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
TIME: 7 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium - cap. 3,007)
SERIES: First meeting
BROADCAST: WatchND (live)
LIVE STATS: UND.com
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TICKETS: (574) 631-7356; UND.com/tickets
The Notre Dame athletic facilities crew always has been on top of its game when it comes to keeping the Fighting Irish soccer fields in prime condition. However, the grounds crew may have had a hard time keeping up with the No. 23/19 Notre Dame women's soccer team, which has been furiously practicing for more than a week and wearing out the turf, pacing like a caged animal waiting for the NCAA Championship to get underway.
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
Waldrum and the entire Fighting Irish roster have blanketed social media this week, particularly Twitter, with the hashtag #BREAK3K. It's a grassroots push on the part of the Notre Dame women's soccer program to sell out Friday's NCAA first-round match against Iowa, not only filling Alumni Stadium to its 3,007 capacity (and setting a stadium attendance record for postseason play in the process), but also bringing out a vociferous student body to help give the Fighting Irish a home pitch advantage that has helped the program go 45-3 all-time in NCAA home matches during its 26-year history.
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
The Fighting Irish and Hawkeyes will meet for the first time during Friday's NCAA Championship first-round match. Notre Dame is a combined 14-2 against Big Ten Conference members in the NCAA tournament, not counting three wins against Nebraska when the Cornhuskers were members of the Big 12.
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
No. RV/23 Notre Dame broke open the contest early in the second half, as a pair of goals in the final frame powered the Fighting Irish to a 3-1 win over Milwaukee in the first round of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 10, 2012, at Alumni Stadium.
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
Notre Dame is competing in the NCAA Championship for the 21st consecutive year, the second-longest active streak of consecutive berths, trailing only North Carolina (31) in that category. The 21-year run also is the third-longest in the tournament 31-year history, with Connecticut having a 26-year stretch (1982-2007) and Santa Clara also going to the tournament for 19 consecutive seasons (1989-2007) ... Notre Dame and North Carolina remain 1-2 in virtually all NCAA Championship appearance records since 1994 -- round-of-16 trips (UNC-20, ND-17, Portland-14), quarterfinal berths (ND-16, UNC-16, Portland-13), College Cup spots (UNC-14, ND-12) and title game visits (UNC-12, ND-8; no one else with more than three) ... the Fighting Irish claimed NCAA titles in 1995, 2004 and 2010, joining North Carolina as the only three-time winners in the history of the tournament. Notre Dame also has finished as the NCAA runner-up five times (1994, 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2008) as part of its 12 NCAA College Cup berths (semifinalist in 1997, 2000, 2007 and 2009), all since 1994 ... Notre Dame enters Friday's match against Iowa with a 12-2 (.858) all-time record in matches contested during the first round of the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish are a perfect 12-0 in home matches during the tournament's opening round, posting an aggregate goal edge of 59-7. The only two first round NCAA matches Notre Dame has ever lost in its history were in its first-ever NCAA Championship match in 1993 (1-2 against George Mason on Nov. 13 in Madison, Wis.) and in 2011 (0-1 against Illinois on Nov. 13 in Champaign, Ill.) ... for more information on Notre Dame's remarkable run of excellence in the NCAA Championship, see pp. 112-118 of this year's Fighting Irish media guide.
LAST TIME OUT: VIRGINIA TECH (ACC QUARTERFINALS)
No. 19/10 Notre Dame battled valiantly in a 2-1 in double-overtime defeat at fifth-ranked Virginia Tech in the quarterfinal round of the ACC Championship on Nov. 3 at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va.
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
The match was the fourth during the 2013 season where Notre Dame lost in double overtime, including three (No. 1 Virginia, No. 3 Florida State and No. 5 Virginia Tech) on the road at top-five opponents ... it was also the sixth one-goal defeat for the Fighting Irish this season, with five coming on goals scored in the final 11 minutes of regulation or overtime (all five against top-10 opponents) ... junior forward Lauren Bohaboy headed in a left-side cross for the Notre Dame goal from freshman forward Kaleigh Olmsted, with freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews earning the secondary assist on the play after a pinpoint cross-field pass to spring Olmsted. The trio became the first Fighting Irish point scorers in ACC Championship play in program history.
UP NEXT: NCAA SECOND ROUND
A win over Iowa would move Notre Dame to the second round of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 22, when the Fighting Irish would face the winner of Western Michigan and No. 8/6 (and second-seeded) Marquette. Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against Western Michigan, but has not faced the Broncos since Sept. 20,1989 (a 3-1 ND win). The Fighting Irish are 7-5-1 all-time against its former BIG EAST Conference rival Marquette, although the teams have never met during the NCAA Championship.
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