Oct. 9, 2013
#9/5 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (9-2-1/5-1-1 ACC) vs. #1/1 VIRGINIA "Cavaliers" (12-0-0/6-0-0 ACC)
DATE: Oct. 10, 2013
That all changes Thursday night when the No. 9/5 Fighting Irish face one of the strongest challenges of their inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) season, heading to Charlottesville, Va., for a 7 p.m. (ET) match with the top-ranked and unbeaten Cavaliers at Klöckner Stadium. The contest will be broadcast live on the ACC Digital Network, with fans able to watch online free of charge through the conference's official web site (theacc.com).
For Notre Dame (9-2-1, 5-1-1 ACC), the challenge is multi-facted, as the Fighting Irish are not only playing their sixth ranked opponent of the season (and their fourth in the past seven matches), but their second No. 1 foe in less than a month. Back on Sept. 15, Notre Dame went to Chapel Hill, N.C., and edged top-ranked North Carolina, 1-0 on a 22nd-minute goal by freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford).
The Fighting Irish also are coming off their first-ever loss in ACC play, a 2-0 setback at Miami on Sunday afternoon. Notre Dame outshot the Hurricanes, 16-13, in the contest, but scoring chances didn't materialize for the visitors, while UM took full advantage of its opportunities to collect its first win in seven tries against the Fighting Irish.
"We've had a couple of days to look at the film and identify some of the areas where we struggled on Sunday," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "There's only a short time between games in the ACC, so adjustments have to come quickly, but I think our players have a good understanding of what went wrong and they're looking forward to getting back out there with a sharper effort on Thursday."
Only four days removed from that defeat, Notre Dame turns its attention to a Virginia side that is one of only four in the nation that is unbeaten and untied at this stage of the season. The Cavaliers feature a powerful offensive attack that has yielded 40 goals thus far (3.33 per match), relying on a possession-oriented style that in many ways is similar to the Fighting Irish. Setting the pace is junior playmaking midfielder Morgan Brian (8G-8A), who can score on her own or set the table for a pair of high-scoring sophomore forwards in Makenzy Doniak (10G-5A) and Brittany Ratcliffe (7G-1A).
Although opponents haven't created many chances against UVa thus far, the Virginia defense has been up to the task when called upon, recording seven shutouts. Rookie goalkeeper Morgan Stearns has seen the lion's share of time in the Cavalier net, earning four solo shutouts and two clean sheets while posting a 0.48 goals-against average.
"Virginia is such a skilled team and the results they've gotten this year show that," Waldrum said. "They possess the ball extremely well and have so many weapons at a number of different positions, especially in the attack with Morgan (Brian), (Makenzy) Doniak and (Brittany) Ratcliffe. They're also going to have a big home crowd behind them, so there will be a lot of energy in the stadium and that's something we need to be prepared for.
"Both teams play a similar style and many of the players and coaches know each other quite well," he added. "It should make for a very entertaining game, and this may be a situation where having played several ranked teams, including quite a few in the past month, will be helpful for us. We have a good feel for the level we need to play at in order to be successful, and now it's up to us to apply the lessons we've learned against those other ranked teams, as well as from the Miami loss, and put it on the field Thursday night."
THE NOTRE DAME-VIRGINIA SERIES
The Cavaliers are one of seven teams who own a winning record all-time against the Fighting Irish during in-season competition. All but one of those teams (North Carolina) have only faced Notre Dame once before.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-VIRGINIA SERIES TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: MIAMI
Flinn's first goal came in the 52nd minute and the clincher with less than seven minutes to play when Notre Dame was pushing forward in search of the equalizer.
The loss snapped a seven-match unbeaten string for the Fighting Irish (9-2-1, 5-1-1 ACC), who also fell for the first time in seven all-time meetings against Miami. What's more, Notre Dame had allowed just two goals in its first six conference matches, but had that total doubled on Sunday afternoon.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little made four saves in the Fighting Irish goal, while UM netminder Emily Lillard registered six stops for the home side (7-4, 2-4 ACC).
Notre Dame finished with a 16-13 edge in total shots, while shots on goal were even at 6-6. The Fighting Irish also had a 4-3 advantage on corner kicks, and were whistled for 10 of the 13 fouls on the afternoon, including the day's lone yellow card.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: MIAMI
UP NEXT: VIRGINIA TECH
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-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director