Nov. 8, 2009
STORRS, Conn. - The No. 4/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish women's soccer team earned a defiant victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles to claim the 2009 BIG EAST Championship in a physical matchup of No. 1 seeds on Sunday afternoon at Connecticut's Morrone Stadium.
The Irish had taken a 1-0 lead early in the first half only to see the Golden Eagles tie the game late in the first half before senior midfielder Amanda Clark (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at 70:13. The win marked the 11th BIG EAST title in program history and Notre Dame's fourth conference crown in the past five seasons.
There were an abundance of scoring chances in the first half, beginning with Marquette earning a corner kick just one minute into the game that was headed harmlessly wide of the Irish goal. Notre Dame's first scoring chance came five minutes into the game when Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) kept a ball alive in the Marquette box that Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) fired just wide of the net.
In the eighth minute, Marquette's Becky Ryan received a pass in the Irish box and put a shot on net that Irish goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) dove to her right to knock away for her first save of the match.
Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) then cleared a loose ball off the Irish line for a corner kick in the 11th-minute. The Notre Dame defense made a quick clear and moved forward on the counter attack. Molly Campbell (Mission Hills, Kan./St. Teresa's Acad.) floated a ball from the midfield into the Marquette box where Henderson settled it for an onrushing Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Acad.). Fowlkes fired a low drive into the far right corner of the net to beat Golden Eagle goalkeeper Natalie Kulla at 12:09. The goal was Fowlkes' 10th of the year and her third of the BIG EAST tournament. It also marked the first goal that Kulla had given up in over 760 minutes in the Marquette net.
The Golden Eagles answered with a goal of their own at 22:12. For the equalizer, Julia Victor sent a bounding ball into the box that eluded the Irish defense and Rachel Sloan nodded it into the net for her seventh goal of the year.
With the score tied at 1-1, the physical intensity picked up as the half wore on. With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Irish nearly took the lead back when Michele Weisenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) sent in a patented flip-throw from the near sideline that fell to Fowlkes, who volleyed a drive off Kulla's right post. The rebound bounced to Henderson's feet, and she sent a drive in only to see it bounce off Kulla's left post, keeping the teams tied 1-1 at the half.
The Irish earned their first scoring chance of the second half when Courtney Barg (Plano Texas/Plano West) took a free-kick from 28-yards out that Kulla turned aside for one of her five saves of the afternoon. Moments later, Schuveiller made an important clear in the Irish box that resulted in a Marquette corner kick. On the ensuing corner, Kerry McBride sent a header over the top of Weiss' net.
Notre Dame had another chance when Fowlkes sent a through ball into the box that Henderson nearly chipped in but Kulla was there to smother the chance in the 62nd minute.
After withstanding some pressure, Notre Dame was able to capitalize with just under 20 minutes remaining for what proved to be the decisive strike. Henderson found Erica Iantorno's (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) feet with a pass on the far side of the box. The junior quickly slid the ball towards the center of the goal and Clark got a touch on the ball to re-direct it past Kulla for her first career post-season tally.
With just under five minutes left, Marquette's Ryan sent a drive in from the top of the box that was blocked by Schuveiller. The shot ended up being Marquette's last scoring chance.
Kulla finished the game with five saves for Marquette, while Weiss made six saves for Notre Dame. The Golden Eagles held a 5-1 edge on corner kicks, while Notre Dame held a 21-14 advantage on shots.
The No. 4/7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will now wait for the selection committee to announce the 64-team field for the forthcoming 2009 NCAA Women's Soccer Championship to learn when and where they play next. The field will be announced on Nov. 9 at approximately 8:00 pm (EST) on ESPNews and first round games will be played on Nov. 13.
For their roles in Notre Dame's march to the 2009 title, Clark, Schuveiller, Fowlkes, Barg and Weiss were named to the 2009 BIG EAST All-Tournament team. Schuveiller was also named the tournament's Most Outstanding Defensive Player, while Fowlkes was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
Most Outstanding Offensive Performer Lauren Fowlkes, Notre Dame