Sept. 21, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Freshman forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) and senior All-America forward Kerri Hanks (Allen, Texas/Allen) scored a little more than two minutes apart in the first half, helping top-ranked Notre Dame remain undefeated this season with a 3-1 win over No. 17/16 Penn State on Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Pa. It’s the fourth win over a ranked opponent for the 8-0 Irish this season, with three of those victories coming away from home.
Sunday’s triumph also represented a personal milestone for 10th-year Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, who became the eighth active NCAA Division I coach to earn 300 career victories. However, the win was bittersweet for Waldrum, who was not in attendance at Sunday’s game due to a death in his family. Assistant coaches Dawn Greathouse and Ken Nuber, along with volunteer assistant Amanda Cinalli and operations staffer Jeannette Boudway, filled in for Waldrum, who is expected to be back on the Irish bench next weekend.
“We’re very proud of the way the team dealt with adversity this weekend, between Randy’s family and our unusual travel situation,” Nuber said. “All of us — the players, coaches and staff — were called upon to do a little bit more in Randy’s absence and everyone delivered. Right now, though, our thoughts and prayers go out to Randy and his family.”
Although Penn State held a 15-11 edge in total shots, Notre Dame owned the advantage in shots on goal (9-4). The Nittany Lions did record a 5-1 margin in corner kicks, the first time all season the Irish did not lead in that department. Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo) tied her season high with three saves to pick up the win.
After a two-hour gameday bus ride from the team hotel in Johnstown (a location necessitated by a PSU home football game the day before), Notre Dame looked sluggish out of the gate on Sunday, as Penn State commanded the run of play for the first 15 minutes, with Jess Rosenbluth serving a dangerous cross into the area in the third minute, and Danielle Toney lofting a chip toward the far left post a minutes later. Yet, the Irish settled down and began to probe the Nittany Lions’ defense, with Hanks and Henderson getting into the penalty box and testing PSU goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher with chips and crosses.
Hanks then started the game’s first scoring sequence, dropping off a ball for her fellow senior All-America forward Brittany Bock (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) 35 yards out. Bock swung a pass out to sophomore defender Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard), who was making an overlapping run down the right side. Scheidler took one touch, then served a pinpoint cross into the heart of the Penn State area, where Henderson ducked in front of her defender and rose up to flick a header that eluded Naeher at the far left post (17:54) for the rookie forward’s fifth goal of the year — Scheidler’s assist was her first of the season and second of her career.
Just over two minutes later, Notre Dame doubled its lead, and again, Henderson used her head to create the scoring chance. This time, she ran on to a left side throw-in by sophomore midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit), nodding the ball from the top left edge of the area to a cutting Hanks near the penalty spot. Hanks had her first shot blocked, but gathered the loose ball to left of the spot, turned on her right shoulder and drilled a low left-footed shot that tucked neatly inside the far right post (19:57) for her team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Not long after the mandatory media timeout midway through the first half, the Irish went back on the offensive again, with Notre Dame’s second platoon working its magic. Less than a minute after entering the game, sophomore forward Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) gathered up a throw-in down the left side, cut past her defender to the end line and sent a left-footed cross back into the box. Junior forward Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) was parked eight yards out in the goal mouth, and despite getting pulled to the ground by an overzealous defender, Weissenhofer still met Iantorno’s cross with a picture-perfect left-footed volley into the center netting before Naeher could get back in position. It was Weissenhofer’s second goal of the season, while Iantorno collected her team-high fifth assist of the year and fourth in as many games.
Penn State (5-4) got a goal back only 21 seconds after Weissenhofer’s score. Nikki Watts tracked down a ball on the right side and crossed from the end line into the penalty area, where the ball skipped off Lysander’s hands to Carly Niness, who found herself virtually alone on the left side of the six-yard box. She gathered in the wayward ball and buried it before the Notre Dame defense could recover, scoring just the second goal against the Irish this season (26-2 scoring edge).
Still leading by a pair of goals at halftime, Notre Dame aggressively looked to add to its advantage, with Augustin firing a 25-yard cross from the left flank that flirted with the far right upper 90 before Naeher parried it off the bar (47:55). Henderson had two more opportunities, running on to a flick header at the right post from senior defender Carrie Dew (Encinitas, Calif./La Costa Canyon), but the rookie’s shot was blocked (52:16). Henderson then broke free down the left side and sent a wicked cross through the box, but it failed to connect with a crashing Hanks at the back post (61:12). However, the best Irish scoring chance of the second half came with 8:20 remaining, when Weissenhofer got in alone on Naeher at the top of the box, but the PSU netminder was able to smother the ball as Weissenhofer went to dribble around her and shoot at an empty net.
The Nittany Lions actually outshot Notre Dame, 6-4 in the second half, but Lysander was called upon to make just one save, as most of the Penn State shots sailed well off target from distance (outside the penalty area).
Notre Dame jumps back into BIG EAST Conference play next Friday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. (ET) when it welcomes Louisville to Alumni Field. Tickets for this, and all remaining Irish regular-season home games, are available by contacting the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356; second floor of Joyce Center at Gate 1), by going on-line to the official Irish athletics web site (www.UND.com), or by visiting the Alumni Field ticket windows on game night.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 3-1 all-time against Penn State, winning on its first-ever trip to Jeffrey Field … the Irish are 8-0 for the eighth time in the program’s 21 seasons, and the fourth time under Waldrum (also 2000, 2004 and 2006) … Waldrum (300-79-20, .777 in 19 seasons) joins North Carolina’s Anson Dorrance (655), Connecticut’s Len Tsantiris (459), Santa Clara’s Jerry Smith (341), Florida’s Becky Burleigh (316), Massachusetts’ Jim Rudy (310), James Madison’s David Lombardo (305) and Texas’ Chris Petrucelli (303) as active coaches in the NCAA Division I 300-win club … Waldrum will coach his 400th career game next Friday against Louisville … Notre Dame has four Top 25 wins in the regular season for the first time since 2005 … the Irish extended their scoring streak to 32 consecutive games, the fourth-longest in school history, dating back to last year’s season-opening 0-0 tie with Michigan at Alumni Field … for the fifth time this season, Notre Dame scored in the first 20 minutes of play … Scheidler becomes the 17th different Irish player to register a point this season with her assist on Sunday (the school record is 20 separate point scorers in 1996) … with her first-half goal, Hanks now has 202 career points (71G-60A), tying William & Mary’s Missy Wycinsky (1996-99) for 17th place on the NCAA Division I career points list … Hanks’ score also gives her sole possession of third place on the Irish career goals list, passing Jenny Streiffer (70 from 1996-99) … Notre Dame continues its amazing run of success when playing from in front, earning its 267th consecutive win when leading 2-0 (290-0-1, .998 all-time), with just one of the past 180 Irish opponents even rallying to tie after being down 2-0 (Duke in the 2007 NCAA quarterfinals) … Notre Dame also moves to 267-3-1 (.987) all-time when scoring three goals in a game, including a 169-1 (.994) record since Oct. 6, 1995 … what’s more, the Irish are 364-9-15 (.957) in their history when limiting opponents to 0-1 goals.