Nov. 14, 2013
NCAA Championship - First Round
#23/19 NOTRE DAME "Fighting Irish" (11-7-1/7-5-1 ACC) vs. #RV/25 IOWA "Hawkeyes" (15-6-1/5-5-1 Big Ten)
DATE: Nov. 15, 2013
After a season-long 11-day hiatus, and with several days spent watching film and reviewing a series of close losses late in the season, the Fighting Irish put that behind them, forgetting all about records, rankings and RPI values, and see at the clear path that lies ahead -- one NCAA tournament match at a time. It's a journey that begins at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday when Notre Dame kicks off its 21st consecutive NCAA Championship appearance when it plays host to No. RV/25 Iowa at Alumni Stadium.
The Fighting Irish (11-7-1) last took the pitch on Nov. 3, dropping a 2-1 double-overtime decision at fifth-ranked Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship quarterfinals. It was Notre Dame's fifth one-goal loss in less than a month's time, with four of those defeats coming in two overtime periods. However, it also showed some of the mettle and fortitude the Fighting Irish will need during their NCAA postseason run, as they battled toe-to-toe with the Hokies (who would go on to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament) despite going down to 10 players because of a red card in the 77th minute (an ejection that was later overturned by the NCAA).
Notre Dame has a great deal of positive energy it can call upon, not only for the resiliency it has displayed this season, but for the recent memory of last year's charge through the NCAA Championship that took the Fighting Irish to the quarterfinals on the back of wins away from home over No. 10 Wake Forest (2-1) and No. 8 Florida (2-0).
Despite being a young team with 18 of its 28 players being either freshmen or sophomores, Notre Dame is battle-tested, having already faced nine ranked opponents, with No. 10 coming on Friday night when 25th-ranked Iowa comes calling.
The Hawkeyes, who are making their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship, are riding high as the Big Ten Tournament runners-up, thanks to wins over Michigan and Penn State in the tournament (the latter being the second over PSU in less than two weeks) before a 1-0 loss to Nebraska in the title match.
A disciplined, defensive-minded crew, Iowa will test the patience and resolve of a Notre Dame side that is not all together unfamiliar with such styles, having seen similar strategies employed by other opponents earlier this season.
"Iowa presents a huge problem for us by the way they drop in deep and defend," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "They are a very well-coached team, and (head coach) Ron (Rainey) has done a great job organizing them this year. They don't concede a lot of goals, and are on a very good run right now with their performances. Beating Penn State twice shows that they are capable of competing with the best in the country.
"They have a dangerous striker in Cloe Lacasse with an attacking midfielder Katie Nasenbenny who connects well with Lacasse," he added. "Ashley Catrell out wide right is very dangerous, and then their center back Melanie Pickert is very dangerous on set pieces. We will have to be sharp in our possession and patient against their bunker defense."
IRISH LOOKING TO #BREAK3K
To help with Friday's #BREAK3K promotion, free hot chocolate and Notre Dame soccer scarves will be given away to fans while supplies last. In addition, members of five University dorms that have supported the Fighting Irish women's soccer program all season (accruing points for attendance along the way) remain in contention to win a new big-screen television for their dorms, with Waldrum himself paying for the new TV and bringing it to the match on Friday.
"Our fans have been so loyal and supportive all season long," Waldrum said. "We're thrilled to be at home for this important NCAA tournament game and it should be exciting for our fans, but we need all the support we can get from our crowd. We have a chance to set a new school record for attendance at an NCAA game, but we can't do it alone, so we're asking everyone to help spread the word, bring a friend on Friday and remember to #BREAK3K!"
THE NOTRE DAME-IOWA SERIES
Iowa is the only current Big Ten team the Fighting Irish have never faced.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME PLAYED IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
Defender Katie Naughton headed home a corner kick from Brittany Von Rueden in the 44th minute to square the contest at 1-1. Forward Lauren Bohaboy buried the game winner from eight yards out in the 53rd minute, and midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish served up a ball that forward Crystal Thomas finished on a run in the 90th minute as the final Fighting Irish insurance goal.
Notre Dame held an 18-3 shot advantage over Milwaukee, including a 13-2 edge during the second half.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP TIDBITS
LAST TIME OUT: VIRGINIA TECH (ACC QUARTERFINALS)
The Fighting Irish played the final 33-plus minutes one player down after senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker received her second yellow card of the match at 75:24, with both cards coming less than 10 minutes apart. They were the first two yellow cards of Tucker's career, but an appeal of the first caution was upheld by the NCAA and the card rescinded, clearing Tucker to compete in Notre Dame's first-round match against Iowa.
Virginia Tech finished with a 31-14 edge in total shots (including all 14 after Tucker was erroneously sent off), while the shots-on-goal count was much tighter at 10-7 to the hosts. The Hokies also earned all 12 corner kicks in the match, while the Fighting Irish received all five yellow cards that were handed out during the afternoon.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little was superb in the Notre Dame goal, making eight saves to keep the Fighting Irish firmly in contention. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech's Dayle Colpitts recorded six saves for the hosts.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: VIRGINIA TECH
UP NEXT: NCAA SECOND ROUND
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