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
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
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND PITTSBURGH MET
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
LAST TIME OUT: MARYLAND
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
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
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
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