Sep 7, 2013
#8/8 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (3-1-0/0-0-0 ACC) vs. DETROIT "Titans" (2-2-1/0-0-0 Horizon League)
DATE: Sept. 8, 2013
Having been named after a famous poet, it's no surprise that Notre Dame freshman midfielder Rilka Noel has grown up creating some fancy poetry with a soccer ball.
The West Bloomfield, Mich., native is one of eight rookies on this year's Fighting Irish roster, and the lone resident from the state of Michigan, Notre Dame's first from north of the state line since 2001. For the second time in less than 10 days, she will have the chance to face a team from her home state, as the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish wrap up their non-conference schedule at 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday against Detroit at Alumni Stadium.
Noel's parents, Marie and Rilck, were fans of the writings of Austrian poet Rainier Maria Rilke and adapted his last name when their only daughter was born in 1995. It would be the first of many unique gifts that Noel received from her parents, particularly her father, Rilck, who played semi-pro soccer in Chicago and passed along his love for the game to his daughter by the age of six.
"He's taught me everything I know about soccer today," Noel said. "He was the one who would sacrifice his time to stay outside, to juggle and pass with me when I was younger. I'm very lucky to have a dad who has supported me through it all."
While her brothers, Chris and Patrick, gave up soccer during their childhood, Noel embraced the beautiful game with a passion, first competing with other neighborhood children who shared a similar love for the sport. It also was the first step on her climb up the ladder of competitive soccer, beginning with her introduction to club soccer when she was 10 years old, and her move to the high-powered Michigan Hawks club program three years later.
Noel played the majority of her youth career with the Hawks, helping the club's U-17 squad reach the round of 16 at the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) Championship in 2012. She also spent five seasons with the Michigan Olympic Development Program (ODP) team, and three years with the Region II ODP squad, and was even named to the player pools for the U.S. Soccer Girls' U-14 and U-15 national teams in 2010 and 2011.
As a junior as Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Noel helped the Mustangs to a 22-2-1 record and the Michigan Division 2 state championship. Although it was her lone prep season, Noel made the most of it, capitalizing on all she learned at the club level to bring championship hardware back to her high school.
"With a top program like the Hawks, it definitely helped me playing soccer with Marian," Noel said. "That championship was partly due to the majority of the players coming from a Hawks background and being trained and taught by their excellent coaching staff."
Another aspect of Noel's game that started with her parents and became even more apparent during her club career is her tactical knowledge of the sport. As a huge fan of both the English Premier League and La Liga (Spain's pro league), she spends countless hours watching the professionals and looking for tips that she can employ with her own playing style.
"During the recruiting process, the thing that caught my attention about Rilka was her technical ability and her game awareness," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "I'm really happy with her progress and think she has a great soccer IQ. She's also a soccer junkie, being a huge Barcelona fan, and she fits very well into a team like ours who put so much emphasis on possession."
After spending the majority of her club soccer days at forward or as a wide midfielder, Noel has transitioned to a central midfield role at Notre Dame, a key position in the Fighting Irish lineup. It's a move that continues to be evolving, although Noel has shown flashes of promise in the early weeks of her college career, appearing in three of Notre Dame's first four matches and averaging more than 30 minutes per night as a valuable reserve.
"I'm working on my defending, speed of play, and first touch," she said. "Those were the kinds of things you could get away with in club soccer and you can't do that at this level, and those corrections have to be made quickly. So, I'm working hard and I've learned not to take my time on the field for granted. It's special to be able to play with this group of girls and I'm so lucky to get that opportunity. So I remind myself of that when I'm having a bad practice -- to cherish my time here because it could be taken from me at any moment."
"Rilka is now learning how to play centrally in our midfield shape, and once she develops some consistency she is going to be really good for us," Waldrum said. "She did very well in the preseason and in our opening weekend against Illinois and Northwestern. She has to improve on her speed of play, but that is common for most incoming freshmen, and her vision is quite good as she sees the field really well. You can see her confidence is growing with every practice, and once she fully understands her role in midfield, she's going to be a great player for us."
Off the pitch, Noel has discovered that attending Notre Dame is an embarrassment of riches in the academic world as well. She initially was interested in studying business, particularly marketing, but since enrolling at the University, she has found numerous other academic passions rekindled, especially those on the creative side such as film and studio art, that she's anxious to explore.
"Notre Dame is the perfect environment for learning," Noel said. "There are so many great minds on this campus and I have been taught more than I have in years about subjects I thought I knew everything about! The more I get to know myself, the more I realize that I'm good at many different things that I really enjoy doing, so my field of study could definitely change. Hopefully, I can explore my artistic strengths in the spring semester and see where that takes me."
In addition to her love of soccer and academia, Noel has been immersed in community service for many years. Prior to her senior year of high school, she volunteered with a Detroit-based organization called Summer in the City. She would meet at a local school and be divided into groups that would either play with children, paint murals, or garden. Noel typically chose gardening because Summer in the City is affiliated with an urban gardening organization called The Greening of Detroit, which is particularly close to her heart.
"Urban gardening is really important to the city of Detroit," Noel said. "It reduces crime in some neighborhoods, provides people with convenient, nutritious food, and promotes a sense of community that can sometimes get lost in bleak conditions of the city. I love Detroit and The Greening of Detroit is a special way to contribute to the city's revitalization."
THE NOTRE DAME-DETROIT SERIES
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND DETROIT MET
Six different Fighting Irish players recorded a goal, including scores by freshmen Amanda Guertin and Randi Scheller, while senior midfielder and three-time All-American (and eventual 2000 Hermann Trophy recipient) Anne Makinen had a hand in half of the Notre Dame goals, notching a goal and two assists. Senior forward Meotis Erikson also enjoyed a multi-point afternoon with a goal and an assist.
Detroit nearly scored the opening goal during an early flurry but Notre Dame responded by holding the Titans without a shot for the final 83 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish peppered the Detroit net all day, putting 32 of their 49 shots on target. Makinen opened the scoring in the 12th minute before Erikson doubled the margin eight minutes later and Notre Dame never looked back en route to the victory.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-DETROIT SERIES TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: #4/2 UCLA
Notre Dame was led by a strong defensive unit that held fast throughout the afternoon, limiting the Bruins primarily to long-range shots from outside the penalty area, with only a handful of prime chances for either side in the match.
UCLA finished with a deceiving 20-1 shot margin, due in part to many of those tries from distance. The Bruins also had a 6-0 advantage in shots on goal (three of those came inside the box), while the visitors had additional edges in corner kicks (7-1) and fouls (8-3).
Fighting Irish freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little was solid when she had to be, making five saves and expertly managing the penalty area while her back line didn't allow anything to come of those seven corners.
Notre Dame placed four players on the adidas Invitational All-Tournament Team -- junior forward Lauren Bohaboy, sophomore midfielder Cari Roccaro, junior defender Sammy Scofield and sophomore forward Crystal Thomas. Scofield made the squad for the second consecutive year, while Bohaboy, Roccaro and Thomas all were first-time selections.
The first half was largely a stalemate, with the action limited to the midfield for long stretches. UCLA did find its way to the fringes of the attacking third on a couple of occasions, and even earned four corner kicks. However, only Rosie White's shot from the top of the box in the fifth minute, and Sam Mewis' chip from near the penalty spot in the 30th minute ended up on frame, and Little didn't have to move to make either save.
Notre Dame made its own advances into the final third, with its best chance coming in the 74th minute. Sophomore defender Brittany Von Rueden delivered a precise service from the right side all the way to the heart of the box. As UCLA goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland came off her line, freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews went high and headed the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. Thomas then beat the final UCLA defender to the ball and poked it into the net, but a late offside flag came up, negating the goal.
That decision proved to be doubly painful six minutes later. Bruin reserve Ally Courtnall made a run up the right channel before uncorking a rising shot from the top right corner of the area. The shot caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and settled near Katie Naughton at the edge of the six-yard box. However, the Fighting Irish defender rushed her clearance slightly and didn't get all of the attempt, allowing Jenkins to come in, jam the ball free and slide it under Little (79:07).
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: UCLA
HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE
UP NEXT: NORTH CAROLINA STATE
The Wolfpack are 4-1 this season, their first under new head coach Tim Santoro. N.C. State, which returns 19 letterwinners and nine starters from last year, will close out its non-conference slate Sunday at home against UNC Wilmington before meeting Notre Dame for the third time in series history (the teams have split the previous two matches, with the then-No. 3 Fighting Irish winning the most recent series contest, 3-0 over the sixth-ranked Wolfpack on Sept. 24, 1993, at old Alumni Field).
Season and single-match tickets for the 2013 Notre Dame women's soccer campaign 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