Sept. 18, 2013
#7/4 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (6-1-0/2-0-0 ACC) vs. SYRACUSE "Orange" (4-4-0/0-2-0 ACC)
DATE: Sept. 19, 2013
With two national championships and nearly 400 wins under his belt, Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum is certainly no stranger to success, and those pages in his coaching manual are no doubt well-worn as he flips there again in advance of his No. 7/4 Fighting Irish playing host to Syracuse in their Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) home opener at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday at Alumni Stadium (a match that can be seen live on WatchND).
Notre Dame (6-1, 2-0 ACC) is coming off a landmark 1-0 win at No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday afternoon, the sixth time the Fighting Irish have gotten the better of the Tar Heels, with five of those victories coming on UNC's own Fetzer Field. It also was the first time Notre Dame defeated a top-ranked opponent in the regular season since 1996, three years before Waldrum took the reins in South Bend.
For the most part, the Fighting Irish players and coaches offered a low-key celebration of their achievement, quickly recognizing that it was only the seventh match of the season, and not match No. 27 which, should it occur, would be deep in the NCAA Championship.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't happy to get the win," sophomore defender/tri-captain Katie Naughton said. "But it only counts as one game in the standings and we've got a long way to go, especially in a conference as tough as the ACC. It was good for us to show the kind of progress we did from UCLA (a 1-0 loss on Sept. 1) to UNC, but we still have a lot of things we need to work on if we want to reach the larger goals and expectations we've set for ourselves this season."
"What we have tried very hard to do is let the players enjoy the win on Sunday, but then get back to work on Monday focusing on Syracuse," Waldrum said. "We have discussed the importance of backing up a big win with a win on Thursday. We've shared that all of the hard work we put in this past weekend will be for nothing if we don't put in a very professional effort on Thursday.
"Our approach throughout the season is literally that `one-game-at-a-time' mantra," he added. "We have to be able to only look at the next game, and not focus on the game before, or two games down the road. That will surely lead to failure in the ACC. Every team is capable of beating us, so we want to attack each game as a playoff game. We want home field advantage in the NCAAs for as long as possible, so we have to bank every win we can possibly get."
Besides the overall strength of the ACC (a conference that currently has eight teams appearing in the national polls, including five of the top seven), Notre Dame's new home provides another unique challenge with its schedule structure. Unlike the BIG EAST, the ACC plays its matches on Thursday and Sunday, giving teams an extra day off between weekend series contests, but also providing one less day to recover after an arduous road trip like Notre Dame experienced last weekend down on Tobacco Road. As a result, the Fighting Irish will be playing their third match in seven days when they step on the Alumni Stadium pitch Thursday night against Syracuse.
"A quick turnaround like this is very difficult," Waldrum said. "It doesn't really leave you with any proper training days, and you simply have to work on recovery and then fine-tuning some elements from the game before. We have to be careful not to overwork the players, so we've monitored their workload very closely this week. Hopefully, the preparation has been just where it needs to be."
"It's another challenge for us, but one that I think falls under the heading of time management," Naughton added. "When you go to a school like Notre Dame, you're already juggling a lot between academics and athletics, not to mention enjoying your free time. It's important for all of us to understand what our schedules are like, make sure that we're taking care of our bodies, eating right and staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and keeping mentally sharp for practice and a good Syracuse team."
Thursday's match marks the third time in the past four years, and the second time in as many seasons that Notre Dame and Syracuse will square off, with each of those contests coming at Alumni Stadium. In 2010, then-freshman (and current senior tri-captain) Elizabeth Tucker scored in the first half to get the Fighting Irish rolling in a 3-0 win over the Orange. Then last year, it took the better part of the afternoon for Notre Dame to untangle the SU defense before then-freshman (current sophomore) midfielder Cari Roccaro scored with less than 13 minutes to play, giving the Fighting Irish a 1-0 victory in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals.
In Waldrum's eyes, last year's close result should be all the illustration his team needs to understand that Syracuse will present another tough obstacle in the ACC gauntlet.
"They gave us all we could handle last year and I would expect much of the same Thursday," the Fighting Irish manager said. "Syracuse is very well-coached and very organized, especially defensively. They have several key players we'll have to be aware of including (freshman forward Stephanie) Skilton up front. She is a New Zealand player that we actually were interested in recruiting this past year, and someone who is tall, dynamic, can hold up the ball well and has great vision.
"(Sophomore midfielder Jackie) Firenze plays centrally and really connects well in the attack, and then (sophomore forward Erin) Simon who will play on the outside, is quick, joins the attack well and will be very busy on the flanks. They also have (senior) Brittany Anghel in goal, who is very adventurous in the goal, and is very comfortable playing off her line. She is a really good shot-stopping goalkeeper and we'll have to be on our game offensively to beat her."
THE NOTRE DAME-SYRACUSE SERIES
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND SYRACUSE MET
Roccaro gathered in a long lead pass from Mandy Laddish, beating Syracuse goalkeeper Brittany Anghel to the ball at the top of the box, dribbling around an Orange defender and then scoring from 15 yards out into the empty net, sending the Fighting Irish to the BIG EAST semifinals for the 16th time in their 18 seasons as a conference member.
Notre Dame had to work hard all afternoon to pry open a stout Syracuse defense, not to mention solve one of the BIG EAST's top netminders in Anghel. The Fighting Irish finished with a 17-7 shot advantage, including a 7-2 edge in shots on goal (two others hit the crossbar), and earned a 7-3 margin on corner kicks.
Goalkeeper Elyse Hight was strong when she had to be, making two saves for her third consecutive solo shutout, and her fourth of the 2013 season (to go along with one shared clean sheet). Anghel kept her side in contention with six saves, including a huge stop on Roccaro's point-blank header in the opening 45 seconds that kept the Fighting Irish from immediately gaining the upper hand.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-SYRACUSE SERIES TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: NORTH CAROLINA
Playing UNC for the first time as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Fighting Irish earned their sixth all-time win over the Tar Heels, the most for any team against North Carolina in its history. Notre Dame also improves to 5-2 all-time against UNC in Chapel Hill, winning for the fourth time in its last five matches against the Tar Heels at Fetzer Field.
In addition, the Fighting Irish registered the fifth win in program history against a top-ranked opponent, and their first since Dec. 5, 2010, when they ousted Stanford, 1-0, in Cary, N.C., to win their third national championship. What's more, Notre Dame picked up its first regular-season win over a No. 1-ranked team since Oct. 4, 1996, when they collected a 2-1 overtime victory over North Carolina in Durham, N.C.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little anchored a rock-solid Fighting Irish defense on Sunday, making five saves to record her third career shutout. Senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker also was credited with a defensive save late in the first half to preserve Notre Dame's clean sheet.
North Carolina finished with an 18-5 edge in total shots, including a 6-2 margin in shots on goal and a 4-1 advantage on corner kicks. The Tar Heels also hit the woodwork in the second half, with Crystal Dunn's strike in the 62nd minute was tipped off the underside of the crossbar by Little, then captured by the Fighting Irish netminder near the goal line.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: NORTH CAROLINA
ANDREWS NAMED ACC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Andrews, who also made the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week for the second consecutive week, scored the lone goal on a header in the 22nd minute of Notre Dame's 1-0 victory at No. 1 (and previously-unbeaten) North Carolina on Sunday, giving the Fighting Irish their sixth series win over the Tar Heels, and fifth at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Andrews is the first Notre Dame freshman to earn conference player of the week honors since Sept. 24, 2012, when current sophomore midfielder Cari Roccaro nabbed BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week accolades.
For the season, Andrews ranks second on the Fighting Irish squad with four goals and nine points. She also leads the team with 25 shots (tied for 10th in the ACC) and two match-winning goals (tied with junior forward Lauren Bohaboy for fifth in the conference).
UP NEXT: MARYLAND
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