Oct. 11, 2013
SALEM, Va. - Somewhere along the highways winding through the Piedmont and Blue Ridge mountains, it disappeared.
"It" was the lingering frustration from Notre Dame's 3-2 double-overtime loss at top-ranked Virginia on Thursday night. The No. 9/5 Fighting Irish had battled the Cavaliers tooth and nail through a persistent (and sometimes heavy) rainstorm, weathering every challenge and turning the tide on Virginia with several strong opportunities of their own. Then, in the second overtime, it all ended in the blink of an eye, as quickly as Morgan Brian's header spun towards the goal line, was swept clear by Notre Dame freshman forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) and then ruled to have broken the plane by the assistant referee, putting an end to the ACC showdown.
It's only human to feel disappointment and anger following a tough loss like Notre Dame experienced. Yet, in a conference as powerful as the ACC, the team that dwells too long on the negatives will, to paraphrase the words of the late Spanish philosopher George Santayana, "be doomed to repeat them."
"It's over and done with," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Whether you agree or disagree with how that game ended, it's history. What we can take from it is how hard we fought and scrapped, and how our players adjusted to the changes we made and were able to not only survive but thrive in an adverse situation."
One of the bright spots on Thursday was the play of senior tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), who had one goal all season prior to facing Virginia, but scored twice against the Cavaliers, including her second score that forced overtime with 17:11 left in regulation. Tucker had started the season (and Thursday's match) at left back, but after an early UVa goal, Waldrum elected to move Tucker back to the midfield, her normal position during her first three seasons. It came as no surprise that Tucker, a 4.0 student and returning first-team Academic All-America selection, would adapt effortlessly with the tactical changes.
"Tucker is one of several players on our team that has that kind of versatility to play in a number of different spots," Waldrum said. "We made the decision to change our personnel and formation after they got that early goal and Tucker was able to really stand out after we switched things up."
The Fighting Irish manager also singled out his goalkeeper, freshman Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) for plaudits in the wake of Thursday's match. Little was playing one of the more difficult positions on the field in light of the wet weather, not to mention several puddles of standing water in the penalty area, including one around the six-yard box on each end of the pitch.
Nevertheless, Little was superb, coming up with a career-high nine saves, most notably on Danielle Colaprico's 25-yard shot four minutes into the first overtime, a drive that was ticketed for the far right-side netting, only to be denied by Little with a headlong dive to her left.
"Kaela made some very important stops for us and managed the game well under tough conditions," Waldrum said. "She wasn't fazed at all by the setting or the opponent, which is something we've seen from her several times before against teams like Carolina (five saves in 1-0 win) and UCLA (five saves in 1-0 loss). I was very pleased with the way she played."
As the sun disappeared over the Blue Ridge Mountains on Friday, and the Notre Dame women's soccer team arrived in Salem, Va. (about 40 miles northeast of Blacksburg), the smiles and laughter had returned to the Fighting Irish players and coaches, who enjoyed the camaraderie of a good meal and the chance to cheer on the Notre Dame men's soccer team to a last-second victory at Virginia Tech later in the evening.
"This is one of the advantages of having that extra day between games like we do in the ACC," Waldrum said. "It allows us to recharge, rest our bodies and our minds a little, and have some fun. It was great to be out there and support (Notre Dame men's soccer coach) Bobby (Clark) and the boys tonight, and tomorrow we'll turn our attention to our next challenge on Sunday against Virginia Tech."
Virginia Tech (10-1-2, 5-1-1 ACC) has not played since Oct. 3, when the Hokies earned a 1-0 overtime win at home over Clemson. Virginia Tech is unbeaten in its last six matches, winning four by shutout and the lone blemish being a 1-1 draw at Duke on Sept. 29.
Sunday's match will mark just the second all-time meeting between the Fighting Irish and Hokies, with Notre Dame winning in their only previous series match, 5-0 on Sept. 1, 2002, at old Alumni Field.
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