Oct. 31, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- As the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end," and for the No. 3/5 Notre Dame women's soccer team, it was two historic streaks that finally were stopped at the hands of Connecticut, which shocked the Fighting Irish, 2-0, in a BIG EAST Conference quarterfinal match on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
The loss snapped Notre Dame's NCAA Division I-record 77-match unbeaten streak (72-0-5) against conference opponents, as the Huskies handed the Fighting Irish their first setback to a league foe since Sept. 30, 2005, when Marquette earned a 4-1 win over Notre Dame in Milwaukee. In addition, Sunday's loss to Connecticut was the first by the Fighting Irish against a BIG EAST opponent at home in 100 consecutive matches, dating back to the Huskies' 5-4 overtime win over Notre Dame on Oct. 6, 1995, at old Alumni Field.
Elise Fugowski scored both goals for Connecticut on Sunday, breaking through in the 59th minute and then adding an insurance goal off a Fighting Irish defensive miscue with exactly 17 minutes to play. The Huskies (10-8-3) ended up outshooting Notre Dame, 14-12 in the match, including a 6-3 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish had the advantage in corner kicks, 5-3, and were flagged for all three offsides calls on the afternoon, while UConn was tapped for 11 of the 17 fouls. Senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) made four saves in the Fighting Irish net, while Jessica Dulski saved three shots for the Huskies.
"This was clearly a case of one team coming into a playoff game wanting it right from the opening whistle, and one team just going through the motions," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "UConn had that sense of urgency and for whatever reason, we didn't have the mental strength and focus to compete today, and that's on me as much as anyone -- I didn't do a very good job of preparing us to play.
"As a team, we never once discussed all of these streaks and other records," he continued. "It's just not something we concentrate on, and in the end, the only thing that matters is we lost in the conference tournament and now we have two weeks to think about why this happened and how we fix it. Today's game was not representative of what Notre Dame women's soccer is all about, and between now and the start of the NCAA tournament, we'll be working hard to return to the level of success that we expect from this program."
The Fighting Irish (15-2-2), who had their 13-match unbeaten streak snapped with their first loss since Sept. 10 (2-1 in OT at 13th-ranked UCLA), were on their heels early in Sunday's match, beginning in the fifth minute, when Connecticut's Jessica Shufelt bent a dangerous ball from the top right of the penalty area that kept curling back on frame before clanging hard off the left post. Notre Dame got its first good offensive look in the 12th minute, as junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) pried the ball free in the left channel and worked a give-and-go sequence with senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit), but Henderson's cut-back cross from the left flank didn't connect with a teammate at the top of the box.
Notre Dame had its own brush with the woodwork in the 17th minute, when freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) won a ball at the edge of the attacking third and pushed it wide on the left for freshman midfielder Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit). She then served a left-side cross into the heart of the area, where senior forward/defender Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard) settled the ball, pushed a dribble against the grain and unleashed a left-footed shot towards the far right post, but the ball clipped the inside of the iron, pinballed across the face of goal and then spun over the end line for a goal kick.
The Fighting Irish looked to have taken the lead less than four minutes into the second half, when Henderson ran on to a perfectly-weighted chip from freshman forward Adriana Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) and slotted it home, but the center referee apparently spotted a foul off the ball near the top of the penalty box, wiping out the score.
Ten minutes later, Fugowski put the visitors on the board, taking a right-side cross from Shufelt at the top of the box and quickly snapping a low shot inside the right post at 58:04.
Trailing for only the second time all season (following a 25-minute stretch at UCLA on Sept. 10), Notre Dame battled back and had a golden opportunity just past the hour mark. Scheidler sent a cross in from the right flank, with Augustin going up for a header against Dulski that deflected to the right end line. After a bad UConn clear, Henderson got another chance with a right-end shot that was re-directed by a Husky defender to Augustin near the top of the six-yard box, but the veteran's bid for the far left post rolled wide left.
At the midpoint of the second half, Laddish nearly netted the equalizer from the corner flag, bending her service from the far left flag towards the right post, but Fugowski stood fast at that position and was able to head the ball off the line before her teammates cleared the loose change out of danger.
That turned out to be a huge play, as Fugowski iced the win herself at the 73:00 mark. The play started innocently enough on the right side as the Huskies served a hopeful cross into the box, but the Fighting Irish defense mis-hit its clearing attempt and the ball settled to Fugowski in the goal mouth and she converted the eight-yard shot into the left side of the net.
Notre Dame had a handful of opportunities to get in the scoring column down the stretch. With 11:45 left, Augustin took a through-ball on the right side from Scheidler and hammered a drive short-side to the right post, but Dulski did well to get down and parry the ball wide of the target. Five minutes later, Henderson whipped a cross in from the right that carried over the UConn defense to an unmarked Augustin on the back post, but her short-range shot sailed over the bar.
The last Fighting Irish chance came with less than four minutes to play, when senior defender/co-captain Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) drove a header on frame from an Augustin corner kick, but Dulski knocked down the shot and the ball was cleared out for a second try from the flag. On the second corner, Augustin's left-side try rattled around the six-yard box and looked to be headed for goal, but Dulski came out of nowhere to dive on the ball at the goal line with the rest of her body stretching into the net.
Notre Dame now will have a little more than a week to wait before the announcement of the 64-team 2010 NCAA Championship field at approximately 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 8 live on ESPNU. The first four rounds of the tournament are played at campus sites, beginning with first and second round matches on Nov. 12 & 14, and continuing with third-round contests (Nov. 19-21) and quarterfinal matches (Nov. 27-29). This year's NCAA Women's College Cup to be played Dec. 3 & 5 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
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: In addition to being an NCAA Division I record (22 matches longer than North Carolina's previous record from 1994-2000), Notre Dame's 77-match unbeaten streak against conference opponents was the fourth-longest run across all divisions in NCAA history -- the three longer ones are by Division III programs: an active 112-match run by Hardin-Simmons (Texas), a 101-match streak by Oneonta State (N.Y.) from 1999-2007 and a 93-match string by Wheaton (Mass.) from 2000-08 ... the Fighting Irish were 98-0-1 in their previous 99 home matches against conference opponents, with Sunday's loss being the first since Connecticut defeated Notre Dame, 5-4 in overtime on Oct. 6, 1995 -- UConn is the only BIG EAST team ever to beat the Fighting Irish at home in Notre Dame's 16-year league affiliation ... the Fighting Irish lost their first-ever home match in BIG EAST Championship play, having previously gone 17-0-0 with a 63-4 scoring margin in those contests ... prior to Sunday's loss, Notre Dame was 11-0-0 in BIG EAST quarterfinal matches (all at home) and had a 45-1 scoring margin since the conference added that round of tournament play in 1998 ... the Fighting Irish fall to 35-3-1 (.910) all-time in the BIG EAST Championship, seeing their 15-match league tournament unbeaten streak (14-0-1) ended with their first loss in the event since Nov. 7, 2004, when Connecticut earned a 2-1 win over Notre Dame in the BIG EAST title match at Storrs, Conn.; Notre Dame drew 1-1 at West Virginia in 2007, with the Mountaineers taking the title on penalty kicks (the result is recorded as a tie) ... the Fighting Irish seniors lost a postseason match at home for the first time in their careers, ending a 15-match winning streak (with 12 shutouts and a 44-5 scoring margin) in South Bend in the postseason ... Notre Dame had its 23-match Alumni Stadium winning streak end, losing at its two-year-old facility for only the second time and the first since its opener against North Carolina (6-0) on Sept. 4, 2009 ... Notre Dame had its 17-match unbeaten streak (15-0-2) on Sundays come to an end, losing on the final day of a weekend for the first time since Sept. 23, 2007, when 14th-ranked Penn State took a 2-1 win over the Fighting Irish at old Alumni Field ... Notre Dame was shut out for the first time all season (last clean sheet against the Fighting Irish came in last year's College Cup semifinals, a 1-0 loss to North Carolina in College Station, Texas, on Dec. 4, 2009) ... Notre Dame falls to 174-5-2 (.967) all-time at home against unranked opponents (according to the NSCAA poll), losing at home to an unranked foe for the first time since Oct. 29, 2003, when Michigan upset the second-ranked Fighting Irish, 3-2 on Senior Day at old Alumni Field.