Sept. 28, 2013
#5/3 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (8-1-0/4-0-0 ACC) vs. PITTSBURGH "Panthers" (4-6-1/0-5-0 ACC)
DATE: Sept. 29, 2013
TIME: 1:00 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium - cap. 3,007)
SERIES: ND leads 10-0-1 (ND leads 6-0-0 at Notre Dame)
LAST MEETING: ND 2-1 (9/21/12 at ND)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
TEXT ALERTS: Sign up at UND.com
TICKETS: Call (574) 631-7356, visit UND.com/tickets, or stop by the Alumni Stadium tickets windows on match day ($5 adults/$3 youths-seniors/free for all Notre Dame/Saint Mary's/Holy Cross students)
PROMOTIONS: Sunday's match has been designed as a "White Out", with the first 750 fans receiving a free "Notre Dame Women's Soccer White Out" t-shirt.
For many of the top teams in any sport, a key to their success is the ability to adapt and make timely adjustments as the season moves along. That remains one of the focal points for No. 5/3 Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish continue their four-match homestand at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday, playing host to fellow Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) newcomer Pittsburgh at Alumni Stadium. The match, which will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND, has been designated as a "White Out", with fans encouraged to wear white in support of the Fighting Irish.
Adaptation was at the forefront of Notre Dame's most recent victory, a 5-0 rout of No. 21/22 Maryland on Thursday night at Alumni Stadium. Searching for an offensive spark, Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum moved sophomore All-American Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) up to the forward line, and the second-year standout responded with the program's first hat trick in nearly two seasons, and its first against a ranked opponent since 2006.
Collectively, Notre Dame (8-1, 4-0 ACC) turned in one of its most complete performances of the season, as the Fighting Irish effectively managed the possession battle against a similar-minded Maryland side while neutralizing the Terrapins' top two offensive threats, forward Hayley Brock and midfielder Ashley Spivey. The end result was a 15-5 edge in total shots (9-1 in shots on goal) and Notre Dame's third consecutive shutout, as well as its fourth in the past five outings.
Now, just three days after facing an opponent that nearly was a mirror image in terms of their tactical style, the Fighting Irish have to change their mindset again, as Pittsburgh (4-6-1, 0-5 ACC) comes to town with a defensive mentality that may remind many Notre Dame fans of another recent visitor to Alumni Stadium, Syracuse. Just 10 days ago, the Fighting Irish needed almost the full measure of regulation to break through, with junior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) finally potting the match-winning goal with three seconds to play.
As a result, one could forgive Waldrum if he takes a cautious and pragmatic approach heading into Sunday's contest against Pittsburgh.
"Pitt gave us fits last year in the BIG EAST (a 2-1 win at Alumni Stadium)," the Fighting Irish manager said. "They have an athletic goalkeeper in Nicole D'Agostino, who is playing well for them, has made 10 saves in each of her last three games and was great against us last year. One of the other key players for them is Roosa Arvas, who coordinates things in midfield for them. Alex Charlebois has come off the bench lately, but she is one of their leading scorers at the moment. Defensively, Morgan Sharick is the key player, someone who is big and strong and will join in on set pieces in the attack.
"They played really well against UNC Thursday night (a 1-0 loss at home), which should give them confidence coming in here to play against us," Waldrum added. "They also know us well from the BIG EAST, so there won't be any surprises or advantages for either team due to not knowing each other. They seem to play mostly out of a 4-4-2 (formation) with a diamond in midfield. We'll have to make sure to possess and move the ball quickly to keep them unbalanced thru midfield."
THE NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES
Notre Dame is 10-0-1 all-time against Pittsburgh, including a 6-0-0 record at home, with all previous meetings between the teams taking place in BIG EAST Conference play. The Fighting Irish own a staggering 40-4 aggregate goal advantage in the series.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND PITTSBURGH MET
Notre Dame used goals from freshmen Cari Roccaro and Glory Williams, along with a dominant edge in possession time, to remain unbeaten in BIG EAST Conference play with a rain-soaked 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 21, 2012, before a crowd of 1,345 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Roccaro netted her second goal in as many matches, converting a short-range volley in the 16th minute off a cross from senior defender Jazmin Hall. Williams then doubled the Fighting Irish lead with her first college goal, heading in a corner kick by junior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish in the 58th minute.
Pittsburgh spoiled the shutout when Ashley Cuba scored an unassisted goal with 4:39 remaining. However, it was the lone blemish for Notre Dame on a night when the Fighting Irish outshot the Panthers, 21-6, including a 9-2 edge in shots on goal (not counting two other Notre Dame shots that hit the post and a goal that was wiped out by an offensive foul in the penalty area). Notre Dame also chalked up a (then) season-high 12 corner kicks en route to its third consecutive victory.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Voigt went the distance in the Fighting Irish cage, making one save. Nicole D'Agostino also played the full 90 minutes in the Pittsburgh goal and registered seven saves.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES TIDBITS
Notre Dame won the first nine matches in the all-time series against Pittsburgh, compiling an aggregate 38-3 goal edge. The Panthers ended the winning streak by forcing a scoreless draw between the teams on Oct. 4, 2011, at Pittsburgh ... Pittsburgh has scored a total of three goals during its six prior trips to Notre Dame. Conversely, the Fighting Irish have scored a total of 23 times (23-3 aggregate) in those contests ... Pittsburgh is one of six current ACC members that Notre Dame has compiled an undefeated record against during its 26-year history ... despite no current Notre Dame players having residency ties to the state, Pennsylvania has produced eight players who have suited up for the Fighting Irish during the program's history.
LAST TIME OUT: MARYLAND
Sophomore forward Cari Roccaro registered her first career hat trick as No. 5/3 Notre Dame rolled to a 5-0 win over No. 21/22 Maryland in ACC action on Thursday night at Alumni Stadium.
Roccaro's hat trick was the first by a Fighting Irish player since Oct. 21, 2011, when Melissa Henderson tied the school record with four goals in a home win over DePaul. It also was the first for Notre Dame against a ranked opponent since Nov. 24, 2006, when Michele Weissenhofer scored three times in a 4-0 win over No. 8 Penn State in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals at old Alumni Field. The last regular-season hat trick by a Notre Dame player against a Top 25 team occurred on Sept. 5, 2004, when Katie Thorlakson had three goals and two assists in a 5-2 victory over fourth-ranked Santa Clara, also at old Alumni Field.
In addition, Thursday's five-goal outburst was Notre Dame's largest against a ranked opponent in exactly three years, dating back to a 5-0 win at No. 24 Louisville.
Sophomore forwards Crystal Thomas and Anna Maria Gilbertson added goals in the first and second halves, respectively, with Thomas driving a dagger into the Terrapins, scoring with six seconds left in the opening half to give the Fighting Irish a 2-0 lead after Maryland hit the crossbar moments earlier.
Aside from that close call with the woodwork, freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little was largely untested by a Maryland side that was coming off a 1-0 win over then-No. 6/3 Wake Forest four days earlier. Little only had to make one save in the first 67:15, before giving way to junior netminder Sarah Voigt, who didn't record a save in completing Notre Dame's third consecutive shutout and fourth in the past five matches.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: MARYLAND
In three of its four wins all-time against Maryland, Notre Dame has scored five or more goals. The Fighting Irish previously earned a 5-2 victory on Sept. 16, 2002 in College Park, and shut out the Terrapins 6-0 on Sept. 4, 2005 at old Alumni Field ... Notre Dame has now held Maryland scoreless for the last 215:53 in the series, scoring 16 unanswered goals in that time. ... Notre Dame earned its seventh win of 2013 in which it did not trail at any point during the match. The only Fighting Irish come-from-behind victory this season was a 3-1 decision at North Carolina State on Sept. 12 ... Cari Roccaro's first goal of the match, which came in the 32nd minute off a pass from Lauren Bohaboy, was the latest initial tally for Notre Dame in a match where the team has scored multiple goals this season. Crystal Thomas' first goal of 2013, at 15:56 of the first half at N.C. State on Sept. 12 (3-1 Fighting Irish win), had been the previous mark.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Notre Dame is unbeaten in 36 of its last 42 matches on Sunday (31-6-5), including a 1-0 victory at No. 1 North Carolina in its most recent contest on a Sunday (Sept. 15 in Chapel Hill, N.C.). The Fighting Irish are 3-1 on Sunday this season, with their lone loss of the season being a 1-0 setback at the hands of No. 4/2 UCLA on Sept. 1 in the title match of the Notre Dame adidas Invitational at Alumni Stadium.
Still, Notre Dame owns a 50-8-6 (.828) record in its last 64 contests when closing out the weekend (usually on the back end of a two-match set). That run dates back to September 2007, when the Fighting Irish lost three consecutive Sunday matches to nationally-ranked Stanford, Oklahoma State and Penn State, all by 2-1 scores (the first two in overtime).
UP NEXT: WAKE FOREST
Notre Dame wraps up its four-match homestand at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday when they play host to No. 9/10 Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium. The match will be streamed live through the Notre Dame multimedia platform, WatchND.
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