Nov. 14, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Senior co-captain Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) tallied a goal and two assists to lead a balanced Notre Dame attack, and the No. 7/10 Fighting Irish women's soccer team rocked 22nd-ranked USC with a pair of goals inside the opening 10 minutes, charging to a 4-0 victory in the second round of the NCAA Championship on a bright and brisk Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
The win sends Notre Dame to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the seventh consecutive season and 15th time in program history, all in the past 17 years (10th in the 12-year tenure of head coach Randy Waldrum). The Fighting Irish next face third-ranked (and top-seeded) North Carolina in an NCAA round-of-16 match at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C. -- that match is scheduled for 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday (Nov. 20). It will mark the fifth consecutive season and the 10th time overall that Notre Dame and UNC have met in NCAA Championship play.
Fowlkes capped off a sensational weekend with her four-point day, giving her a combined eight points (3G-2A) in the first two rounds of this year's NCAA tournament. Junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) also enjoyed a multi-point afternoon with her team-leading 16th goal and career-high eighth assist of the season, while senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) and freshman forward Adriana Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) bracketed the day's scoring, and senior defender Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard) punctuated a strong all-around effort with a first-half assist.
For the second consecutive match, Notre Dame's goalkeepers split the shutout, as senior Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) went the first 83:15 before giving way to sophomore Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh). Weiss made three saves, and Fox was not called upon to make a stop as the Fighting Irish chalked up their 12th clean sheet of the season. Shelby Church went the distance for USC and was credited with four saves.
Notre Dame (17-2-2) held a 16-13 shot edge on the Trojans, a margin that was somewhat deceiving due to USC pushing up additional attackers later in the match and having numerous shots blocked by the Fighting Irish defense before they could become true threats. Notre Dame also had an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal, and a 3-2 margin in corner kicks, while the Trojans were called for nine of the 16 fouls (and both yellow cards) in the match.
"This was probably our most complete 90-minute performance of the season," Waldrum said. "Our players really came out with great focus and energy and carried that all the way through the entire game. USC is a very talented team and we knew that we would have a physical, experienced opponent on our hands, and I thought we met that challenge. Getting those two early goals also really changed the complexion of the game, both tactically and emotionally, but I liked the way we handled the lead and managed the game from that point on. We'll take a moment to enjoy this, but then it's time to get back to work and start preparing for Carolina next weekend."
The Fighting Irish took much of the wind out of USC's sails with two goals in a 74-second span within the first 10 minutes of the match. Augustin kicked off the fireworks at 7:12 by tracking down a loose ball in the right channel 25 yards from goal and unleashing a wicked left-footed blast that knuckled a bit in the wind and settled into the upper left 90 of the goal, just off the outstretched fingertips of Church. It turned out to be Augustin's 10th goal and third game-winner of the season, setting career highs in both departments.
A little more than a minute later, Notre Dame got its all-important second goal off the right foot of Fowlkes. Junior midfielder Courtney Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West) started the sequence by switching the point of attack to the right flank with an angled pass for Scheidler, who was making a run along the far touch line. The diminutive back cut back towards the top of the box and served a sharp cross into the heart of the penalty area, with the ball finding Fowlkes in space near the top of the six-yard box, and the veteran had only to zip a low shot inside the right post past a helpless Church (8:26).
USC (13-6-3) had its first good look of the afternoon in the 17th minute, as Brittany Kerridge drove a long-distance shot that Weiss did well to tip over the bar. Haley Boysen came on as a substitute before the ensuing corner kick and almost immediately paid dividends, getting her head on Karter Haug's service but nodding the shot high.
Notre Dame had another golden opportunity just past the half-hour mark, as sophomore defender Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) sprang Henderson on a run down the left side. She then cut towards the edge of the box before driving a cross back towards the top of the area for Augustin, whose 10-yard shot was ticketed for the right side netting before Church came up with a huge diving stop. The rebound popped out to Leon on the right side, and her eight-yard shot also seemed headed for paydirt, but Church again got a piece of the ball, this time steering it wide of the left post.
The Trojans' best look of the day came with about five minutes to go in the first half, as Ashley Freyer delivered a clever backheel pass from the penalty spot to Elizabeth Eddy streaking down the right side of the box, but Eddy's shot sailed high and wide of the mark.
USC earned a couple of set-piece chances in the early stages of the second half, including a free kick by Ashli Sandoval from 25 yards out straight-on, but her strike went high.
Notre Dame then erased all doubt about Sunday's verdict in the 58th minute. Fowlkes picked off an errant Trojans' clearance just outside the top of the box and squared off a pass to Henderson on the left side. The speedy Texan drove back across the grain into the area and then snapped a low shot back inside the left post at 57:39.
At that point, USC pushed one of its backs up into the attack, leaving the Trojans' retaining line vulnerable to a Fighting Irish push, which is exactly what happened. Notre Dame's pressure on the exhausted USC defense paid off one last time, as Fowlkes whipped a cross in from the left side, with Henderson flicking the pass into the goalmouth and Leon converting from point-blank range at 70:01.
The Fighting Irish now will get set to make their second trip to Chapel Hill in four seasons for an NCAA third-round match. Back in 2007, Notre Dame toppled the Tar Heels, 3-2 at Fetzer Field, scoring twice in a 14-second span early in the first half and then holding off a UNC rally. All-time, the Fighting Irish are 3-1 against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, including a 1-0 victory in their last visit on Sept. 5, 2008.
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POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame rises to 55-15-1 (.782) all-time in 18 NCAA Championship appearances, including a 44-3-0 (.936) record when playing at home (5-0-0 since moving to Alumni Stadium last season) ... the Fighting Irish have won their last seven NCAA Championship second-round matches by a combined score of 18-1, logging six shutouts in that time ... since 1993, Notre Dame has reached the round-of-16 in the NCAA Championship each season except for second-round losses at old Alumni Field in both 2001 (3-2 to Cincinnati) and 2003 (1-0 to Michigan) ... Notre Dame moves to 17-6-1 (.729) all-time against the Pac-10 Conference, including a 10-1-0 record at home and a current 10-match winning streak since Stanford won the Pac-10's first-ever match against the Fighting Irish in South Bend (3-0 on Oct. 4, 1992) ... Notre Dame is 6-1-0 against Pac-10 opponents in the NCAA Championship, including a 4-0-0 record in South Bend, defeating a Pac-10 team in the NCAA tourney for the second consecutive season (1-0 third-round win over Oregon State last year at Alumni Stadium) ... Fowlkes is the first Fighting Irish player with a multi-assist match in the NCAA Championship since Kerri Hanks assisted on both goals in the Nov. 28, 2008, quarterfinal win over sixth-ranked Florida State at old Alumni Field ... Henderson now has scored a goal in five of her last seven NCAA tournament matches, piling up 20 points (9G-2A) in those seven contests ... the Fighting Irish improve to 34-0-2 all-time when Henderson scores a goal, and 41-0-2 all-time when she tallies at least one point ... Augustin's eighth-minute goal marked the 10th time this season that Notre Dame has scored inside the opening 15 minutes ... the two goals by Augustin and Fowlkes in a 74-second span was the second-quickest scoring flurry of the season for the Fighting Irish -- Henderson and Augustin netted scores 47 seconds apart midway through the first half of a 2-0 win over Texas Tech on Sept. 5 in the title match of the Inn at Saint Mary's Classic at Alumni Stadium ... Notre Dame now is 326-0-1 all-time when taking a 2-0 lead, and is unbeaten in its last 303 matches when going on top by that score ... the Fighting Irish lift their all-time record when scoring three goals in a match to 295-3-1 (.988), including a 197-1-0 record since Oct. 6, 1995 ... Notre Dame's victory was part of an impressive 4-1 record by BIG EAST Conference teams in Sunday's NCAA Championship second-round matches -- Georgetown (T, 1-1; 3-2 PK at top-seeded Maryland), Marquette (T, 2-2, 5-4 PK vs. Wisconsin) and West Virginia (W, 2-1 vs. Penn State) will join the Fighting Irish in the round of 16, while South Florida just missed joining the conference's third-round party with a 2-1 loss at Florida State ... the four teams from the past two College Cups now will face off in a pair of third-round matches this season, with Notre Dame-North Carolina and Stanford-UCLA reprising last year's College Cup semifinals in College Station, Texas.