May 22, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- With more than half its 18 matches against teams that qualified for last year's NCAA Championship, including eight contests against squads that advanced to the tournament's third round (Sweet 16) or beyond, few would argue that the 2014 Notre Dame women's soccer schedule will be among the most challenging of any docket in the nation next season.
The 2014 Fighting Irish schedule, which was released Thursday following approval by the University's Faculty Board on Athletics, also features 11 regular season home matches, highlighted by visits from 2013 NCAA Women's College Cup qualifier (and defending ACC regular season champion) Virginia and perennial power North Carolina. Those two contests will be the cornerstones of a new 10-match unbalanced ACC schedule (teams will not face every other conference team in the regular season), leading into the reformatted ACC Championship, which features only the top four finishers in the league's regular season race.
In addition, Alumni Stadium will be the site of the 22nd annual Notre Dame Invitational, which has traditionally been among the premier events in the nation. Along with the host Fighting Irish, last year's Big 12 Conference runner-up Texas Tech and 2007 NCAA national champion USC will join Iowa State and Eastern Michigan in a five-team "classic" format, beginning Aug. 29 when USC and Iowa State square off at 5 p.m. (ET), followed by Notre Dame and Texas Tech at 7:30 p.m. (ET). Two days later on Aug. 31, TTU will take on Eastern Michigan in the opening match at 11 a.m. (ET), before the Fighting Irish close out the weekend against USC at 1:30 p.m. (ET).
A select number of Notre Dame's matches this season may be televised (including free live streams of the majority of Fighting Irish home matches through the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND), although those coverage plans have not yet been finalized. The complete Fighting Irish broadcast schedule for the 2014 season will be announced at a later date.
"We have a very competitive 2014 schedule with some challenging non-conference road and home matches to prepare us for ACC and NCAA play," Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. "It sets us up nicely to see where we are at early on and make adjustments before the conference begins. The team had to adapt to joining the ACC last year and now knows what it's all about. With the new 10-match ACC schedule and four-team playoff structure, we are looking forward to improving upon last year's performance. My expectation is that we work to improve every day, get the most out of our team, and enjoy the 2014 journey."
The Fighting Irish compiled a 13-8-1 record in 2013, advancing to the third round of the NCAA Championship for the 17th time in program history (all within the past 20 seasons). Notre Dame was one of six ACC teams to reach the NCAA tournament's third round last year (after placing fifth in the league's regular season standings with a 7-5-1 mark) and finished the year ranked 14th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll and 19th in the Soccer America poll (the latter taken before the start of the NCAA Championship).
When the Fighting Irish begin preseason camp in early August, they expect to have seven starters and 22 veterans returning (15 who have started at least once in their college careers), led by junior All-America midfielder/defender (and U.S. Under-20 National Team mainstay) Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) and two of her U-20 National Team compatriots -- junior defender Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove), a 2012 NSCAA all-region selection, and sophomore midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford), a 2013 Soccer America Freshman All-America Team pick as well as the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year.
Also on Thursday, Romagnolo announced that Naughton, Roccaro and senior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) have been chosen as Notre Dame's tri-captains for the 2014 season. Naughton will enter her second year as team captain, while Roccaro and Scofield will fill that role for the first time next season. Roccaro has experience as a captain, wearing the armband for the U.S. Under-20 National Team, while Scofield was another natural choice, having been a constant presence in Notre Dame's lineup throughout her first three seasons, starting 58 of a possible 67 matches and leading all Fighting Irish field players in total minutes the past two years.
"I am excited with the captains that we have selected for the 2014 season," Romagnolo said. "Cari, Katie, and Sammy are all very talented soccer players, but more importantly, they bring a great leadership quality to the team on and off the field. They each bring a different personality to the role but at the core of each of their leadership styles is the drive to see Notre Dame women's soccer succeed and to hold the highest standard for themselves and their teammates. We are a team of great leaders and I am excited to not only watch their development in this role but also to watch others step up throughout the season."
Along with their veteran corps, the Fighting Irish will welcome an outstanding 11-player freshman class that was ranked third in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. The Notre Dame rookie contingent is paced by a pair of top-20 defenders in 11th-ranked Ginny McGowan (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest) and No. 17 Sabrina Flores (Livingston, N.J./Livingston), as well as two NSCAA High School All-Americans in forward Meghan Doyle (Niskayuna, N.Y./Niskayuna) and midfielder Katie Uhler (San Antonio, Texas/Saint Mary's Hall), and England Under-19 National Team forward Karin Muya (London, England/Burntwood School).
Notre Dame's 2014 schedule opens with two exhibitions, beginning Aug. 11 when the Fighting Irish welcome Illinois State to Alumni Stadium for a 3 p.m. (ET) kickoff. The Redbirds are the defending Missouri Valley Conference champions and advanced to the second round of last year's NCAA Championship with a penalty-kick win over new ACC member Louisville.
Following a second preseason match on Aug. 16 at Northwestern (5 p.m. CT/6 p.m. ET), Notre Dame kicks off its 2014 regular season slate at noon CT (1 p.m. ET) on Aug. 22 at another Big Ten Conference opponent, Illinois, which reached the third round of the 2013 NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish faced Illinois in last year's opener at Alumni Stadium, with Notre Dame posting a 4-1 victory behind a goal and an assist from current sophomore forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands). The Fighting Irish will be making just their second visit to Champaign, Ill., and first since the 2011 NCAA Championship, when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Illinois.
Notre Dame then opens its 11-match home schedule at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Aug. 24 when it entertains Oakland at Alumni Stadium. This will mark the third consecutive season the Golden Grizzlies have come to town, with the Fighting Irish winning 3-0 in 2012 (fueled by Roccaro's goal and assist) and 4-0 in last year's Notre Dame Invitational (backed by a three-point night from current senior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita)).
The Fighting Irish then roll out the blue and gold carpet for their home tournament, which has been played almost annually since 1992. Texas Tech took part in the event in 2010, defeating Ole Miss, 2-0, before falling to Notre Dame by the same score (the only previous time the Red Raiders traveled to South Bend). USC likewise will make its second appearance in the tournament, having split its two matches in 2006 (a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame and a 2-0 win over Harvard). The Trojans also will be visiting Alumni Stadium for the first time since the 2010 NCAA tournament, when the Fighting Irish posted a 4-0 victory on the way to their third national championship.
Following its home tournament, Notre Dame will enter what could prove to be one of the more demanding stretches in program history, as the Fighting Irish play six of eight matches against teams that reached at least the third round of last year's NCAA Championship. The gauntlet begins as Notre Dame resumes its regular visits to NCAA third-round participants Santa Clara (Sept. 5; 7:30 p.m. PT) and Stanford (Sept. 7; noon PT) that had been biannual West Coast matches for the Fighting Irish since 2003. Due to Notre Dame's move to the ACC last season, the Fighting Irish did not meet either team, with Notre Dame last playing SCU in 2012 (a 2-1 win at Alumni Stadium) and last meeting Stanford in 2011 (a 2-1 loss in Palo Alto, Calif., on two Cardinal goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, followed two days later by a 1-1 draw at Santa Clara).
With the newly-truncated ACC schedule, Notre Dame will play host to two additional non-conference matches before entering league play. The Fighting Irish entertain Baylor at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 12, before closing out the pre-ACC slate against Toledo at 1 p.m. (ET) Sept. 14. Notre Dame has played Baylor in exhibition matches the past two seasons (a 1-1 draw in 2012 and a 2-0 win last year), but this will be the teams' first regular-season encounter since 2004 (a 7-2 Fighting Irish victory in South Bend). Meanwhile, Notre Dame will play UT for only the second time and first since the 2008 NCAA Championship opener won by the Fighting Irish, 5-2 at old Alumni Field.
Notre Dame then begins its second season of ACC competition with perhaps the toughest four-match opening stretch of any team in the conference. The Fighting Irish resume their longtime rivalry with fellow women's soccer blueblood North Carolina (a 2013 NCAA quarterfinalist) in their ACC opener on Sept. 20 with a 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday night showdown at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame follows that up with a visit to the Mid-Atlantic region, returning to Virginia Tech for the third time in less than 12 months for a Sept. 25 match (7 p.m. ET) with the Hokies, who advanced to the NCAA Women's College Cup last year. The Fighting Irish and Virginia Tech played two barnburners last season, with the Hokies winning a pair of one-goal decisions (1-0 in the regular season on a goal with 3:45 left in regulation; 2-1 in double-overtime in the ACC Championship quarterfinals on a goal with 1:13 left in extra time after Notre Dame was reduced to 10 players late in the second half).
The Fighting Irish wrap up their two-match road swing three days later at Wake Forest (1 p.m. ET), which advanced to the third round of last year's NCAA Championship. The two teams played a nailbiter a season ago at Alumni Stadium, trading goals less than one minute apart in the final 15 minutes of regulation before settling for the 1-1 draw.
The Fighting Irish return home on Oct. 5 to welcome Virginia to town, as the Cavaliers make their first-ever regular-season appearance in South Bend. Notre Dame dropped a slim 3-2 double-overtime decision to UVa last season in Charlottesville, Va., twice rallying from one-goal deficits to forge added time before the Cavaliers nudged across the match-winner one minute into the second extra period.
The Fighting Irish then will sandwich trips to Pittsburgh (Oct. 9) and Syracuse (Oct. 18) around a home match against Miami (Oct. 12; noon ET) with the latter contest expected to be a source of added motivation for Notre Dame, which dropped a 2-0 decision to the Hurricanes last year in Coral Gables, Fla. The Fighting Irish didn't face Pitt last season (their last meeting was a 2-1 Notre Dame win in 2012 at Alumni Stadium), while it took Scofield's goal with three seconds left for the Fighting Irish to finally push past Syracuse, 1-0 last year in South Bend.
Notre Dame will play its final home matches of the 2014 regular season on Oct. 23, as Clemson makes its inaugural appearance at Alumni Stadium, before the Fighting Irish tangle with conference newcomer Louisville on Oct. 26 for a 1 p.m. ET contest on Senior Day. Notre Dame defeated Clemson, 2-0 on the road last year, while the Fighting Irish will be meeting Louisville for the first time since defeating the Cardinals, 2-1 in the teams' 2012 BIG EAST Conference opener.
Notre Dame closes out the regular season on the road with a Nov. 1 journey to NCAA Championship quarterfinalist Boston College, as the Fighting Irish make their first visit to the Newton Campus Field since 2002 (a 1-0 overtime win over BC). Last year, Notre Dame downed the Eagles, 3-1 at Alumni Stadium, thanks in part to a goal and two assists from New England native Andrews.
The revamped ACC tournament takes place the following weekend, as semifinals will be contested Nov. 7, and the final to take place Nov. 9, both at the UNCG Soccer Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.
The 64-team NCAA Championship gets underway with four rounds of matches of campus sites from Nov. 14-30, before the semifinalists advance to the NCAA Women's College Cup, scheduled for Dec. 5 & 7 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
Ticket packages for the 2014 Notre Dame women's soccer season may be purchased through the University's Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office by calling (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets. Groups wishing to attend Fighting Irish soccer matches also can receive a discounted ticket rate -- contact Rita Baxter in the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office to learn more.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, follow the Fighting Irish on Twitter (@NDsoccernews and @NDSoccer), like them 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.
2014 FIGHTING IRISH SCHEDULE NOTES: All told, 10 of Notre Dame's 18 regular season opponents qualified for last year's NCAA Championship (Virginia - College Cup semifinals, Virginia Tech - College Cup semifinals, Boston College - quarterfinals, North Carolina - quarterfinals, Illinois - third round, Santa Clara - third round, Stanford - third round, Wake Forest - third round, Texas Tech - second round, Louisville - first round), as well as exhibition opponent Illinois State (second round) ... nine of Notre Dame's opponents were ranked in either the NSCAA and Soccer America polls (or both) at the end of last season -- #3/3 Virginia, #4/4 Virginia Tech, #5/5 North Carolina, #7/14 Santa Clara, #9/13 Stanford, #17/17 Texas Tech, #19 (NSCAA) Boston College, #21/23 Wake Forest and #25 (NSCAA) Illinois ... Santa Clara (West Coast) and Virginia (ACC) won regular season conference titles last year, as did exhibition foe Illinois State, which won the Missouri Valley regular season and tournament crowns in 2012 ... eight of Notre Dame's opponents have reached the NCAA Women's College Cup at least once in their program's history -- Boston College, North Carolina, Santa Clara, Stanford, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest -- with four joining Notre Dame as previous national champions (North Carolina, Santa Clara, Stanford, USC) ... 13 of Notre Dame's opponents finished last season with winning records (not including exhibition opponent Illinois State), as well as six Fighting Irish opponents that registered at least 15 wins a year ago ... the combined record of Notre Dame's 18 regular season opponents during the 2013 campaign was 222-132-33 (.616).
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director