Nov. 13, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Notre Dame saw its season come to an end Sunday afternoon, falling 1-0 to No. 16/13 Illinois at the Illinois Soccer Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Championship.
In extremely windy conditions that saw sustained winds of 40 miles per hour blowing from south to north, shots came at a premium, seeing the final tally lend Illinois a five-shot advantage at 14-9. The Fighting Illini also posted an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal, including 6-0 during the second half.
Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit), Rebecca Twining (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist School) and Adriana Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) each got shots on target for the Fighting Irish, but Illinois goalkeeper Steph Pannozo got her hands on all of them to preserve the shutout.
Junior goalkeeper Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh) kept her squad in the game recording a career-high seven saves in the match, including five important saves in the second half. The lone tally for Illinois came off the foot of Niki Read, with the 50th-minute tally standing up as the match-winner.
"Reflecting back I'm certainly proud of this senior class," Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "I'm disappointed for them and that we didn't get a chance to continue playing but looking back at it what a great career they had. I'm disappointed to see this group leave. I think we lost to a very good Illinois team today that was prepared to play and I didn't think we were very good offensively the whole day. You can't not create chances in this kind of a game and expect to advance so we'll get back and we'll get to work for next season. I'm really proud of our senior class and the team, though. The team fought really hard every game this year. Whether we won or lost we always fought until the end and I thought we did that again today."
"I think Maddie Fox was outstanding in goal for us today," Waldrum continued. "I thought when we had to go to three backs to try and push somebody forward to try and get another goal I thought she made two or three really good saves for us in the effort today, but we just didn't create enough offensively to advance."
With the Fighting Irish (10-8-3) playing with the wind for the first half of play, it didn't take long for Notre Dame to get an attack in the Illini box as Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) got separation eight yards out and was able to get her head on a through ball. The Fighting Irish sophomore could not connect with the header squarely, however, as it went wide to the left side of the net.
Notre Dame managed to continue to pressure the Illini back line in the opening 45 minutes, putting six more shots on frame during the half, including another near-miss in the 22nd minute when Twining fired a shot from just outside the 18-yard box that was touched off target by Pannozo, one of three saves for the Illini keeper in the first half.
With the teams switching ends for the second half and Notre Dame now playing into the teeth of the wind, Illinois (17-4-2) wasted little time capitalizing as Read struck a shot from 30 yards out that found its way just under the crossbar at 49:45 to stake the Fighting Illini to the 1-0 advantage.
With the Fighting Irish needing to find an equalizer, the squad brought forward another attacker. Illinois looked to take advantage of the aggressive Notre Dame attack, but Fox posted a pair of saves on Marissa Mykines within five minutes of each other, while Vanessa DiBernardo also sent a direct kick from 20 yards out over the crossbar to keep the score 1-0.
Notre Dame's offense, however, was unable to find any openings on the Illinois side of the field as, heading into the wind, it was only able to register two shots, neither of which found its way on target.
POST MATCH NOTES: Notre Dame falls in the first round of the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1993, when it dropped a 2-1 decision to 10th-ranked George Mason in Madison, Wis. ... seven of the eight Fighting Irish losses this season came by one goal, including five at the hands of ranked opponents ... Fox's previous career high for saves in a match had been six, set on three occasions this season (the last on Sept. 25 at #14/15 Marquette) ... Sunday marked just the third time all year Notre Dame was held scoreless, with the others being a 1-0 loss at home to Louisville on Sept. 16, and a scoreless draw at Rutgers on Oct. 9 ... the loss was just the fourth for the Fighting Irish in their last 30 matches on Sunday (now 26-4), with Notre Dame now 41-6-5 (.837) on Sundays since September 2007 ... Notre Dame's three shots on goal were the fewest for the Fighting Irish since a season-low two against No. 21/10 Duke on Aug. 28 in Chapel Hill, N.C.