Sept. 14, 2013
#8/8 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (5-1-0/1-0-0 ACC) vs. #1/1 NORTH CAROLINA "Tar Heels" (7-0-0/1-0-0 ACC)
DATE: Sept. 15, 2013
Hours after the highly-anticipated boxing brouhaha between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night in Las Vegas, two heavyweights of the women's college soccer world will tangle on the pitch when No. 8 Notre Dame travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., for a 1 p.m. (ET) Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) contest against top-ranked North Carolina at Fetzer Field. The match will be streamed live on ESPN3, with additional coverage provided through the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Unlike the Mayweather-Alvarez fight, there won't be any championship belts on the line during Sunday's tussle in Chapel Hill, although the Fighting Irish and Tar Heels certainly have earned their share of national titles through the years, combining for 24 of the 31 NCAA crowns awarded since the NCAA began sanctioning the sport in 1982.
The Notre Dame-North Carolina rivalry also has been one of college soccer's richest for the past two decades, with the two sides meeting no fewer than 10 times in the NCAA Championship (UNC leads 7-3 in those contests), including five times when they battled in the NCAA Women's College Cup final (aka the national championship match), with the Tar Heels winning all five encounters, three by one goal, including one in double overtime.
However, no team has enjoyed more success against North Carolina during the past 20 years than Notre Dame, with the Fighting Irish collecting more wins against the Tar Heels (5) than any other program in the nation. What makes this total even more remarkable is four of those victories have come on UNC's home pitch at Fetzer Field, including three in the NCAA Championship. The last of those, a 4-1 Notre Dame victory in the 2010 NCAA round of 16, represented the largest margin of defeat ever experienced by a Tar Heel squad (at any time, regular season or postseason), and the four goals were the most scored by a UNC opponent in the NCAA era (1982 to present).
"When it comes to the history of women's college soccer, the two names that come to mind above all else are Notre Dame and North Carolina," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "We've had some really good battles with them since I've been here, but the rivalry really goes back to the early `90s. Now a days, a lot of the players on both teams have competed together with U.S. Soccer youth national teams, including some with last year's U-20 World Cup champions, and both of these schools probably recruited them heavily. Now you mix in the added element of us being in the ACC and it becoming a conference matchup and it just makes it even more exciting and enjoyable for fans of college soccer."
Notre Dame is coming off a 3-1 win at North Carolina State in its ACC debut on Thursday night. The Fighting Irish have scored three or more goals in five of their first six matches, pulling off that feat for the first time since 2005. Notre Dame also has spread the wealth offensively, with 11 different players scoring goals in those first six matches this season.
At the same time, the Fighting Irish will be facing their second top-five opponent in two weeks, having dropped a 1-0 decision to No. 4/2 UCLA on Sept. 1 at Alumni Stadium. In that match, Notre Dame's defense was able to hold the Bruins at bay, limiting many of UCLA's 20 shots to hopeful long-range attempts, but a missed clearance by the Fighting Irish defense allowed UCLA's Darian Jenkins to poke in the only score with a bit more than 11 minutes remaining.
"We've had a couple of weeks to look at the film and understand some of the things we did wrong that day," Waldrum said. "The past two games have given us a chance to work on correcting those mistakes and we've made some steps in the right direction. Now it's another opportunity to go up against a highly-ranked team and see where we stand, and I know we're all excited to get out there and play."
THE NOTRE DAME-NORTH CAROLINA SERIES
The clubs have also met an unprecedented five times in the NCAA Women's College Cup final (national championship contest), combining for an astounding 24 NCAA titles and 32 championship match berths in their respective histories.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND NORTH CAROLINA MET
Freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight did all she could to keep the Fighting Irish (3-2) in contention, registering a season-high seven saves to earn a spot on the all-tournament team with sophomore defender Sammy Scofield and freshman midfielder Glory Williams. The loss snapped Notre Dame's three-match winning streak in what was its second match in three days against a Top 25 opponent.
Maria Lubrano was the hero for North Carolina, taking a pass from the tournament's Offensive Most Valuable Player, Summer Green, and scoring from close range at 84:16. Brooke Elby was credited with the secondary assist on the goal, making a winner of goalkeeper Anna Sieloff, who came on at halftime for Adelaide Gay and was not called upon to make a save.
UNC finished with an 18-3 edge in total shots, as well as an 8-0 advantage in shots on goal. The Tar Heels also earned six of the eight corner kicks on the afternoon, while fouls were almost even (8-7 against the Fighting Irish).
OTHER NOTRE DAME-NORTH CAROLINA SERIES TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy and senior tri-captain Mandy Laddish registered assists for the Fighting Irish, who improved to 21-1-1 all-time with a 105-8 aggregate scoring margin in conference openers, including their prior memberships in the Midwestern Collegiate (1991-94) and BIG EAST (1995-2012) conferences.Notre Dame (5-1, 1-0 ACC) finished with a 22-8 advantage in total shots, including a 12-4 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish, who dominated the possession time in Thursday's win, earned a 9-3 margin on corner kicks, while fouls were 9-6 against the visitors (who also received two of the three yellow cards handed out in the match).
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little bounced back from a slow start to collect the victory in the Notre Dame goal, tallying three saves. N.C. State (5-2, 0-1) tried to stay in the match behind a strong effort from goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes, who notched eight saves and also benefited from a team save, courtesy of Wolfpack defender Dayna Tomayko.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: NORTH CAROLINA STATE
UP NEXT: SYRACUSE
Syracuse (4-3, 0-1) made its ACC debut this past Thursday night, dropping a 3-0 decision at No. 2 Virginia. The Orange will visit No. RV/22 Virginia Tech Sunday afternoon before winding up their three-match ACC opening road trip next week in South Bend.
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