Nov. 24, 2007
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Sophomore forward Michele Weissenhofer and senior goalkeeper Lauren Karas led the way with multiple clutch plays, as the 11th-ranked Notre Dame women's soccer team emerged with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in Saturday's NCAA round-of-16 game at fourth-ranked North Carolina. Notre Dame (18-4-2) extended its unbeaten streak to 16 games and next will play host to an NCAA quarterfinal game on Friday, Nov. 30, at 7:00 eastern. The Irish will face the winner of Sunday's game between Indiana at Duke.
(Note: this recap now includes additional game details and updated team notes; quotes will be posted as a separate release, when available; also see UNC's site www.tarheelblue.com, which may include a podcast of the postgame press conference).
Weissenhofer's pair of goals and assist represents one of only four times in Notre Dame women's soccer history that an Irish player has totaled five or more points versus a top-five opponent, and she is the first on that short list to do so during NCAA Tournament play.
Notre Dame became the first team to score three-plus goals versus North Carolina in seven years and the first to do so in an NCAA Tournament setting since 1990. Notre Dame's fourth-year players now have compiled the most career victories (90-9-4) of any senior class from the current 314 Division I teams, leaving them two victories shy of tying the Irish record for career wins by a graduating class. The Irish also now own the nation's best record during the past four NCAA Tournaments (17-2-0), with four straight trips to at least the quarterfinals (the '04 team won the NCAA title while the '06 squad was runner-up).
The Irish overcame the midgame loss of junior left back Elise Weber, who went down with an injury late in the second half. Weber, an all-BIG EAST Conference selection and one of 12 defenders nationwide who are on the Hermann Trophy ballot, was replaced by freshman Stephanie Sohn for the final minutes of the opening half but senior Ashley Jones then did a solid job at left back in the second half. Jones - who has appeared in all 103 of Notre Dame's games during her career (tying the ND record for career GP) - has played mostly midfield this season but also has extensive experience playing at both outside back positions.
Weissenhofer's rightside flip-throw assisted on Brittany Bock's 15th goal of the season - and her 19th career goal on a header - in the 13th minute of play, but the score then quickly changed to 2-0 before the spirited contingent of Irish fans had settled back into their seats at Fetzer Field. North Carolina (19-4-1) turned over possession on the ensuing kickoff and Kerri Hanks fired the ball back towards the UNC penalty area, with Weissenhofer alertly chasing the play and driving a low shot into the vacated net after the Tar Heels' goalkeeper mishandled the bouncing ball.
The goals came only 14 seconds apart, representing the quickest back-to-back scores ever by the Irish in a postseason game. It also dramatically ended a series of slow starts to games this season for the Irish, who had totaled only four goals during the first 15 minutes of their 2007 games prior to Saturday's two-goal sequence. Bock's goal was the third-quickest for the Irish all season and the earliest in a game since mid-September.
The goals by Bock and Weissenhofer easily represented Notre Dame's earliest 2-0 lead of the season, doing so in half the time that it took to go ahead 2-0 on Georgetown in the BIG EAST semifinals (when Bock and Rose Augustin, interestingly enough, scored 38 second apart in the 25th minute). This actually marks the third straight weekend that the Irish have scored quick back-to-back goals, with two scores coming in a span of 1:15 during the NCAA opener to cap that 3-0 win over Loyola Chicago.
North Carolina - which had outscored the opposition 25-2 in the first half of its 23 previous games this season - jumped right back in the game early in the second half, when Allie Long sent home a penalty kick, but Weissenhofer struck again on a breakaway in the 61st minute. UNC again battled back, with Nikki Washington heading in a free-kick service, but the veteran goalkeeper Karas and the ever-improving Irish back line made the key plays down the stretch for the 3-2 win.
Notre Dame (3-9-2) joins Santa Clara (4-14-0) as the only teams ever to defeat North Carolina more than twice. UNC had owned a decided advantage in recent years, going 6-1-0 versus the Irish in the past seven meetings (dating back to the 1996 NCAA championship game). The Irish do own a 2-1-0 series margin versus UNC in games played at at Fetzer Field, including a 1-0 win in the 1995 NCAA semifinals.
Karas had a strong all-around game that included coming up with five saves - several of the game-changing variety - while freshman right back Julie Scheidler also made a huge clear off the line to deny a UNC chance following an early leftside corner-kick service. Scheidler and the rest of Notre Dame's four-player defender group have come a long way since the Irish and Tar Heels played to a 2-2 tie in the 2007 preseason. Most notably, junior center back Carrie Dew steadily has returned to her elite form after undergoing ACL knee surgery that forced her to miss each of the previous two games versus UNC (including the 2-1 loss in the 2006 NCAA final) while Weber has emerged as one of the nation's top outside backs and freshman Lauren Fowlkes has settled in alongside Dew as the other starting back (due to Haley Ford's hamstring injury that has held her out for the past 20 games).
Notre Dame is advancing to the NCAA quarterfinal round for the 11th time in the past 14 seasons (1994-2007), the second-most quarterfinal trips in that span behind UNC's 13. North Carolina, which had won eight one-goal games this season, saw its own 2007 unbeaten streak end at 13 games (12-0-1).
Weissenhofer - whose primetime moments with the Irish include notching a hat trick in the 2006 NCAA quarterfinal win over Penn State - now has totaled six career game-winning goals in postseason play, already the most postseason GWGs ever by a Notre Dame player (besting Monica Gerardo's five, from 1995-98).
North Carolina suffered only its seventh all-time loss in NCAA Tournament play (spanning 26 seasons). Sunday's game marked the first time all season that the Tar Heels had allowed multiple goals while the 2-0 deficit was the first faced by UNC since early in the 2006 season (vs. Connecticut). Florida State was the previous team to score three times versus the Tar Heels (a 3-2 FSU win, on Oct. 17, 2000) while one has to go all the way back to Nov. 11, 1990, to find the previous time that UNC surrendered three goals in an NCAA Tournament game (a 4-3 Tar Heels win over N.C. State).
The hosts nearly jumped on top in the second minute of Sunday's game, following a leftside corner kick from Casey Nogueira. The ball carried to the far post and Whitney Engen sent a sharp header back across the face of the goal. Karas was shifting to her left and was unable to make the save but Scheidler was guarding the post on the other side and one-timed the ball off the line to avert the early deficit (1:08).
Weissenhofer - slowed for most of the season due to an ankle injury - proved to be a clutch goalscorer during the 2006 postseason and now has scored game-winning goals in each of Notre Dame's past two games (after totaling no points over the previous nine games and going 12 games without scoring a goal). She quickly impacted Sunday's game with a flip-throw from the right side, just 10 yards up from the corner-kick flag. The line-drive throw sailed into the heart of the penalty area and Bock was in position at the top of the six-yard box for a flick-header into the far-left side of the goal (12:41). Nearly half of Bock's career goals (19 of 39) have come on headers, including seven this season.
All but one of Bock's 15 goals this season (and all three of her assists) have come during the current unbeaten streak (15-0-1) and she is averaging a goal per game played during that span (14G, 14 GP; did not play in postseason games vs. Rutgers or Illinois). Bock has totaled nine career goals in NCAA Tournament play (12 GP/10 GS), tying her with Jenny Heft ('96-'99) and only one back of the Irish record held by Gerardo (who had 10 career goals in the NCAAs).
UNC was unable to control the ensuing kickoff and Hanks sent the ball in the other direction. Veteran left back Ariel Harris then tried to play a back pass to the `keeper Ashlyn Harris, who could not hold onto the bouncing ball near the top of the box. Weissenhofer stunningly swooped into the area, collected the ball and touched it out to the right before firing into the vacated net for her sixth goal of the season and 24th of her career (12:55). Notre Dame now has won 261 consecutive games when claiming a 2-0 lead, dating back to the 1991 season.
The hosts had a developing chance early in the second half, when a pass was cut back into the top of the box for junior midfielder Yael Averbuch. With Averbuch preparing to possibly crack one of her deadly shots, sophmore midfielder Courtney Rosen slanted over and appeared to deflect the bouncing ball off her shoulder. A hand-ball was called and UNC was awarded a penalty kick. Long - who lost to Notre Dame as a member of Penn State's team during the 2006 NCAA quarterfinals - surveyed the kick while standing at the top edge of the box before striking a well-placed shot into the left side of the goal for a 2-1 game (46:05).
Rosen totaled only one goal and no assists during the 2007 regular season but she now has three key assists during '07 postseason action. Her most recent timely pass came in the 61st minute, on a driven ball off her powerful left foot. UNC's three-player back line was pushed up high but Weissenhofer sprinted free on the left side, beating the offside trap and outracing Robin Gayle as she tried to cut off the angle. The `keeper Harris - who had allowed only six goals all season, prior to Sunday's game - came off her line to challenge but Weissenhofer used her natural left foot to send a 15-yard shot into the right sidenetting, restoring the two-goal cushion (60:19).
Notre Dame failed to properly defense a UNC free kick 10 minutes later, as fifth-year center back Jessica Maxwell struck the ball from 40 yards out on the left side. The service bounced in the center of the penalty area and Karas elected to stay back on her line, with Washington then rushing in and leaping for a header that looped over the `keeper for her seventh goal of the season (69:18), with most of them coming in the past couple weeks.
Karas twice saved dangerous second-half shots by Washington (in the 66th and 86th minutes), with the first coming when she went down to her right and pushed a low shot around the post. That stop later would seem routine when compared to what transpired in the final minute of play. With the clock ticking under 30 seconds remaining, UNC somehow had a quick counter-attack chance down the center of the field. Nogueira was racing free into the attacking third but the battle-tested Karas - now 53-4-2 in her Irish career - made the decision to charge out to the top of the box.
With the `keeper approaching, Nogueira tried a shot from just outside the top of the box. Karas was sliding forward but was able to reach up and deflect the ball, with the Irish defense then getting the clear before watching the final 24 seconds tick off the clock.
Additional notes follow below, after the linescore (quotes to be posted later, when available):
Notre Dame (18-4-2) 2 1 - 3
ND 1. Brittany Bock 15th of season/39th of career (Michele Weissenhofer) 12:41
Shots: ND 4-4 - 8, UNC 8-5 - 13
ND IN THE NCAAs - The Irish improved to 43-12-2 all-time in the NCAAs (.772; 2nd-best pct. behind UNC) ... Sunday's game was the first ND-UNC meeting in the NCAAs that has come earlier than the semifinals ... ND's 17-2-0 combined record in the 2004-07 NCAA Tournaments is best by any team in that four-year span, with others of note including Portland (13-2-1), UNC (12-2-1), UCLA (17-3-0) and Florida State (10-2-2) ... the Irish now are 11-2-0 all-time in the NCAA round-of-16 (35-9 scoring edge in those games) ... a win next week would send ND to the NCAA semifinals for the ninth time (UNC has made 23 semifinal trips, Santa Clara 10 and Portland 8) ... the leaders in NCAA semifinal appearances from 1994-2006 include UNC (11), ND (8), Portland (8) and SCU (7) ... the Irish now are 3-2-1 in NCAA Tournament games played on the opponent's field.
JONES LOGS CAREER GAME #103/SENIOR SALUTE - Jones still has yet to miss a game in her ND career while tying current ND volunteer assistant Jen Buczkowski for the Irish record with 103 career games played ... only three players in the 26-year history of Division I women's soccer have logged more career games: former UNC players Robin Confer (107;1994-97) and Rebeka McDowell (104; 1996-99) and Penn State alum Bonnie Young (104; 1998-2001) ... ND senior F/M Amanda Cinalli now owns 98 career games played, tied for 10th in the ND record book ... the only ND classmates with more combined career games played than Jones and Cinalli (201) are Buczkowski and Christie Shaner (100), with 203 ... Jones and Cinalli have helped the Irish go 90-9-4 (.902) over the past four seasons, making them the nation's winningest senior class for the current season ... the only senior classes to win more games at ND have been the 2006 seniors (92-8-3) and the 1997 seniors (91-6-4) ... among current teams, UNC's seniors ended up a with an 89-10-4 career record (no other current senior class has more than 80 career wins) ... the 90 career wins are tied for 17th in NCAA D-I women's soccer history, behind the two ND classes and 14 from UNC.
WEISS GAL - Weissenhofer (24G-20A) became the 25th member of Notre Dame's 20G-20A club (she had 17A as a freshman) ... her six career game-winning goals in the postseason also include the first goal in last week's second-round win over Illinois (2-0), plus goals in 2006 vs. Marquette (2-0; BIG EAST semifinal), Rutgers (4-2; BIG EAST final), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1-0; NCAA second round) and Penn State (4-0; NCAA quarterfinals) ... the only other players in ND history with five-plus points vs. top-5 opponents include Katie Thorlakson (3G-2A vs. #5 Santa Clara; 9/5/04), Anne Makinen (3G vs. #4 UConn in 1997 BIG EAST title game, held at Rutgers) and Rosella Guerrero (3G in 1992 opener at N.C. State) ... Weissenhofer has three career games with five or more points and two have come in the NCAAs (also the 3G vs. Penn State in the '06 NCAA quarterfinals; earlier had 2G-2A in '06 opener vs. Iowa State) ... in addition to setting the ND record for career GWGs in postseason play, Weissenhofer has tied Gerardo's ND record for career GWGs in the NCAAs (4) ... she already ranks 8th on the ND list for career points in the NCAAs (17) while her eight career goals in NCAA Tournament play are only two shy of that Irish record (held by Gerardo; with Jenny Heft and Bock each owning nine career goals in the NCAAs while Hanks and Cinalli have eight each) ... Weissenhofer also had the primary assist on Cinalli's goal that opened the scoring in the exhibition game vs. UNC earlier this season.
BOCK THE ROCK - Notre Dame's potent 2007 roster includes four of the top postseason scorers in the program's history (Hanks, Bock, Cinalli and Weissenhofer) ... Bock's nine career goals in the NCAAs suddenly are only one shy of Gerardo's ND record while her 20 career points in the NCAAs (9G-2A) trail only Thorlakson (29), Hanks (28) and Gerardo (24) ... Bock also owns 14 total postseason goals in her career (5th on that ND list) and has 35 career postseason points (7th) ...she is nearing the 100 career points milestone (97; 39G-19A) and is tied with Shannon Boxx for 14th on the ND career goals list.
ND-UNC SERIES NOTES - Sunday's game was the third meeting between the teams in less than 12 months (they played to a 2-2 tie at ND in an exhibition game earlier this season, plus the 2006 NCAA final won 2-1 by UNC) ... the three goals are the most ND ever has scored vs. UNC (the Irish had 2G vs. UNC in '96, '97 and '99) ...the higher-ranked team is only 6-5-2 in the series (the teams were co-#1 entering the 2006 title game) ... UNC's all-time record (629-20-18) includes only 10 opponents that have totaled at least two games vs. the Tar Heels that were not losses (wins or ties) ... ND is one of those teams and owns the best win pct. from that group (.286: 3-9-2), followed by Santa Clara's .222 (4-14) ... all other teams (besides ND and SCU) are only 25-625-17 vs. UNC (.050), with ND and SCU accounting for more than 40% of the all-time wins over UNC ... ND now is the only team that has played five different games vs. UNC without losing (three wins, two ties).
TWO-GOAL FLURRY - Prior to Sunday's 14-second span, ND's quickest goals in back-to-back postseason games had come in the 2005 BIG EAST quarterfinal vs. Georgetown ... Hanks and Thorlakson scored 17 seconds apart that day, but the goals came midway through the second half of a game that the Irish already led 3-0 ... the previous quickest back-to-back goals for ND in an NCAA Tournament game was the 2004 first-round win over Eastern Illinois, when Kim Lorenzen and Candace Chapman scored 48 seconds apart midway through the second half (to cap a 4-0 win) ... ND never had previously scored two goals in even a two-minute span during an NCAA Tournament game in the round-of-16 or later ... just two weeks ago, Bock and the freshman F/M Augustin scored 38 seconds apart for the 2-0 lead on Georgetown midway through the first half of the BIG EAST semifinals ... then, in the NCAA first round, Dew and Bock scored in a span of 1:15 early in the second half for the final margin in that 3-0 win over Loyola Chicago ... Bock has scored in each of those two-goal flurries during the past three weekends ... former ND player Molly Iarocci and current senior F/M Susan Pinnick scored in a span of 1:48 late in the 2006 NCAA first round win over Oakland (6-1; 7-1 final).
QUICK KICKS - The only ND goals this season that have come earlier than Sunday's opening goal (12:41) were Bock's diving header at Florida in game-2 (6:28; Sept. 2) and a penalty kick by Hanks three weeks later vs. DePaul (7:43; Sept. 21) ... ND has won 78 straight when scoring three-plus goals (261-3-1 all-time when scoring 3-plus, 157-1-0 since mid-1995) ... the Irish entered the game with the nation's 8th-most wins (now 18) ... ND's two-month unbeaten streak now includes a 47-8 scoring edge while limiting the opponents to 112 shots (7.0/gm), 41 shots on goal (2.6) and 40 corner kicks (2.5) ... the Irish have trailed for only 72 minutes during the streak (4.9% of the time) and have not been behind since early in the regular-season finale at Rutgers (a span of 618 minutes without trailing) ... the Irish still have allowed more than two goals only once all season (12 shutouts, 18 games with 0-1 GA) ... her next shot will tie Hanks with Cindy Daws (356) for the ND career shots record ... the Irish are 279-0-1 all-time when claiming a 2-0 lead ... ND is 50-2-1 in its past 53 games when scoring first ... the #1 seeds (UNC and Stanford) and #2 seeds (Texas A&M and Purdue) all failed to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals on ND's half of the bracket, which now includes a #4 seed (ND), a #3 seed (Florida State), unseeded UConn and two other unseeded teams that will play on Sunday (Duke and Indiana) ... if ND advances to the NCAA semifinals (to be played Dec. 7 at Texas A&M), the Irish would face the winner of next week's UConn at FSU game ... on the other side of the bracket, Portland will play at UCLA in the quarterfinals while West Virginia will play at USC ... ND joined fellow BIG EAST teams UConn (2-0 vs. Stanford) and West Virginia (1-0 vs. Penn State) in knocking off #1 seeds this weekend ... a trip to College Station for the College Cup final weekend would be extra sweet for the numerous Texas natives on the ND women's soccer program - namely head coach Randy Waldrum, his assistant coaches Dawn Greathouse and Ben Waldrum, and players such as Karas, Hanks and junior M Becca Mendoza (four others also are Texas natives) ... Waldrum's career record as a D-I women's soccer coach now stands at 291-78-19 for a .775 career win pct. that is second-best among active D-I coaches (he is 183-28-8/.853 in nine years at ND) ... the Irish are 164-24-6 (.861) in the current decade (2000-07) ... ND is 10-3-0 in its past 13 games that have been played in the state of North Carolina ... the Irish are 15-2-0 this season when leading at halftime.