kranich came racing off her line to cut down the angle, while Henderson had trouble controlling the ball on the pock-marked pitch and her toe-poke from eight yards out skipped just wide of the left post.
The Fighting Irish got another golden chance with 5:56 to go in the first half, when freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) collected the ball at the top left corner of the box and beat her defender towards the goal mouth before being pulled down in the area for a penalty kick. Tucker then stepped to the spot, but Kranich was equal to the task, knocking down the well-placed shot with a headlong dive.
The second half would yield more of the same patient, steady pressure by Notre Dame. In fact, Augustin twice looked to have been sprung on well-timed through balls in the first 10 minutes of the period, but both were whistled down for apparently being fractionally offside. Press did get off a second shot on goal for VU in the 54th minute, but her long-distance try skipped harmlessly in on Weiss.
Tucker had a pair of strong looks on frame in the 57th minute. The first was a left-footed drive from 22 yards away that was ticketed for the inside of the right post, only to be parried wide by Kranich. Off the ensuing corner kick scramble, Tucker latched on to the loose ball and fired a 10-yard shot from the right side that just sailed high of the target.
With less than 23 minutes to play, Leon broke free on the right end line with a solid individual effort before drilling a low cross through the six-yard box that somehow went untouched through a maze of players. In the 74th minute, Henderson pulled off a bit of magic to wriggle free in the right channel and serve a tantalizing cross to Leon near the penalty spot, but between the bumpy turf and wind, the rookie couldn't quite gain control of the ball and her eventual shot was partially blocked and trickled in on Kranich.
Villanova's last good chance to tie the match came a minute later, when the Wildcats pushed the ball into the attacking third before finding Heidi Sabatura near the top of the box on the left side. However, the VU striker mis-hit her left-footed scoring try and Weiss easily scooped up the shot.
Notre Dame wraps up the regular season at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday at Georgetown -- live Gametracker stats for that contest will be available through the official Fighting Irish athletics web site, www.UND.com.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, join the Fighting Irish women's soccer news Twitter page (www.twitter.com/NDsoccernews) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women's soccer page at UND.com.
POST GAME NOTES: For the 12th time this season, the Fighting Irish scored inside the opening 30 minutes of play ... Notre Dame registered its first shutout since a 3-0 whitewash of Syracuse on Oct. 1 at Alumni Stadium, and the Fighting Irish got their first clean sheet on the road since a 5-0 blanking of No. 24/18 Louisville on Sept. 26 ... Notre Dame has allowed one goal or fewer in 30 of its last 32 matches, and improves to 404-10-16 (.958) all-time when giving up 0-1 goals in a match ... the Fighting Irish are 17-1 all-time against Villanova, including a 7-1 mark at the West Campus Soccer Complex (five of the past six series matches at VU have been decided by one goal) ... Leon is the second Notre Dame freshman to net a game-winning goal this season -- Tucker has four game-winners this season.