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    Pitch Points: #23/19 Irish Find Middle Ground In NCAA Opener

    FIGHTING IRISH Sophomore midfielder Glory Williams turned in one of the most complete performances of her young career, expertly helping to manage the midfield and Notre Dame's possession game that paid off in a 4-1 win over Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Championship last Friday night at Alumni Field.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Sophomore midfielder Glory Williams turned in one of the most complete performances of her young career, expertly helping to manage the midfield and Notre Dame's possession game that paid off in a 4-1 win over Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Championship last Friday night at Alumni Field.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    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."

    PITCH POINTS
    Notre Dame played its 10th ranked opponent of the season on Friday (4-5-1 record), the most for the Fighting Irish in one season since 2008, when they also played 10 Top 25 foes ... Notre Dame improved to 63-17-1 (.784) in 21 career NCAA Championship appearances, including a remarkable 46-3 (.939) record at home (13-0 in the first round with a 63-8 aggregate score), and a 7-0 mark (26-3 aggregate) since moving into Alumni Stadium early in the 2009 season ... the Fighting Irish now have won at least one match in the NCAA Championship during 19 of their 21 appearances ... Notre Dame's 4-1 win over Iowa represented both its highest goal output and largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament match since Nov. 20, 2010, when the Fighting Irish posted a 4-1 victory at North Carolina, handing the Tar Heels their worst loss and most goals allowed in the NCAA era (1982-present) ... Notre Dame's 32-4 shot margin against Iowa tied for the fourth-largest in an NCAA Championship contest in program history and largest since Nov. 11, 2005 (a 33-4 margin in a 6-0 first-round win over Valparaiso at old Alumni Field) ... the 32 total shots were the most for the Fighting Irish in the NCAA tournament since Nov. 14, 2008, when they also logged 32 shots in a 5-2 first-round win over Toledo at old Alumni Field ... Notre Dame's 13 shots on goal were its highest in an NCAA postseason match since Nov. 15, 2009, when it also had 13 shots on target in a 6-1 second-round win over Central Michigan at Alumni Stadium (a contest best known for Melissa Henderson's NCAA Championship and school record-tying four goals) ... Notre Dame's 12 corner kicks not only tied a season high (Oct. 20 vs. Duke), but also were its highest total in an NCAA tournament match since Nov. 14, 2003, when it also had 12 tries from the flag in a 5-0 first-round victory over Loyola-Chicago at old Alumni Field ... the Fighting Irish scored three goals in a match for the ninth time this season, and first since a 3-1 win over Boston College on Oct. 24 at Alumni Stadium ... this year's nine matches with 3+ goals are the most for Notre Dame since its 2010 national championship season, when the Fighting Irish topped that mark 10 times (although the last three of those came in the NCAA Championship) ... Notre Dame now is 318-3-1 (.989) all-time when scoring three goals in a match, including a 220-1 (.995) record since Oct. 6, 1995 (when the Fighting Irish lost a 5-4 overtime decision at home to Connecticut) ... Last Friday marked the first time in Notre Dame's 81 career NCAA Championship matches that two penalty kicks were converted in the same contest (not counting shootouts) -- Andrews' spot conversion was the first for the Fighting Irish in NCAA postseason action since Nov. 12, 2010, when Henderson scored on a penalty in the 21st minute to open the scoring in a 3-0 first-round win over New Mexico at Alumni Stadium ... Andrews was the first Notre Dame player (and freshman) to score twice in an NCAA Championship contest since Nov. 26, 2010, when Elizabeth Tucker (then a freshman, now a senior tri-captain) netted both goals in a 2-0 win at Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals ... Andrews revived a Notre Dame women's soccer tradition of two-goal scorers in NCAA openers that had been a mainstay of the program for many years, including a remarkable run from 2001-10 that saw at least one Fighting Irish player score twice in the team's NCAA first-round match every season except 2004 (it also happened from 1995-98, although Notre Dame had first-round byes in 1995 and 1998, so the two-goal matches came in the team's tournament debut in the second round) ... Andrews is the fifth Fighting Irish player to score two goals in her first career NCAA Championship match, and first since Jen Buczkowski tallied twice in the 5-0 first-round win over Loyola-Chicago on Nov. 14, 2003, at old Alumni Field -- the others in this elite two-goal debut club are Shannon Boxx (hat trick in 5-0 second-round win over Wisconsin on Nov. 19, 1995, at old Alumni Field), Jenny Heft and Jenny Streiffer (Heft hat trick, Streiffer two goals in 8-1 first-round win over Indiana on Nov. 17, 1996, at old Alumni Field) ... Tucker registered her ninth career three-point match, and second this season following her two-goal performance at top-ranked Virginia on Oct. 10.

    UP NEXT: WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA SECOND ROUND)
    Notre Dame will take on Mid-American Conference Tournament champion Western Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. (ET) Friday at the U-M Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. The match is not scheduled for multimedia broadcast (audio or video), with coverage available through GameTracker live stats as well as the Notre Dame presence in social media (see below).

    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).

    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

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