Nov. 18, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- It's probably not a good idea to give an experienced coach like Notre Dame's Randy Waldrum nearly two weeks to prepare for a match. Yet while the Fighting Irish manager elected to tinker with some tactical changes prior to his team's NCAA Championship first-round contest against Iowa last Friday night, one thing he wasn't going to mess with was his midfield.
As it turned out, Waldrum was spot-on in his decision, as freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) made the most of her NCAA postseason debut, scoring twice in the first half to spark the No. 23/19 Fighting Irish past the Hawkeyes, 4-1, at Alumni Stadium. Andrews was supported by a strong Notre Dame back line that produced the team's other two goals (courtesy of two of its three captains, senior Elizabeth Tucker and sophomore Katie Naughton), and assisted on the latter score (thanks to sophomore Brittany Von Rueden).
However, some of the biggest contributions for the Fighting Irish came from three players who didn't make it into the scoring column -- junior defender Sammy Scofield (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and sophomore midfielders Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) and Glory Williams (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands). The trio were part of a larger Notre Dame unit (including Naughton and Tucker) that not only helped successfully slow down Iowa's attack, led by striker Cloe Lacasse, but also spark the Fighting Irish possession game that had the visiting Hawkeyes chasing their tails much of the night.
"I thought we played very well on Friday night," Waldrum said. "We controlled the tempo and the possession, which is key for us as a program. I felt that Roccaro, Naughton, and Scofield all played very well for us defensively. They did a great job on shutting down Lacasse, who is a very good player for Iowa. Liz Tucker also did a really good job of containing (Iowa midfielder) Ashley Catrell as well. These two players were key for Iowa, and we neutralized them as we had hoped to.
"Glory (Williams) had a great game for in midfield, controlling the central areas of the pitch," he added. "This allowed for Morgan and Mandy (Laddish) to attack much more freely, and as a result, Morgan nets two goals for us. When we really get our midfield going, we can be a very dangerous team."
In some ways, Friday's opener was a mirror image of Notre Dame's first-round match last year against Milwaukee, which also saw the Fighting Irish fall behind early on a first-half penalty kick, only to bounce back for a 3-1 victory (thanks in part to a Von Rueden-Naughton corner kick connection late in the first half).
On Friday, Notre Dame conceded from the spot just 4:03 into the match, and considering the rash of tough luck the Fighting Irish have experienced this season (six one-goal losses, four in double overtime), it would only be human nature if the Notre Dame contingent caught itself wondering if things weren't coming unraveled again. Yet, the Fighting Irish didn't flinch and were rewarded for their resolve with Andrews' equalizer, also on a penalty kick, in the 38th minute, as well as her go-ahead score with 1:07 left in the first half. Tucker then doubled the margin in the 53rd minute and the law office of Von Rueden and Naughton slammed the door off the set piece a bit more than four minutes from time.
"I thought it was important that we showed some composure in coming back from the early penalty kick that was called against us," Waldrum said. "We just stayed the course, shrugged off the goal, and went about our business. I hope that's the sign of a maturing team.
"Our set pieces also were much better due primarily to the service of Brittany Von Rueden, and we even scored off the corner at the end," he added. "It's been a while since we had done that, so I was pleased to see us much more committed in that area. Set pieces will be a difference as we move forward in the NCAAs."
UP NEXT: WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA SECOND ROUND)
WMU (12-5-5) -- which is led by second-year head coach Nate Norman (a 2007 Notre Dame graduate and former standout midfielder for Fighting Irish head coach Bobby Clark from 2003-06, helping the Notre Dame men to the NCAA quarterfinals as a senior in 2006) -- earned its second all-time NCAA Championship win (first since 2003) in dramatic fashion last Friday, defeating No. 8/6 (and second-seeded) Marquette, 1-0 in Milwaukee on Aubrey Sudomier's 84th-minute goal. Notre Dame and Western Michigan have played two common opponents this season -- Northwestern and Iowa -- with the Fighting Irish going 2-0 against that pair (matching 4-1 home wins on Aug. 25 and Nov. 15, respectively), while the Broncos went 0-1-1 against those common foes (losing at Iowa, 3-1 on Aug. 25, then playing to a scoreless draw at Northwestern on Sept. 12).
Although their campuses are separated by just 80 miles, Notre Dame and Western Michigan will be meeting for only the third time in series history, and the first in more than 24 years (Sept. 20, 1989), when the Fighting Irish earned a 3-1 victory at its first home pitch, Moose Krause Stadium (since demolished to make way for the program's current home, Alumni Stadium).
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-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director