Nov. 2, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Junior forward Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) had two assists and set up two other goals, part of a three-goal eruption in the opening 15 minutes, and senior All-America forward/Hermann Trophy candidate Kerri Hanks (Allen, Texas/Allen) added two more assists as top-ranked Notre Dame rolled over Cincinnati, 5-0, in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal game on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field.
With the victory, the Irish head back to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals for the 13th time in their 14-year conference membership, with Notre Dame scheduled to take on Marquette in the semifinal round at 5 p.m. (ET) Friday at Alumni Field. It will mark the third time in the past four years that the Irish and Golden Eagles will tangle in the conference semifinals, with Notre Dame winning 3-0 in 2005 (at MU's Valley Fields) and 2-0 in 2006 (at Storrs, Conn.).
No. 17/15 West Virginia will take on Connecticut in Friday's other semifinal at 2:30 p.m. (ET), also at Alumni Field. Both the semifinals and championship final will be broadcast live to a national cable audience on CBS College Sports (DirecTV channel 613/Dish Network channel 152), as well as on a pay-per-view basis via the official BIG EAST multimedia web site (www.bigeast.tv).
Notre Dame's win also extended its unbeaten streak over BIG EAST opponents to 50 games (48-0-2), matching the second-longest streak of its kind in NCAA Division I history (Florida - 1997-2001). The current record holder is North Carolina, which went unbeaten in 55 consecutive games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents from 1994-2000.
Senior defender Elise Weber (Elk Grove, Ill./St. Viator Academy) scored her first goal of the season, while junior midfielder Courtney Rosen (Brecksville, Ohio/Hathaway Brown) and sophomore forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) each tallied their third goals of the year. Weber also became the 17th different Irish player to score a goal this season, tying the school record originally set by the 1996 club (which also previously held the record for most point-scorers in a season with 20, before this year's squad topped that mark with 21).
The Irish (19-0-0) dominated the Bearcats in all facets of the game, outshooting the visitors by a 30-4 count (18-1 in shots in goal). Notre Dame also took all eight corner kicks, while Cincinnati (10-7-3) was charged with 17 fouls to 14 for the Irish. In addition, there were five yellow cards handed out during the afternoon, with three going to UC players.
Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo) was hardly tested in the Notre Dame nets on Sunday, making one save on a harmless shot from distance that rolled into the box. At halftime, Lysander gave way to sophomore Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate), who could be the envy of many 'keepers around the country as she literally never touched the ball -- not even for a backpass or goal kick -- in the final 45 minutes. The end result was Notre Dame's 12th shutout of the season (fourth in the past five games) and the eighth combined whitewash for Lysander and Weiss.
"This was a very good result for us to start the postseason," Irish head coach Randy Waldrum. "We all know how important it is to get out to an early lead and I thought that the way we got out and set the tone right away was critical. I was especially pleased with the consistent level of energy and intensity we got from every single player up and down the lineup today. Michele (Weissenhofer) gave us that spark from the opening kickoff and really played one of her better games of the season. Now we'll get ready for a very good Marquette team that played us tough here at home last month."
Waldrum made a strategic move to start Weissenhofer on the front line and slide senior All-American/Hermann Trophy candidate Brittany Bock (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) to the attacking midfielder position. It took all of 60 seconds for that decision to pay off, as Weissenhofer launched one of her trademark flip-throws from the right sideline, and the ball carried all the way into the six-yard box, where a pair of Cincinnati defenders converged, but couldn't keep the ball out of the net for an own-goal and a 1-0 Irish lead.
Weissenhofer then added two more conventional assists in a span of 2:40 to help Notre Dame pull away. First, she dropped off a pass for Weber on the left wing, where the veteran back slanted to the corner of the penalty box, eased around a defender and uncorked a rising shot that nestled into the top right corner of the net at 12:15. Moments later, Hanks drove a corner kick into the area, with Weissenhofer cutting inside her defender to flick a header towards the far post. Her shot was cleared off the line by a UC defender, but the clearance caromed upwards off the underside of the crossbar before deflecting back out to an on-rushing Rosen, who muscled the ball home at 14:55.
Hanks picked up her second assist of the afternoon later in the first half, finding Knaack on an overlapping run down the left flank. Knaack cut back against the grain and drove a twisting 30-yard rocket that UC 'keeper Andrea Kaminski dove in vain to stop before it curled into the top left corner of the net at 34:07. Hanks' two assists also extended her point-scoring streak to a school-record 15 games, breaking the old mark set by her former teammate Katie Thorlakson in 2005.
Notre Dame took 14 of the 15 shots registered in the second half, and while the Irish peppered Kaminski from all angles in the period, they added just one goal to the margin. Again, Weissenhofer's flip-throw was the culprit, as her toss sailed into the area, where it appeared the Cincinnati defense overcompensated with several additional guardians on the goal line, but they only managed to play the ball back into their net for the second own-goal of the day at 61:26.
Tickets for the BIG EAST Championship semifinals and finals at Alumni Field are available by visiting the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office in person (Joyce Center second floor ticket windows, accessible via Gate 1) or by calling (574) 631-7356 weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Tickets also may be purchased by going on-line to the tickets page of the official Irish athletics web site, or visiting the Alumni Field ticket booths on game day. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for youths (21-and-under) and seniors (55-and-older), with Notre Dame/Saint Mary's/Holy Cross students admitted free when presenting their valid student ID -- restrictions for some pricing offers may apply.
POST GAME NOTES: The Irish improve to 30-2-1 (.924) all-time in BIG EAST Championship play, including a 14-0 record at Alumni Field (55-4 scoring margin) and a 10-0 mark in conference quarterfinals (40-1 scoring margin) ... since Miami (Fla.) took the Irish to overtime in a 2-1 Notre Dame victory in the 2003 BIG EAST quarterfinals at Alumni Field, the Irish have shut out their last five conference quarterfinal opponents by a combined score of 23-0 (St. John's 7-0, Georgetown 6-0, St. John's 3-0, Rutgers 2-0 and Cincinnati 5-0, chronologically) ... Notre Dame is 9-0-1 in its last 10 BIG EAST Championship games, dating back to a 2-1 loss at Connecticut in the 2004 conference final; last year's BIG EAST title game ended in a 1-1 tie at West Virginia before the Mountaineers prevailed on penalty kicks (5-3) ... the Irish seniors now are 14-0-0 all-time in postseason games (BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments) at Alumni Field, shutting out 11 of those 14 opponents ... Notre Dame's goal exactly one minute into Sunday's win over Cincinnati was the fastest for the Irish in any game since the 2006 BIG EAST final, when Kerri Hanks scored 57 seconds into a 4-2 Notre Dame win at Storrs, Conn.; it also was the fourth-fastest goal of the Randy Waldrum era (1999-present) ... Notre Dame scored a goal in the opening 20 minutes of play for the 13th time in 19 games this season, scoring inside the first 10 minutes for the fifth time this year ... the Irish have led for nearly 73 percent of the total minutes played this season (1,252:51 of a possible 1,716:58) and have trailed for a total of 1:59 (all against Friday's opponent Marquette on Oct. 5 at Alumni Field) ... besides tying Florida for second on the NCAA Division I list for consecutive unbeaten games against conference opposition (50), Notre Dame also extends its home unbeaten streak against BIG EAST teams to 85 games (84-0-1), dating back more than 13 years (Oct. 6, 1995 - a 5-4 OT loss to Connecticut) ... Notre Dame scored multiple goals for the 12th consecutive game, matching the fourth-longest run of two-goal games in school history (Sept. 12-Oct. 24, 1997) ... the Irish tied a season high with 18 shots on goal, equaling the total they posted in the season opener against Michigan (a 7-0 win) on Aug. 22 at Alumni Field ... in addition to breaking Katie Thorlakson's 2005 school record with a point in her 15th consecutive game, Hanks also passed Thorlakson for the most career assists by an Irish player in BIG EAST Championship play, notching her eighth and ninth helpers (Thorlakson had eight from 2002-05) ... Hanks now has 68 career assists, propelling her past Cindy Daws (67 from 1993-96) into fourth place on the Notre Dame all-time chart ... Hanks (82G-68A) now is just two assists away from becoming the third player in NCAA Division I history to amass 70 goals and 70 assists in her career, joining the legendary former U.S. National Team standout and North Carolina alum Mia Hamm (103G-72A from 1989-93) and former Irish All-American Jenny Streiffer (70G-71A from 1996-99); Streiffer also is third on the Irish career assists list, the next player ahead of Hanks in that category ... the BIG EAST Championship semifinals and finals can be seen live on the Internet via the official BIG EAST Conference multimedia web site (www.bigeast.tv) at a cost of $3.95 per game ... in addition, Sunday's title game will be broadcast through the BIG EAST-Regional Sports Networks package with clearances (through Oct. 31) as follows: SNY - Sportsnet New York, Cox Sports Television in New England, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Time Warner Wisconsin, West Virginia Public Television, Comcast in Louisiana, Comcast in Florida, Comcast in Texas and Catch47 in Tampa; in addition, Comcast in Philadelphia and MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) will air the game on a same-day tape delay basis, while other clearances may be announced at a later date.