Sept. 20, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Buzzer beaters. Nail biters. Maalox Mashers.
No matter what you call them (the latter courtesy of Hall of Fame basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale), last-second wins have a taste all their own. For No. 7/4 Notre Dame, Thursday's thrilling 1-0 victory over Syracuse, on a goal by junior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) with three seconds remaining, was a sweet reward for what had, to that point, been a frustrating evening at Alumni Stadium.
The Fighting Irish (7-1, 3-0 ACC) certainly had their share of chances against the Orange, piling up 19 shots, including seven shots on goal (and another that clipped that crossbar). Of the first six shots on target, two were cleared off the line by Syracuse defenders and Orange netminder Brittany Anghel stopped the other four, as the visitors' strategy of playing deep and allowing Notre Dame to dominate the possession battle seemed to be working.
"After watching some video, I think that Syracuse had a really good game plan," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "They sat back and defended well collectively, yet at times pushed forward with a high back line, changing the rhythm of the game. We were a bit unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions, and had we converted, we could have opened the game up a bit more."
That all changed in the final minute of regulation, when sophomore midfielder Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) drew a foul in the left channel, 30 yards from goal. With precious seconds ticking away and Syracuse in no hurry to yield the 10-yard restraining distance on the ensuing free kick, things were beginning to look dicey for the Fighting Irish.
One person who kept calm in the face of the chaos around her was freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford), who patiently waited for the SU defense to back up, then drove a dipping free kick towards the underside of the crossbar. Anghel retreated and punched the ball up into the air as she stumbled back into the goal. Sophomore defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) then alertly went high to keep the play alive with a quick header, setting the table perfectly for Scofield, who darted in and snapped a header of her own past the remaining Orange defender into the net.
"I was pleased with our ability to win even we weren't at our best," Waldrum said. "That's the sign of a good team. Morgan's free kick on the winning goal was outstanding as it was whipped into the goal with some bend and pace that made it very hard to their keeper to handle. It was also great to see Britt go up for the header and, of course, Sammy redirecting it in for the win. Sammy played really well for us, as she continues to be a threat on set pieces and Glory Williams also looked solid for us. It's good to see her regaining her fitness levels as we are going to need her down the stretch.
"In general, I thought our midfield got caught holding the ball too much, losing it often in possession or slowing the game down," he added. "I was disappointed with our offensive production, and our lack of attacking understanding between our midfield and forwards, so that's something that will be a priority for us to work on during the coming weeks."
Scofield's score was the latest match-winning goal in Notre Dame's 26-year women's soccer history, either in regulation or overtime. Michelle McCarthy's goal with 25 seconds left in double overtime on Sept. 11, 1994, at William & Mary (4-3 win) was the previous latest score in program annals, while Ragen Coyne held the mark for the latest match-winner in regulation, that coming with 36 seconds to go at Wright State on Nov. 1, 1992 (2-1 win).
Scofield also became just the fifth Fighting Irish player to net the match-winning goal in the final minute of regulation or overtime. Jill Krivacek was the last to do so on Nov. 14, 2004, scoring with 53 seconds remaining for a 1-0 win over Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Championship at old Alumni Field.
Coincidentally, it was the second time in that 2004 national championship season that Notre Dame pulled a win out of the fire in the final minute of regulation. A month earlier on Oct. 10, 2004, Jen Buczkowski connected with 44 seconds left for a 2-1 victory at Georgetown.
"I think our players will respond well to the last-second goal, as will our staff," Waldrum said. "You never want to go into overtime as it's sudden death or golden goal, so to win at the buzzer was extremely exciting and emotional. I do think we still had some carryover, mentally and physically, from the Carolina game on Sunday, so a couple of days off are well-deserved for our team with no games this weekend."
Scofield has four career goals, with three of those coming in the 70th minute or later, while two of the four have been match-winners (Aug. 31, 2012, at 71:35 to beat No. 24/16 Santa Clara, 2-1 at Alumni Stadium; Thursday vs. Syracuse) and a third was an equalizer (Sept. 7, 2012, at 38:54 in 1-1 draw at No. 19/18 Portland) ... Von Rueden has 11 assists in her young 32-match career, with 10 of those helpers coming in the past 19 matches (including assists on the match-winning goals in the past two Fighting Irish wins against No. 1 North Carolina and Syracuse) ... Notre Dame improves to 22-1 all-time in conference home openers (across its memberships in the Midwestern Collegiate, BIG EAST and Atlantic Coast conferences), with a 96-8 aggregate scoring margin ... the Fighting Irish are 10-0 all-time against Syracuse (5-0 at home) with a 39-3 aggregate in the series ... freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) has shutouts in three of her last four matches, and the only thing separating her from a four-match shutout streak was a bobble of a free kick by N.C. State's Shelli Spamer 5:17 into Notre Dame's 3-1 win in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 12 ... the Fighting Irish held Syracuse to an opponent season-low four shots, tying the mark first set by Detroit on Sept. 8 (a 4-0 Notre Dame win at Alumni Stadium) ... a huge tip of the hat goes to the Alumni Stadium grounds crew, which worked tirelessly Thursday afternoon and early evening to make the pitch playable following 3.5 inches of rain that fell on South Bend in the previous 24 hours (a task made easier due to the fact the state-of-the-art Alumni Stadium turf was designed to drain one inch of water per hour) ... due to the looming threat of thundershowers before and during the match, Notre Dame rescheduled its "White Out" promotion for the Sept. 29 home match against Pittsburgh, with the first 750 fans coming through the Alumni Stadium turnstiles receiving a special "Notre Dame Women's Soccer White Out" t-shirt.
THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR
Scofield's goal secured the latest in a series of last-minute victories for Notre Dame teams within the past year. Here's a look at some (but certainly not all) of the other Fighting Irish thrillers since the start of the 2012-13 athletics year:
ACROSS THE POND
With Notre Dame having the weekend off, it presents a rare opportunity for Waldrum to watch his beloved Manchester United live on television, as the Red Devils visit crosstown rival Manchester City Sunday morning (11 a.m. ET on NBCSN), highlighting this weekend's action in the English Premier League.
With that in mind, we asked Waldrum for a quick scouting report on this season's first installment of the famed Manchester derby (which dates back to 1881), particularly what it will take for United to earn a victory:
"United need to continue to play (Wayne) Rooney underneath Robin Van Persie, with (Marouane) Fellani in midfield along with Michael Carrick in the middle. I think (Antonio) Valencia on one flank along with either (Ashley) Young or Nani on the other. He (first-year manager David Moyes) hasn't been playing these midfield tandems together much, but I think they are the best combinations.
"Moyes will have to worry about the attacking options of Man City. (Yaya) Toure in midfield is very good and dangerous offensively, so they need to keep an eye on him. Fellani should be a good matchup there. (Sergio) Aguero always seems to haunt United, so keep him occupied at all times. They need to take the game to City, not sit back deeper and defend. Don't let City get momentum! Their goalkeeping has been suspect with (Joe) Hart lately, so get plenty of service into the box as he'll make a mistake or two. Go Reds!!"
Notre Dame returns to the pitch at 7 p.m. (ET) Sept. 26, when it plays host to No. 21/23 Maryland at Alumni Stadium. The match will be streamed live and free of charge through the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
The Terrapins (5-3, 1-1 ACC), who will be making their first visit to South Bend since 2005, are coming off a 2-0 loss at home to No. 23/25 Virginia Tech. Maryland will welcome No. 6/3 Wake Forest to College Park, Md., on Sunday afternoon before turning its attention to next week's matchup with the Fighting Irish.
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