Oct. 19, 2013
#13/9 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (9-4-1/5-3-1 ACC) vs. DUKE "Blue Devils" (5-6-4/2-4-3 ACC)
DATE: Oct. 20, 2013
Sunday afternoon, the program will take time to honor those four seniors -- midfielders Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) and Nicole Rodriguez (Avon, Conn./The Master's School), and defenders Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) and Rebecca Twining (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist School) -- along with its two senior student managers (Tom Feifar and Breezi Toole) in a pre-match ceremony before the No. 13/9 Fighting Irish (9-4-1, 5-3-1) take on Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) foe Duke (5-6-4, 2-4-3) at 1 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium. The match will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
Collectively, the Fighting Irish seniors have helped the program to 56 wins, including the 2010 national championship and an appearance in the 2012 NCAA Championship quarterfinals, as well as two BIG EAST Conference National Division titles. What's more, Laddish, Tucker and Twining represent the final links for Notre Dame to its 2010 national championship team, with all three playing significant roles in that squad's success (Rodriguez joined the Fighting Irish roster as a sophomore, transferring to the University after attending Connecticut, but not playing soccer, as a freshman).
Laddish, a two-year team captain, earned a spot in the starting lineup as a freshman when All-America midfielder Courtney Barg was sidelined with an injury, and Laddish never released her grip on that role, having started all 77 matches she has played in during her Notre Dame career. In fact, were it not for seven contests she missed early in 2012 while playing with the U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team (and helping that squad to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup title in Japan), Laddish would have started every match the Fighting Irish have played in her career.
A talented and gifted playmaking midfielder from the Kansas City area, Laddish leads all active Notre Dame players with 15 career assists. Yet, it was one of her five career goals that remains her signature moment in Fighting Irish history. In the 2010 NCAA Women's College Cup semifinals against Ohio State in Cary, N.C., Laddish took a pass at midfield, raced 30 yards through the Buckeyes' defense and then hammered a shot from the top of the box high into the upper left corner of the net with 7:38 remaining to give Notre Dame a 1-0 win and set the stage for its national title match win over Stanford (by the same score) two days later.
Meanwhile, Tucker has stamped her place as one of the more remarkable student-athletes in Fighting Irish annals, blending her on-field abilities with an equally sensational work ethic in the classroom. As a 4.0 student in accounting, Tucker is a returning first-team Academic All-America selection (and a prime candidate to not only repeat that honor, but contend for Academic All-America Team Member of the Year recognition).
On the pitch, Tucker also is a two-year team captain who leads active Notre Dame players with 18 career goals (including seven match-winning tallies) and 48 career points. She also has been a mainstay in the Fighting Irish lineup, appearing in all 84 matches the program has played in her four seasons, starting 79 times, while playing all three field positions at some point during her tenure (she currently starts at left back, a spot she had never played in her college career prior to this season).
Tucker's biggest contribution to Notre Dame's athletic success came in that 2010 national championship season, when she scored a career-high nine goals (five match-winners), including both scores in a 2-0 Fighting Irish win at sixth-ranked Oklahoma State in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals. What made those goals even more remarkable is that Tucker twice beat OSU's talented netminder Adrianna Franch, who has been a standout at the U.S. Soccer youth national team level and now serves as a backup on the United States Women's National Team.
Tucker is not alone in her versatility among the senior class, with Twining also emerging as a starter at outside back this season following prior stints at midfield and forward for Notre Dame. The speedy and athletic Texan has collected four goals and eight assists in her 66-match career, with no score bigger than her diving header goal in the 20th minute to open the scoring in her team's 2012 NCAA Championship third-round match at eighth-ranked Florida (a match the Fighting Irish ultimately won, 2-0).
Rodriguez blended seamlessly onto the Notre Dame roster once she arrived on campus in the summer of 2011. The Connecticut native brought with her tremendous talent from her time in the Puerto Rico youth national team program, as well as her success in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), first with the Connecticut Reds and later the New England Mutiny. A leader by example, both on the pitch and in the locker room, Rodriguez has played in seven matches during her Notre Dame career, including five last season when she also scored her first collegiate goal (an 87th-minute strike against Cincinnati at Alumni Stadium).
"All four of our seniors have impacted our program in their own way," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Mandy and Elizabeth obviously were instrumental in our 2010 national championship, and both have continued to grow into great leaders for our program. Nicole is someone that transferred into Notre Dame and that is never easy, but she has been one of those players that every team needs as she simply makes everyone better each day by the effort she brings to practice. Rebecca has played just about everywhere for us during her career, and her versatility has been invaluable for us. As a group, these four seniors will most certainly be missed and their contributions to our program won't be forgotten."
Senior Day traditionally has been an emotional setting for college programs, although the Fighting Irish have done well to set those feeling aside once the match kicks off, going 13-1 on Senior Day since Waldrum arrived at Notre Dame in 1999, and averaging 3.86 goals in those contests.
This year's match will have the added intrigue of being the first for the Fighting Irish in a week, as the hosts have worked to iron out some of the wrinkles caused by a rare three-match losing streak (and four-match winless string). The challenge won't be easy against Duke, which is extremely athletic and boasts a great deal of offensive punch, but also has had to deal with numerous injuries and just plain old-fashioned bad luck. In fact, the Blue Devils, who come to town at the end of a four-match road swing, are coming off a 0-0 draw at Clemson on Thursday, a contest that saw Duke hit the woodwork four times.
"Training has been going great this week," Waldrum said. "We needed the three good days of training. The intensity level from everyone has been fantastic, and the focus has been really good as well. It has been a much-needed week to get back to correcting some of the things that went wrong the past two weekends.
"Duke will provide a major test for us as they are loaded with attacking firepower," he added. "Up front, Kelly Cobb is one of our (youth) national team players -- she has size, power, skill, and is a clinical finisher, and she will be a handful. (Laura) Weinberg has speed and when they play (Mollie) Pathman up, she gives them great service from the left side. They also have Toni Payne in midfield, along with Kaitlyn Kerr, and all of these players are ones we recruited here at Notre Dame, and their back line is anchored by Natasha Anasi, who plays for me on the U-23 National Team.
"We will have our hands full trying to contain Duke and their attack," Waldrum concluded. "We'll have to be much better defensively then we were in Virginia. However, more important than anything else, we have to get back to playing our way. If we do that, it should be a great game for the fans."
THE NOTRE DAME-DUKE SERIES
The Fighting Irish have won eight of their last 10 games against Duke, although the Blue Devils snapped a nine-match winless streak the last time the teams faced off, earning a 3-1 victory on Aug. 28, 2011.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND DUKE MET
The Blue Devils' second-half rally resulted in a rare second consecutive loss for Notre Dame (both at the hands of top-10 opponents). The last time the Fighting Irish had lost back-to-back matches came nearly two seasons prior, dating back to a pair of 2-0 defeats at Santa Clara and versus third-ranked Stanford (at Santa Clara) on Sept. 11 & 13, 2009.
Duke finished with a 15-11 edge in total shots, including a 9-2 advantage in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish earned six of the seven corner kicks on the afternoon, while the Blue Devils were whistled for 11 of 20 fouls and all three offsides calls. Notre Dame received both yellow cards in the match, each of which was assessed to defender Taylor Schneider, who was sent off with her second booking in the 83rd minute.
Goalkeeper Sarah Voigt did all she could to keep the Fighting Irish in the match, recording six saves in going the distance for the second consecutive outing. Duke netminder Tara Campbell made one save during her 90-minute effort.
OTHER NOTRE DAME-DUKE SERIES TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: VIRGINIA TECH
Notre Dame lost its third consecutive match as a result of the decision, and is winless in four in a row for the first time since 1989, the program's second season. That year, the Fighting Irish lost their final four matches, their second four-match losing streak of the season.
The contest was a physical, gritty affair, with scoring chances at a premium. Notre Dame finished with a 14-9 edge in total shots, while Virginia Tech had a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-1 margin on corner kicks. Fouls also were nearly even (14-11 against the Hokies), while each team received one yellow card.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little went the distance in the Notre Dame goal, making three saves. At the opposite end, Virginia Tech netminder Dayle Colpitts also turned aside three shots for her seventh shutout of the season.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: VIRGINIA TECH
UP NEXT: BOSTON COLLEGE
The Fighting Irish will wear special alternate home uniforms for Thursday's match, with those jerseys currently available for fans to bid on through the official Notre Dame athletics auction web site, UND.com/auctions. The proceeds will go to The SEGway Project, a non-profit organization founded by former Fighting Irish women's soccer player Lindsay Brown ('13) that uses soccer to help empower girls in the developing world. The online jersey auction will continue through Thursday night's match against Boston College.
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.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director