Oct. 30, 2011
Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) scored in the ninth minute off a pinpoint service by junior defender Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) and Notre Dame used a stellar defensive performance to defeat No. 5/9 Marquette, 1-0, in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal match on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Valley Fields in Milwaukee.
Henderson's goal -- her career high-tying 18th of the season, and 70th of her brilliant career, as well as a school-record 24th career match-winning goal -- lifts the Fighting Irish into the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the 15th time in Notre Dame's 17 years as a conference member. The Fighting Irish will square off with BIG EAST National Division champion Louisville in a tournament semifinal match at 3 p.m. (ET) Friday in Morgantown, W.Va., with CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports) televising the contest live from Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
Sunday's win also gave Notre Dame a measure of revenge for an earlier 3-2 overtime loss to Marquette on the same pitch exactly five weeks earlier. What's more, it was the first Fighting Irish win over a ranked opponent this season, and first on the road at a top-five foe since last year's 4-1 win at No. 3 North Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Championship.
The statistics from Sunday's contest were virtually even, with Marquette holding a narrow 9-7 edge in total shots, and 4-3 advantage in shots on goal, although the Fighting Irish did hit the woodwork twice on the afternoon (one crossbar, one post). Notre Dame had the upper hand in corner kicks by a slim 4-3 margin, while fouls were even at 13-13 -- the Fighting Irish also received the lone yellow card in the match.
Junior goalkeeper Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh) recorded three saves en route to her postseason shutout, and fourth clean sheet this year. Notre Dame also registered a team save, as Hall made a sensational sliding kick save at the left post to keep out Taylor Madigan's bid for an equalizer in the 17th minute. Marquette netminder Natalie Kulla collected two saves for the Golden Eagles, who saw their nine-match winning streak snapped.
"This was exactly what Notre Dame soccer is all about," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Our backs were against the wall and we had a important test in front of us, with a playoff game on the road against a team that beat us in this exact spot just over a month ago. We came in today with focus and intensity, and we didn't back away from the challenge one inch. I couldn't be happier for the effort we showed today, not only the way we raised our level of play against another top-caliber team, but to have the presence of mind to remain steady and keep our composure when they were pressing late in the second half to try and tie it up.
"We're still growing and developing, but this was another step in the right direction at a time of the season when it matters most," he added. "We're playing some of our best soccer of the year right now and we'll need to keep up that improvement on Friday when we see Louisville in the semifinals."
After giving up an early score to Marquette in their regular-season match, Notre Dame (10-6-3) turned the tables on the Golden Eagles in Sunday's quarterfinal. Hall started the play by latching on to a ball on the left side of the attacking third and charging down the channel. Just before she got to the top left corner of the box, she drove a left-footed cross into the heart of the penalty area, where Henderson found space at the top of the six-yard box and snapped a header back inside the left post past a diving Kulla (8:04).
Notre Dame nearly doubled its lead four minutes later. Senior defender Molly Campbell (Mission Hills, Kan./St. Teresa's Academy) lofted a corner kick from the far left flag, with the ball sailing towards the back post. Freshman defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) came racing in and met the cross almost perfectly with a right-footed volley from 10 yards out that beat Kulla, but clanged hard off the crossbar before being swept from danger.
Then, it was time for Marquette (17-3-0) to send hearts fluttering, following a pair of corner kicks from the left side. The second service from the flag caromed out to Madigan seven yards out on the left side of the box and she drilled a low shot that was ticketed for the inside of the left post. However, Hall reacted just as quickly and nearly did the splits while sticking out her right boot to re-direct the shot wide before it was cleared away by the rest of the Fighting Irish defense.
The Golden Eagles had one other solid scoring chance in the first half, that coming in the 35th minute, when Lisa Philbin slid a through-ball to Mary Luba, but Luba's shot from 12 yards out sailed over the bar.
With the skies darkening and rain becoming more persistent, the second half would prove to be an intense battle between two determined and highly-skilled clubs. Marquette had a look in the 63rd minute, when Maegan Kelly's corner kick flew over everyone to the far side where Ashley Stemmeler reloaded for a left-flank service, but Kerry McBride's header went wide right.
Seven minutes later, Kelly found an opening down the right side before whipping a cross to the top of the penalty area. However, Stemmeler mis-hit her shot, which also ended up going wide right.
Notre Dame nearly added an insurance goal in the 84th minute, as Campbell's free kick from the left channel pinballed around the penalty spot before Henderson collected the loose ball at the right edge of the six-yard box, but her quick shot was denied by the right post before going wide over the by-line.
At the 87:30 mark, the Fighting Irish had another opportunity to build a brace, as sophomore forward Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) squared off a pass at the edge of the attacking third to sophomore midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), who was steaming down the left channel. Yet, the ball hopped on Tucker just as she entered the penalty area and her rushed shot sailed over the crossbar.
Marquette would have one final chance to draw level with one minute remaining, earning a free kick just across midfield and to the left of the circle. However, Katie Hishmeh's service looked to get caught up in the crosswinds whipping through Valley Fields, and the ball twisted well wide right and over the by-line for a goal kick, effectively ending the match.
Notre Dame now turns its attention to Louisville, as the Fighting Irish will face the Cardinals for the second time this season. Back on Sept. 16, Louisville defeated Notre Dame, 1-0 at Alumni Stadium in the conference opener for both sides. Friday's match will be the first postseason encounter between the Fighting Irish and Cardinals. Host West Virginia and Georgetown will meet in the other BIG EAST semifinal at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Friday.
In addition to live television coverage of Friday's Notre Dame-Louisville tournament semifinal, live stats and a live interactive chat for that match also will be available on the new Irish UNDerground blog (www.UND.com/blog).
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, join the Fighting Irish women's soccer news Twitter page (@NDsoccernews) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.
POST MATCH NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 12-1 all-time (11-1 in the Waldrum era) in BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal matches, with a 46-3 aggregate scoring margin (and 11 shutouts) in those contests ... Sunday marked the first time the Fighting Irish have ever played a conference tournament quarterfinal on the road ... since falling to Connecticut in last year's BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals (2-0 at Alumni Stadium), Notre Dame has won its last seven postseason matches (six NCAA, one BIG EAST) by a combined 16-1 score (six shutouts), with the past five matches coming away from home (three on the road, two neutral) against teams ranked 17th or higher in the NSCAA poll (four in the top six) ... Notre Dame improves to 7-4-1 all-time against Marquette, including a 5-0 record in the BIG EAST Championship (it was MU's first home loss in the conference tournament quarterfinals since joining the BIG EAST in 2005) ... Henderson continues to rise up the school's career statistical charts at a dizzying pace -- Sunday's goal was the 70th of her career (tying her for fourth place in school history with Jenny Streiffer, 1996-99), while it also was her 24th career match-winning goal, topping two-time Hermann Trophy recipient Kerri Hanks' old school record of 23 set from 2005-08 ... Henderson also now has 165 points (70G-25A), passing Meotis Erikson (164 from 1997-2000) for ninth place on the Notre Dame career points chart ... Henderson moved into fourth place on the school's career postseason point list with 41 (16G-9A), passing Monica Gerardo, who had 40 postseason points (15G-10A) from 1995-98 ... Henderson's 16th career postseason goal is second-most in school history, breaking her out of a tie with four other players and putting her behind only Hanks (20) in school history ... Henderson's seventh career postseason match-winning goal ties Michele Weissenhofer's school record set from 2006-09, while Henderson's 19 career postseason match-winning points (7G-5A) are one back of Hanks in that category ... lastly, Henderson's goal was her seventh career "first goal" in the postseason, the most in school history, breaking out of a tie with Hanks, Weissenhofer and Amanda Cinalli (2004-07) ... Hall picked up her second career postseason assist, having also set up Lauren Fowlkes' 34th-minute goal against South Florida in a BIG EAST quarterfinal on Nov. 1, 2009, at Alumni Stadium ... in a strange twist, the last time the BIG EAST Championship semifinals/final were played in Morgantown, W.Va., in 2007, the same four teams (Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgetown, West Virginia) advanced to the semifinals, with the Fighting Irish downing Georgetown and WVU defeating Louisville, before the host Mountaineers edged Notre Dame in the tournament title match on penalties (5-3) after the teams played to a 1-1 double-overtime draw ... the Fighting Irish will be playing in the BIG EAST semifinals for the 15th time, having posted a 13-1 all-time record in that round of the conference tournament (9-1 in the Waldrum era), a mark touched only by a 2-1 loss to Boston College in the 2003 semifinals at Piscataway, N.J.