Nov. 22, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - In a highly competitive contest, sometimes all it takes is one bounce to tip the advantage in one's favor. For the Notre Dame women's soccer team and sophomore forward/midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip), that one bounce was all it took.
Roccaro, a finalist for the U.S Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year award, scored the second NCAA postseason goal of her collegiate career in the 69th minute, lifting No. 23/19 Notre Dame to a 1-0 win over Western Michigan Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Championship at the U-M Soccer Stadium.
The Fighting Irish (13-7-1) improved to 64-17-1 (.787) all-time in NCAA tournament play, and will face the winner of Michigan Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) in the third round of the NCAA Championship at the U-M Soccer Stadium.
Notre Dame outshot Western Michigan 24-4 (15-1 in the second half) for the match, and held an 8-2 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish also attempted three corner kicks to the one corner attempt for the Broncos.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) posted her second consecutive stellar effort in net, turning aside two shots to earn her first career NCAA Championship shutout. Little has allowed only one goal in 180 minutes of NCAA tournament play.
"I thought we played really well today in terms of ball possession and ball movement," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Credit to Western Michigan, they are tough to break down defensively and we knew that. We knew they would kind of bunker in a little bit and we showed a lot of patience through the game trying to cope with that.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword, I am proud of the job Nate (Norman) has done as a Notre Dame grad, to see him do well with Western Michigan," he added. "I think he has done a fabulous job this year, and a lot of credit for how Western Michigan performed goes to him and his staff. For us, it was a good night."
After a back-and-forth first half, the Fighting Irish had the first scoring chance of the second stanza after a cross from the right flank found its way to senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) in the 51st minute, but her blast travelled just over the net and out of harm's way for Western Michigan (12-6-1).
Tucker then won a free ball in the 58th minute and brought the ball up the left wing. A left-footed cross to freshman Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) in the box was flicked on by the Notre Dame midfielder, but Western Michigan goalkeeper Michelle Watson snagged the header and held on.
Notre Dame finally broke through just before the 70th minute, as Roccaro drilled a kick from the far left side that froze Watson and bent itself into the bottom right corner of the net at 68:59.
"Not every goal is going to go in, you're going to shoot and shoot, but it's that one goal that counts," Andrews, who had a game-high five shots, said. "And that one goal won it for us today, and that was Cari. It was a great thing for us."
After both teams jockeyed for position on the pitch for the first five minutes of the contest, sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) was finally able to weave through traffic 4:57 into the match and fired a shot on frame from 16 yards out toward the right post. Western Michigan's Watson made a sprawling save to corral the shot and keep Notre Dame off the scoreboard.
Sophomore defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) served a beautiful cross in from near the right sideline during the seventh minute that Andrews was able to get a right foot on. Andrews' blast from just inside the 18-yard box was toward the frame but tailed just a bit high and out of play.
Notre Dame had its best scoring opportunity of the first half on a long shot from junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita). The shot forced Watson slightly off her line, but the Bronco keeper made a nice play on the ball to snap it out of the air.
With short turnaround time to prepare for Sunday's third-round opponent, Waldrum said that the team is going to do its best to refine its strengths with such a brief window in between contests.
"I've always been about what we are doing as a team, and if we do what we do well, we can beat anyone in the country," Waldrum said. "We've got to take care of the ball (Sunday) and make it a priority to make good decisions with the ball. If we can keep our rhythm, I think we will be fine. We will create chances and get opportunities."
For more information on the Fighting Irish women's soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDsoccernews or @NDsoccer), like the Fighting Irish on Facebook (facebook.com/NDWomenSoccer) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.
#23/19 Notre Dame 1, Western Michigan 0
NCAA Championship - Second Round
Nov. 22, 2013
Ann Arbor, Mich. (U-M Soccer Stadium)
Western Michigan 0 0 -- 0
Notre Dame 0 1 -- 1
ND 1. Cari Roccaro 5 (Elizabeth Tucker) 68:59.
Total Shots: WMU 4 (3-1), ND 24 (9-15)
Shots on Goal: WMU 2 (1-1), ND 8 (3-5)
Saves: WMU 7 (Michelle Watson 7 in 90:00), ND 2 (Kaela Little 2 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: WMU 1 (0-1), ND 3 (0-3)
Fouls: WMU 2 (1-1), ND 5 (4-1)
Offsides: WMU 0, ND 1
Records: WMU 12-6-5, Notre Dame 13-7-1
Next for ND: vs. Michigan (NCAA Championship third round), Nov. 24 (1 p.m. ET, U-M Soccer Stadium).
-- Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant