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    Pitch Points: #9/5 Irish Turn The Page After Rough Week

    FIGHTING IRISH Freshman midfielder Rilka Noel played a season-high 54 minutes in Notre Dame's 1-0 loss at #10/12 Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Freshman midfielder Rilka Noel played a season-high 54 minutes in Notre Dame's 1-0 loss at #10/12 Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Oct. 14, 2013

    NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Remember those ever-present desk calendars you got for Christmas, the ones with jokes, fun facts or memorable quotes? Chances are Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum grabbed his calendar Monday morning, tore the last seven pages off and tossed them right in the paper shredder.

    It's a brand-new week for Waldrum and his No. 9/5 Fighting Irish, and with it, the opportunity to throw the past seven days in the trash bin of history. It was a rough week for Notre Dame, one that featured the team's first three-match losing streak in 24 years, ending with a pair of one-goal losses on the road Thursday at No. 1 Virginia (3-2 in double overtime) and Sunday at No. 10/12 Virginia Tech (1-0).

    On the surface, those who didn't see any of the past week's matches might raise an eyebrow at Notre Dame's results. However, look a bit deeper and you'll see that, following a disappointing 2-0 loss at Miami on Oct. 6, the Fighting Irish rebounded very well during their trip to Virginia with a much higher intensity level and were highly-competitive in both matches, having opportunities to win each contest.

    After tying the UVa match at 2-2 in the 73rd minute, Notre Dame actually had the upper hand during the final quarter-hour of regulation, forcing Cavalier goalkeeper Morgan Stearns to make a handful of sharp saves to keep the match level. The Fighting Irish also had a near-miss in the opening moments of the first overtime off a rare "triple header," as a pair of flick headers from a free kick set up junior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill//Geneva) for a snap header on goal from eight yards out, only to be denied by an alert Stearns.

    The close calls continued at Virginia Tech, as Notre Dame ended up with a 14-9 edge in total shots, including a 10-5 margin in the second half, when the Fighting Irish had three of the five shots on goal, and didn't allow the Hokies to put a shot on frame until the 83rd minute, moments before they scored the only goal of the match.

     

     

    Still, Notre Dame had a golden opportunity to peg Virginia Tech back in the 88th minute, as junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) got on the end of a free kick less than 10 yards from goal. Yet, her one-timed shot was stopped by Hokies goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts, who made a tough reflex save diving to her right.

    In the end, there's a narrow margin between wins and losses in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Waldrum knows that his team still has work to do in order to get back on the positive side of that line.

    "I was pleased with the adjustments and the way we came out the second half against Virginia Tech," the Fighting Irish manager said. "We again did not get the start that I wanted in the first half, and that is something we have to correct. It was disappointing not to get the result, as I thought we were the better team overall. Having said that, this is the ACC and every team is capable of beating you.

    "Most of the games have come down to a mistake here or there for one of the teams that determines the outcome," he added. "It requires much more of a focus for 90 minutes from our players, and we are learning more and more about this each game."

    One of the adjustments Notre Dame made at halftime against Virginia Tech was a "double-switch" of sorts, moving sophomore Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) from defensive midfield to right back and beginning the period with freshman Rilka Noel (West Bloomfield, Mich./Marian) in the midfield alongside senior tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) and freshman Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford).

    It was an example of the confidence Waldrum had in his rookie midfielder, who played a season-high 54 minutes on the road against a top-10 conference opponent. However, she was just one of several players who caught the Fighting Irish coach's eye on Sunday.

    "I was really impressed with Rilka and the way she played for us especially in that second half," Waldrum said. "It was great to see her come on when needed and perform like that. I also though (freshman forward) Kaleigh Olmsted was really good for us, too. She is so dangerous when she turns and runs at defenses. Lauren (Bohaboy) gave us some great `hold-up' play up top, and some great work defensively as a forward, and I thought she was unlucky not to get the tying goal off of that late set-piece opportunity. (Sophomore defender/tri-captain) Katie Naughton had a really good game for us as well, coping well all day with their forwards, who were fast, athletic and dangerous. Mandy (Laddish) and Morgan (Andrews) had a much better second half for us and started to do a really good job of switching play, and we are so much better when that occurs."

    The Fighting Irish (9-4-1, 5-3-1 ACC) still have plenty of time in the regular season to make a move back up the conference ladder, and will have the benefit of a week off to recover and train before returning to the friendly surroundings of their home pitch at Alumni Stadium at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday against Duke on Senior Day.

    "We just have to focus on correcting some issues that we had last week and putting things together for the upcoming game against Duke," Waldrum said. "They will be bringing a very potent attacking team in here, so we have to be able to put that Virginia trip behind us and get ready for them. Right now, the goal is to be 1-0 on Sunday!"

    PITCH POINTS
    Notre Dame is 3-3-1 against ranked opponents this season with a 13-7 aggregate scoring margin ... the Fighting Irish fall to 1-1 all-time against Virginia Tech, having previously defeated the Hokies in their only series meeting, 5-0 on Sept. 1, 2002, at old Alumni Field ... this past week marked Notre Dame's first visit to the state of Virginia since Sept. 9-11, 1994, when the Fighting Irish swept a weekend road swing at No. 7 George Mason (1-0) and No. 10 William & Mary (4-3, ot) ... Notre Dame's three-match losing streak and four-match winless string are its longest since Oct. 21-28, 1989, when the Fighting Irish closed out their second varsity season with four consecutive losses in a week's time at Virginia (0-2), vs. Duke in Charlottesville, Va. (0-2), and at home against Dayton (1-2, lost on penalties) and Xavier (1-2) ... Notre Dame is 40-10-3 (.764) when coming off a loss during the Waldrum era (1999-present) ... the Fighting Irish dropped three consecutive conference matches for the first time in program history (Notre Dame played as an NCAA Division I independent program in 1989) ... in two of their last three losses (Miami and Virginia Tech), the Fighting Irish have outshot their opponents, but were shut out in both instances ... just how challenging as Notre Dame's schedule been so far? Only twice before in Waldrum's 15-year tenure (2001, 2007) and now just six times in program history (also 1992, 1994 and 1995) have the Fighting Irish played seven ranked opponents in the regular season, with third-ranked Florida State still to come in the regular-season finale on Oct. 31 ... what's more, Notre Dame's four top-10 opponents are its highest total in the regular season since Waldrum's first year (1999), and just the seventh time the Fighting Irish have faced four top-10 teams in the regular season (five each in 1993 and 1994, four apiece in 1992, 1995, 1997 and 1999).

    TWO BEST FRIENDS
    Junior defenders Taylor Schneider (Southlake, Texas/Carroll Senior) and Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) come from different parts of the country, but the minute they arrived on the Notre Dame campus, they became virtually inseparable.

    Recently, the pair sat down with Fighting Irish Digital Media for the latest installment of its series entitled "Student. Athlete. Irish." and the results are predictably hilarious.

    UP NEXT
    Notre Dame enjoys its second week-long break of the ACC season (first since Sept. 19-26) before it returns to Alumni Stadium to play host Duke at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The match will be streamed live through the Notre Dame multimedia platform, WatchND.

    Sunday's match also will serve as the Fighting Irish Senior Day, with the four departing Notre Dame senior players (Mandy Laddish, Nicole Rodriguez, Elizabeth Tucker, Rebecca Twining) and senior manager Tom Feifar honored before the match.

    Duke (5-6-3, 2-4-2 ACC) has suffered through more bad luck that perhaps any team in the country this season, with injuries ransacking the highly-talented Blue Devils' roster and providing the major reason behind a six-match winless streak that ended Sunday with a 2-1 victory at Maryland. Having righted the ship with that win, Duke will look to build upon that Thursday night at ACC upstart Clemson before the Blue Devils head north to South Bend this weekend.

    Tickets for the 2013 Notre Dame women's soccer campaign 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

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