Nov. 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's a beloved backyard game that's been played for centuries. The simple notion of pitching the shoes of a horse toward a metal stake and earning points for either getting the shoe to circle the stake or coming closer than your opponent.
If No. 19/10 Notre Dame was playing horseshoes instead of soccer this season, it's likely the Fighting Irish would be at, or near, the top of the table. However, unlike horseshoes, Notre Dame doesn't get three points for a ringer, two points for a "leaner" or one point for being closest to the stake -- the only thing the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings see is the final result, giving three points for a victory and one point for a draw. Anything else is simply another drop in the bucket of frustration for the Fighting Irish.
That's what makes Thursday's 2-1 double-overtime loss at third-ranked Florida State all the more aggravating. For large stretches of the match, Notre Dame held the run of play and had the Seminoles on their heels, while the Tallahassee faithful gritted their teeth and buzzed with nervousness as time wound down. However, if you weren't watching the match in person or on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks broadcast, chances are the only thing you saw was the final score and the stark "L" next to the Fighting Irish name in the record books.
"It's hard to wrap your head around that sometimes and convince the players that they are competing hard, executing and doing the things we need to do to win games," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "When you aren't getting positive results from that hard work, it can wear on you. However, I think we all realize that we're playing well right now and the intensity and drive is there; it's just a matter of everyone looking at what they can do to find that one additional thing to help get us over the hump."
Notre Dame is 3-4-1 against ranked opponents this season with a 14-9 aggregate scoring margin, and three of those eight going to overtime ... in fact, four of the six Fighting Irish losses this season all have come at the hands of teams ranked 10th or higher in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll at kickoff, including three top-five squads ... the Fighting Irish played eight ranked opponents in the regular season for the first time in school history, having previously played seven Top 25 teams during the regular season in 1992, 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2007 ... for the second time in three years, Notre Dame has played at least four overtime matches in one season (the Fighting Irish went 0-2-3 in added time in 2011) ... the three OT losses are the most ever for Notre Dame in one season (they had two on several occasions, the last in 2011) ... dating back to last year, seven of the past eight Fighting Irish losses have been decided by one goal (all but a 2-0 setback at Miami earlier this year on Oct. 6), with six of those seven seeing the deciding goal coming in the final 20 minutes of regulation or in overtime ... of the past six Fighting Irish non-wins (five defeats, one draw), Notre Dame has outshot its opponent five times, the lone exception coming Oct. 10 at top-ranked Virginia (which outshot the Fighting Irish, 21-13 in the Cavaliers' 3-2 double-overtime win) ... Notre Dame drops to 21-4-1 all-time in regular-season finales, including a 10-2-1 record on the road ... the Fighting Irish fall to 3-3 all-time against Florida State, with four of the six contests decided by one goal ... Thursday's match was the first regular season meeting in the six-match series between Notre Dame and Florida State (the previous five came in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals or College Cup semifinals) ... Thursday also marked the 11th time in 18 matches this year the Fighting Irish have led at halftime, and the first in which they have not won when leading at the break since Sept. 22, 2011, when they lead 1-0 at the half at South Florida before finishing in a 1-1 draw; the last loss Notre Dame suffered when leading at halftime was Aug. 28, 2011, when the Fighting Irish led 21st-ranked Duke, 1-0 at the Carolina Classic, before the Blue Devils scored three times in a 12-minute span midway through the second half for the 3-1 win in Chapel Hill, N.C. ... Notre Dame has featured remarkable balance in scoring between halves this season, with 19 goals in the first half and 20 in the second half to date ... sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) netted her fourth goal of the season Thursday night at Florida State, her first score since Sept. 26, when she closed out Notre Dame's 5-0 win over No. 21/22 Maryland at Alumni Stadium ... Gilbertson's goal continues the superb production from the Fighting Irish underclassmen, as the team's freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 22 of the team's 39 goals thus far, including six of 11 match-winning tallies ... spotted in the crowd at the Seminole Soccer Complex on Thursday night was new Florida State director of athletics and former Notre Dame basketball player/administrator Stan Wilcox ('82), who took over the reins in Tallahassee prior to the start of the 2013-14 athletic season after a successful tenure on the senior administrative staff at Duke.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
Although the forecast for Thursday night's match at Florida State called for a possibility of rain, or at the very least, high humidity, conditions remained dry for the most part during the contest. That is, of course, unless you were sitting on the Notre Dame bench.
As the Fighting Irish team personnel returned to their shelter on the west side of the grounds after halftime, they discovered that a pipe behind the bench had burst. Water began persistent trickling into the dirt under the benches and formed a small creek flowing beneath the feet of the Notre Dame players and coaching staff. By the time the match ended more than an hour later, the water still hadn't subsided, leaving the bench area a bit of a muddy mess.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
An added challenge for Notre Dame with this week's trip has been the unknown, as the Fighting Irish were ready to head directly to their next destination, but weren't sure who they would play in the ACC Championship quarterfinals until after Thursday night's other matches were completed. As such, assistant coach Dawn Greathouse has found herself burning the midnight oil to create three separate itineraries, contingent upon whether Notre Dame would be staying in Tallahassee for a rematch with Florida State, or travel to either Chapel Hill, N.C., to play North Carolina, or visiting Virginia Tech (it ultimately ended up being the latter).
Once it was determined the Fighting Irish were headed to Blacksburg, Va., the real test became how to get the 28-person travel party there on less than a day's notice. However, in cooperation with the University's athletics travel partner, Anthony Travel, Notre Dame was able to secure a flight from Atlanta to Roanoke, Va., late Friday night, although it did mean the team had to bus four hours from Tallahassee to Atlanta to catch the flight (Roanoke is only 45 minutes from Blacksburg).
The final test will come after Sunday's quarterfinal match, as the Fighting Irish will need to make another lengthy bus ride from Blacksburg up to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., for the return flight late Sunday evening back to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. A two-hour bus ride to campus will follow, with the Notre Dame travel party expected to arrive back in South Bend around 2:30 a.m. (ET) Monday, just a few hours before several of the Fighting Irish players have to be awake for morning classes.
Notre Dame makes its first-ever appearance in the ACC Championship on Sunday when the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish travel to Blacksburg, Va., for a 1 p.m. (ET) quarterfinal match against fourth-seeded (and No. 5-ranked) Virginia Tech. The match is not scheduled for broadcast, although live stats will be provided through the Hokies' web site (hokiesports.com) and live updates will be available on the Notre Dame women's soccer news Twitter feed (@NDsoccernews).
This will mark the second time in three weeks Notre Dame and Virginia Tech have squared off on that same Thompson Field pitch, with the Hokies squeezing out a 1-0 win on Oct. 13 thanks to Ellie Zoepfl's goal with 3:45 left in regulation. The Fighting Irish finished with a 14-9 edge in total shots in that contest, while Virginia Tech held a slim 4-3 advantage in shots on goal.
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