Sept. 11, 2013
#8/8 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (4-1-0/0-0-0 ACC) vs. NORTH CAROLINA STATE "Wolfpack" (5-1-0/0-0-0 ACC)
DATE: Sept. 12, 2013
TIME: 7:00 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Raleigh, N.C. (Dail Soccer Stadium - cap. 2,000)
SERIES: Tied 1-1-0 (NCSU leads 1-0-0 in Raleigh)
LAST MEETING: ND 3-0 (9/24/93 at ND)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
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It's been one year in the making, an excitement, a buzz of anticipation and a shot of adrenaline building up for exactly 365 days since the University of Notre Dame accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on Sept. 12, 2012.
Now, like the millions of youngsters who make their way into the classroom for the first day of school, the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish women's soccer team gets set for its first day in the ACC and its conference opener, trading pencils, books and backpacks for soccer balls, cleats and a huge patch of green grass at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday when Notre Dame and North Carolina State square off at the Dail Soccer Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
Perhaps no coach in the Fighting Irish athletics department was more thrilled to get started with his team's new conference affiliation than women's soccer manager Randy Waldrum. Now in his 15th season at Notre Dame, Waldrum embraces the opportunity to join a league that has almost universally been regarded as the nation's best, with more than half (eight) of its 14 soccer-playing members ranked in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and/or Soccer America polls, including five of the top eight programs.
"The ACC is certainly going to be a test from top to bottom," Waldrum said. "There are no off-nights in this conference, which you couldn't always say when we were in the BIG EAST. I think it will help keep us sharp and focused throughout the season, and that can only help us when we get later in the year and closer to the playoffs."
With the excitement of entering a new conference comes the anxiety and uncertainty of the unknown. To be sure, the Fighting Irish have played numerous ACC teams over the years, primarily in the NCAA Championship, but to see those same squads on a weekly basis throughout the season is cause for an adjustment. Fortunately, Notre Dame has just the man for the job.
Twice in his 32-year coaching career, Waldrum has been called upon to start a program from scratch, the ultimate example of college soccer's unknown. In 1988, he formed the first men's varsity squad at Texas Wesleyan, guiding the program to a 6-10 record in his lone season. Six years later, following a successful stint as both the men's and women's coach at Tulsa, Waldrum was lured back to his home state of Texas, this time to become the first head coach of the newly-created Baylor women's soccer team.
For more than a year, Waldrum patiently molded his Lady Bears program, overseeing even the smallest details including the maintenance of the practice and game fields, which is occasionally did himself. Waldrum puts his team through its paces in the spring of 1996, knowing that another hurdle was looming, as Baylor was preparing to join the newly-formed Big 12 Conference.
It didn't take long for Waldrum's BU team to find success, going 17-3-1 in its inaugural season, with Baylor earning top honors from Soccer Buzz as the nation's best first-year program and Waldrum himself being chosen as the publication's top head coach for a first-year team. Two years later with a team that now included current Fighting Irish assistant coach (and then-sophomore goalkeeper) Dawn Greathouse, Baylor posted a 15-5-1 record, toppling three ranked teams along the way, and rising as high as No. 12 in the national polls en route to the first Big 12 title in program (and school) history. It was a three-year run of success that caught the eye of administrators in South Bend and resulted in Waldrum's ascension to the lead chair at Notre Dame in 1999.
"Even though I have brought a team to a new conference before with regards to my Baylor days, things were different in the fact that we were a brand new program altogether," Waldrum said. "Our players didn't have the same amount of pressure to succeed that our kids here at Notre Dame will have. At Baylor, the expectations were low for a brand-new team in a brand-new conference. So when we actually won, it was a great and pleasant surprise for everyone both locally and at the university.
"Here with our Notre Dame team, we'll be expected to be successful, so joining the ACC will not lessen the expectations that we all have, which is to compete to win the conference," he added. "I think it will take some adjustment in traveling to new venues, figuring out where to stay, where to eat, what time to leave for training and games, and other logistical things like that. All of that was second hand in the BIG EAST, and they seem minor, but they really do affect your team if they are not handled correctly."
So the change of address isn't entirely unfamiliar to Waldrum and that prior experience should give the Fighting Irish added confidence as they kick off ACC play Thursday night. Standing across from them will be a North Carolina State side that is off to one of its best starts in recent years (5-1-0), and has scored multiple goals in all five of those wins, the lone setback being a 2-0 decision at the hands of 13th-ranked Georgetown on Sept. 4. The Wolfpack are under the guidance of a first-year head coach in Tim Santoro, but he's no stranger to the ACC gauntlet, having come to Raleigh following a well-regarded stint as associate head coach at Wake Forest.
"N.C. State will be a very organized team, with their defensive shape being something we'll have to cope with," Waldrum said. "They do a great job of `bunkering' and keeping their lines between their positions connected. They will be difficult to break down, so we'll have to make sure that our speed of play is such that we can catch them in some transition on the different parts of the field. They are good up the spine of their team, and we expect them to be very good at home. It's a really big trip for us, opening up on the road in the heart of ACC country, and we want to make sure we get off to a good start in conference play."
THE NOTRE DAME-N.C. STATE SERIES
Notre Dame has only met North Carolina State on two prior occasions, with the series tied between the teams at one win apiece.
The Wolfpack won the first-ever showdown with the Fighting Irish on Sept. 5, 1992, earning a 4-3 decision in Raleigh. Notre Dame responded with a 3-0 shutout of N.C. State the following season (Sept. 24, 1993, at old Alumni Field).
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND N.C. STATE MET
Cindy Daws scored twice (once in each half) and Alison Lester added the final goal with less than 11 minutes remaining, as No. 3 Notre Dame blanked sixth-ranked North Carolina State, 3-0, on Sept. 24, 1993, at old Alumni Field. The Fighting Irish finished with a 16-6 edge in total shots, including a 7-2 margin in shots on goal, as Notre Dame avenged a 4-3 loss to the Wolfpack in the 1992 season opener in Raleigh, N.C. (a match best known in Fighting Irish history for freshman Rosella Guerrero scoring a hat trick in her first-ever college outing).
OTHER NOTRE DAME-N.C. STATE SERIES TIDBITS
Thursday's match will officially end the longest gap between meetings (19 years, 11 months, 353 days) with an opponent that Notre Dame has faced at least three times in program history ... in Notre Dame's 26-year history, no player from the state of North Carolina has ever suited up for the Fighting Irish ... N.C. State senior associate athletics director Sherard Clinkscales spent four seasons (2006-09) on the baseball staff at Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish pitching coach and assistant recruiting coordinator ... Notre Dame is seeking its first win in the state of North Carolina since Dec. 5, 2010, when the Fighting Irish won their third national championship, edging Stanford, 1-0, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary N.C. (site of this year's ACC Championship and NCAA Women's College Cup).
BLOWING THE LID OFF
Notre Dame is 20-1-1 all-time in conference openers, covering its prior memberships in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) from 1991-94 and BIG EAST Conference from 1995-2012. The only blemishes on the Fighting Irish record in league lidlifters occurred in 1991 (a scoreless draw at Dayton in the program's MCC debut) and 2011 (a 1-0 BIG EAST loss at home to Louisville).
Notre Dame has outscored its opponents, 102-7 in conference openers. In fact, prior to the past two years against Louisville, when it allowed single goals in each match to the Cardinals (1-0 loss, 2-1 win, both at Alumni Stadium), Notre Dame had not allowed a goal in the prior nine conference openers from 2002-10, outscoring the opposition, 30-0 in that time.
In addition to the 1991 draw at Dayton, the Fighting Irish began their BIG EAST tenure with a 7-0 victory at Providence on Sept. 2, 1995, at old Alumni Field.
Notre Dame is opening league play on the road for the first time since 2010, when it posted a 2-0 BIG EAST win at DePaul.
LAST TIME OUT: DETROIT
Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews had two goals and an assist as the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish scored four goals for the fourth time in five matches this year, rolling to a clinical 4-0 victory over Horizon League preseason favorite Detroit on Sunday night at Alumni Stadium.
Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy added her team-high fifth goal of the year, freshman midfielder Emily Geyer opened her college scoring account with a last-minute goal, and sophomore forward Crystal Thomas dished out two assists for the third time in the past four matches (giving her a team-best six assists this year) as Notre Dame bounced back well from its first loss of the season a week earlier, 1-0 to No. 4/2 UCLA.
The Fighting Irish (4-1-0) ran roughshod through the Detroit defense on Sunday, piling up a 34-4 edge in total shots, including a 16-0 margin in shots on goal (the first time since Sept. 23, 2012, vs. Oakland that Notre Dame didn't give up a shot on goal), as well as a 3-2 spread on corner kicks.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little wasn't asked to make a save in recording her second shutout of the season.
Detroit goalkeepers Martha Dunbar (59 minutes) and Laura Taylor (31 minutes) each made six saves in the Titans' net.
Detroit (2-3-1) came into Sunday's contest on a two-match winning streak and had played nationally-ranked California to a one-goal margin on the road last weekend, so it was clear that even after Andrews' opening goal in the fourth minute, the Titans would not go quietly. The visitors had their best look of the opening half in the final five minutes of the period, when Haley Burtraw's header from 10 yards out sailed over the bar.
Notre Dame wiped out any hint of a Detroit comeback with two goals in the opening quarter-hour of the second half, and Andrews was front and center for both scores. Her second of the night came 2:01 into the second half on a 25-yard blast from outside the top center of the box, a laser shot that twisted high into the upper right corner of the net.
In the 59th minute, Andrews turned from goal scorer to goal creator, setting up Bohaboy with a deft chip to the top left of the box. Bohaboy then turned on her left shoulder and hammered a low shot past a diving Dunbar to essentially clinch the Fighting Irish victory.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: DETROIT
Notre Dame improved to 4-0-0 all-time against Detroit (3-0 at home), with a 19-1 aggregate scoring margin against the Titans ... the Fighting Irish have scored four or more goals in their last three matches against Detroit (all played in South Bend) ... in the past two series meetings, Notre Dame has outshot the Titans by a combined 83-6 margin, including a 48-1 edge in shots on goal ... Sunday's 16 shots on goal were the most for the Fighting Irish since Sept. 2, 2011, when they also had 16 shots on goal in a 7-1 win over Tulsa at Alumni Stadium ... Notre Dame held Detroit without a shot on goal, the first time that's happened for the Fighting Irish defense since Sept. 23, 2012, when Notre Dame held Oakland without a shot on goal in a 3-0 win at Alumni Stadium ... Sunday's 34 shots and +30 shot margin were the second-largest of the season for the Fighting Irish (36 shots, +31 margin vs. Northwestern on Aug. 25) ... Detroit goalkeepers Dunbar and Taylor combined for 12 saves (six apiece), the most by a Notre Dame opponent since Oct. 8, 2010, when Seton Hall registered an Alumni Stadium-record 13 saves (12 by goalkeeper Jennifer Pettigrew, plus one team stop) in a 2-1 Fighting Irish victory ... Notre Dame moved to 39-4-1 (.898) all-time against teams from Michigan, including a 28-3-1 (.891) mark at home, and it is unbeaten in its last 12 matches (11-0-1) against Michigan schools ... the Fighting Irish rose to 24-1 (.960) all-time, and 18-0 at home, against the current Horizon League alignment (with an 80-4 aggregate scoring margin), having won 24 in a row since losing its first-ever match to a present Horizon League member, 2-1 at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sept. 8, 1989 ... Notre Dame has scored four goals in four of its five matches this year, tying its seasonal output in each of the past two years -- the last time the Fighting Irish had more than four matches with four-plus goals in one season was 2010, when they did so on five occasions ... the last time Notre Dame had four four-goal matches in its first five outings was 2005, when the Fighting Irish did so in each of their first four contests (as well as seven of their opening nine matches) ... with her 90th-minute goal against Detroit, Geyer became the ninth different Notre Dame player to score a goal this season, and the fourth rookie, along with midfielders Andrews and Cindy Pineda (Bolingbrook, Ill./Plainfield East), and forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) ... senior defender Rebecca Twining (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist School) earned her first point of the season with the assist on Geyer's goal, with Twining becoming the 13th different Fighting Irish player to register a point through five matches this year ... the team records for different goal scorers (19) and point scorers (21) in one season both were set in 2008 ... after logging two assists during her entire freshman season, Thomas has dished out two assists in three of her last four matches ... starting with Thursday's ACC opener at North Carolina State, 12 of Notre Dame's final 13 regular-season matches (all during conference play) will be televised and/or streamed live on the Internet (the lone exception being the Oct. 6 contest at Miami).
UP NEXT: #1 NORTH CAROLINA
Notre Dame continues its opening ACC road trip at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday with a visit to No. 1 North Carolina. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN3, with additional coverage through the Notre Dame multimedia platform, WatchND.
The defending NCAA champion Tar Heels (6-0-0) return eight starters from last season's squad. Entering Thursday's ACC opener at Virginia Tech, senior midfielder (and last year's Hermann Trophy recipient) Crystal Dunn leads North Carolina with six goals in her first five starts, while senior forward Kealia Ohai has chipped in four goals and three assists.
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