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    Pitch Points: Starting Off Right

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (seen here during a spring friendly win over the Mexico Under-20 National Team) is one of five Notre Dame attackers who registered a point during last weekend's season-opening 4-1 victories over Illinois and Northwestern.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (seen here during a spring friendly win over the Mexico Under-20 National Team) is one of five Notre Dame attackers who registered a point during last weekend's season-opening 4-1 victories over Illinois and Northwestern.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Aug 26, 2013

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- While no one would ever confuse Randy Waldrum with Bobby Flay, the Notre Dame head coach did his best imitation of the world-renowned chef last weekend, adding a pinch of flavor here and a dash of spice there as the Fighting Irish opened their season with a pair of convincing 4-1 victories over Big Ten Conference foes Illinois and Northwestern at Alumni Stadium.

    The weekend sweep afforded Waldrum the opportunity to roll out one of his main lineups, while continuing to test the limits of his team's depth, as 20 different players saw action in the two contests. Granted, the 2013 season is just a week old, but the early returns would seem promising for Notre Dame, which is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2010 and piled up its largest goal output through the opening weekend in five seasons.

    "I thought we were really good at creating chances over the weekend, and in fact, all of preseason," Waldrum said. "I'm really encouraged by that phase of our play."

    Notre Dame featured a very balanced attack in its opening two matches, with six players accounting for the team's eight goals. Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) led the way with three goals, while three different players had two assists -- freshman forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands), sophomore forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) and sophomore defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels).

    The Fighting Irish also showed solid efficiency on offense, placing 27 of their 61 shots on goal, good for a .443 shots-on-goal percentage. Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) was tops in that category with 10 shots, trailed closely by Bohaboy (9), Thomas (8) and sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) (7).

     

     

    Last weekend's production highlighted strong depth along the front line, an appealing option for Notre Dame as the season rolls on. The Fighting Irish had five different forwards -- Bohaboy, Olmsted, Gilbertson, Thomas and sophomore forward Karin Simonian (Westbury, N.Y./W.T. Clarke) -- registered at least one point in the two matches, with Bohaboy notching her second career two-goal outing with a brace against Northwestern, and Thomas tying her career high with two assists in that same contest (she had two helpers her entire freshman year).

    "I'm really excited about how well Karin, Lauren, Crystal, Kaleigh, and Anna are playing for us up front," Waldrum said. "They give us a lot of different options and make us a deeper and stronger team."

    Although she didn't score a point during the weekend, Andrews certainly made her presence felt. In addition to her shot totals, the rookie teamed with senior tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) and sophomore Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) to give the Fighting Irish a versatile and exceptionally gifted trio in the center of the park.

    "I thought Morgan played well in midfield and you can see her getting more comfortable with Mandy and Cari every game," Waldrum said. "She won a ton of tackles for us in midfield, her distribution is very good, and she holds the ball well for us when needed."

    The one area that had the Notre Dame head coach alternately smiling and furrowing his brow was the Fighting Irish back line. On the one hand, his backs accounted for two goals and three assists on the weekend, with sophomore tri-captain Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) picking up a goal and an assist on Sunday against Northwestern to complement Von Rueden's career high-tying two assists.

    What's more, the preseason move to slide senior tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) to outside back -- a position she had never played at the college level -- has paid off well so far, with the veteran's pace, fitness level and relentless work ethic seemingly ideal for that role.

    At the same time, the Fighting Irish yielded a pair of scores against the run of play, both on sequences when the defense had a chance to clear the ball from danger and wasn't able to do so.

    "(Junior) Sammy (Scofield) and Katie have been really good for us centrally, especially with their defending," Waldrum said. "We still need a little work with them on their distribution out of the back, but overall, they have been really good. Tucker has been a huge plus for us at left back. She could be the surprise of the team if she keeps playing this well as an outside back. Her attacking ability, along with her tenacity, makes her very dangerous for the opposition. The battle for the other outside back spot with Britt and (junior) Taylor (Schneider) has been a good one and is very close."

    Naughton agreed with her coach, pointing out Notre Dame got the start it was hoping for, but that much remains to be done.

    "They (the wins) helped us set a foundation for the rest of the season," she said. "We were able to come together and impact the game with our style of play. It was great that we were able to generate so many chances up top because that was something we struggled with last year. The midfield and back line are starting to connect more, too, and that translates into the attack as well. If there was one thing that we could have done better this weekend, of course it would have been not conceding any goals. Despite how well we played, there are definitely areas of improvement, as Coach Waldrum always says, and he is right. With that being said, we will only get better from here on out."

    PITCH POINTS
    Notre Dame started a season 2-0 for the 18th time in its 26-year history, but first since it opened 4-0 in 2010 ... the Fighting Irish scored eight goals last weekend, their highest goal production through two matches since they netted 11 goals to start the 2008 campaign (7-0 vs. Michigan, 4-0 vs. Loyola Marymount) ... Notre Dame's two most remarkable statistical trends continued last weekend -- when taking a 2-0 lead, the Fighting Irish are 343-0-1 all-time (the lone exception being a 3-3 draw with Vanderbilt on Sept. 15, 1991, in Cincinnati), and when scoring three goals, Notre Dame is 311-3-1 all-time (including a 213-1 record since Oct. 6, 1995, when the Fighting Irish dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to Connecticut at old Alumni Field) ... Notre Dame emphatically snapped a rare two-match losing streak against Big Ten opposition, improving to 71-11-3 (.853) against Big Ten teams, including a 47-6-2 (.873) record at home ... with its victory over Northwestern (now 5-0 all-time), the Fighting Irish continue to put a stranglehold on the Chicago-area schools, moving to 25-1 against teams from the Windy City metropolitan area, including a 19-0 mark at home (the only loss to a Chicago-area program came in Notre Dame's inaugural season of 1988, a 1-0 setback at Lake Forest College on Sept. 11, 1988) ... Bohaboy's goal 1:12 into the win over Northwestern was the seventh-fastest score of the Waldrum era (1999-present) and quickest for the Fighting Irish since Sept. 12, 2010, when Melissa Henderson needed 1:11 to score the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Loyola Marymount ... Notre Dame had a freshman score a goal in both wins last weekend, with Olmsted capping the victory over Illinois, and midfielder Cindy Pineda (Bolingbrook, Ill./Plainfield East) opening her college account with a 25th-minute score against Northwestern ... the Fighting Irish squeezed off 36 shots and 14 shots on goal in Sunday's win over NU, just missing their Alumni Stadium records of 39 shots and 16 shots on goal against Tulsa on Sept. 2, 2011 ... Thomas and Von Rueden both tied the stadium record with two assists, a mark that's now been achieved 14 times by a Notre Dame player, most recently by Von Rueden herself on Oct. 5, 2012, in a 5-1 win over Seton Hall ... after an off day on Monday, the Fighting Irish will return to the training ground on Tuesday to begin preparations for this weekend's Notre Dame adidas Invitational ... in addition, Tuesday will see not only the release of the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and Soccer America polls, but also the first NSCAA National Player of the Week and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Week selections will be unveiled.

    UP NEXT
    The Fighting Irish continue their season-opening five-match homestand at 7:30 p.m. (ET), playing host to Oakland at Alumni Stadium on the first night of the 21st annual Notre Dame adidas Invitational. No. 5/3 UCLA and 14/13 Marquette will square off in the tournament opener at 5 p.m. (ET) Friday before the matchups switch for Sunday -- Marquette and Oakland meeting at 11 a.m. (ET), followed by Notre Dame and UCLA at 1:30 p.m. (ET).

    Oakland (1-1) split its opening weekend, winning at Eastern Illinois on Friday (5-1) before falling at No. 19/15 Michigan, 6-1. The Golden Grizzlies will be visiting Alumni Stadium for the second consecutive season, with Notre Dame earning a 3-0 win last year behind a goal and an assist from Roccaro.

    UCLA (2-0) made quick work of its two opponents last weekend, shutting out visiting Northeastern (4-0) and Cal State Northridge (3-0) and allowing a combined four shots (one on goal) in those two matches. The Bruins will be coming to South Bend for the first time since 1997 (an 8-0 Notre Dame victory in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals at old Alumni Field), and will face the Fighting Irish for just the second time since the teams' epic 2004 national championship contest (won by Notre Dame on penalties, 4-3, after a 1-1 double-overtime draw).

    Marquette (1-1) is the lone visitor in this weekend's tournament that has previously competed in the adidas Invitational, tying for second in 2009. The Golden Eagles dropped a tough season opener at No. 22/20 Portland (1-0 on Friday), but bounced back with a 3-2 win at Portland State on Sunday.

    Season and single-match tickets for Notre Dame women's soccer 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 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.

    -- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director

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