Oct. 8, 2014
DATE: Oct. 9, 2014
TIME: 7 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Pittsburgh, Pa. (Ambrose Urbanic Field – cap. 1,000)
LAST MEETING: ND 3-0 (9/29/13 at ND)
BROADCAST: pittsburghpanthers.com (paid video)
TEXT ALERTS: Sign up at UND.com
– The Fighting Irish are 11-0-1 (.958) all-time against Pittsburgh.
– Notre Dame has won eight of 11 matches all-time against the Panthers by at least three goals.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team embarks on a brief one-game Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) road trip, traveling to Pittsburgh on Thursday. The 7 p.m. (ET) match will be streamed with charge at pittsburghpanthers.com.
The No. 14/11 Fighting Irish (7-4-1, 2-2 ACC) make their first trip to Pittsburgh (6-6, 2-2 ACC) since the 2009 season, when the Panthers earned their only result in series history by playing Notre Dame to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 4, 2009. Notre Dame had won the first nine games in the series prior to that contest, with four victories coming in Pittsburgh.
Junior midfielder/tri-captain Cari Roccaro (East Islip, New York/East Islip) broke through in the goal column in a big way for Notre Dame last Sunday against No. 4/5 Virginia at Alumni Stadium. Roccaro gained possession of a loose ball nearly 35 yards away from the net and blasted a true right-footed strike into the left corner of the net for the equalizer in the 84th minute against the Cavaliers, her first goal of 2014. Virginia ultimately struck with 21 seconds remaining to break a 1-1 tie and send the Cavaliers to a 2-1 victory.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Oklahoma/Bishop Kelley), the reigning ACC Player of the Week, turned in another stellar performance against one of the nation’s top teams. Little tied a career-high with nine saves over the full 90 minutes last Sunday.
“We’re eager to get to our next game,” Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “I think that we learn from past games, and we put those behind us and try to get better at the aspects we talk about.”
The late defeat at the hands of Virginia stalled the Notre Dame momentum gained the previous weekend, which featured a pair of road ACC wins highlighted by a 2-0 shutout of then No. 2 Virginia Tech. Romagnolo explained the importance of knowledge gained from the difficult loss to the Cavaliers, while also shifting focus on to the next conference challenge.
“We’ve been playing very well, and Virginia is a really good team who made it difficult for us to do the things that we have been doing well,” Romagnolo said. “At the end of the day we want to get back to the things that we were doing well, and continue to grow our confidence in the things we’re doing.
“As a team we were disappointed because we didn’t feel like we brought our best game,” she added. “But what I said to the team, one of the positives, is that even though we didn’t play our best game we were in it until the last 20 seconds of the game. What does that say about what we can do against a team like that when we play well? There were still positives to take away.”
Maintaining the confidence in the direction of the team, and cementing its place at the top of the ACC, is one of Notre Dame’s main goals during the current march toward the postseason. The demeanor of the team, from the perspective of Romagnolo, is right where it should be as the Fighting Irish begin the conference stretch run.
“We believe, I don’t think it’s an issue of not believing,” Romagnolo said. “It’s an issue of executing against good teams, making sure we’re switched on for important plays and staying focused.”
One of the hallmarks of the 2014 Fighting Irish squad thus far has been the team’s strong play away from Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame takes a 4-0-1 record in true road games to Pittsburgh, with the only non-victory being a 0-0 draw at Stanford on Sept. 7. Stanford, currently ranked third in the country, has only surrendered two goals in 12 matches. For Romagnolo the road success has no concrete formula, but the specific opponents Notre Dame has faced both at home and away might yield the answer.
“There are definitely less distractions on the road,” Romagnolo said. “(But) we have played a number of great ranked teams at home as well, so I don’t think it has that much to do with being home or away. It has more to do with the opponents we’ve been playing.”
The opponents Notre Dame has seen thus far, seven of which have been ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Continental Tire top 25 poll at the time of competition, make the Fighting Irish record this season all the more impressive. No. 4 Virginia, by contrast, has played just two top 25 teams thus far in 2014, earning its first ranked win last weekend in South Bend.
Romagnolo emphasized the adherence to the longtime Notre Dame women’s soccer philosophy that the caliber of the opponent on the other side of the pitch has mattered little during match preparation. The focus each time out remains on what the Fighting Irish can control, regardless of the credentials opponents enter a contest with.
“It’s really just been (taking it) one game at a time,” Romagnolo said. “We are trying to get better against every opponent. We had some great opponents in the non-conference season, which was great to prepare us for the ACC, and we started with a bang on the road in the ACC. I think all of that is good for us.”
Pittsburgh has already surpassed its win total (4) from the entire 2013 season, which saw the Panthers go a combined 0-13 during their inaugural ACC campaign. The 2014 edition of the Panthers secured their two ACC wins in Pittsburgh’s past two matches, and will look to turn the tide in what has historically been a one-sided series.
“Pittsburgh is on a two-game win streak in the ACC, and I think they’re very organized,” Romagnolo said. “They will be difficult to break down, and to me they appear to be a strong, physical team.
“We want to get back to playing the soccer we know we can play,” Romagnolo added. “For us, it’s a big weekend to get back to where we believe we can be, and catapult us into the rest of the ACC season.”
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Pittsburgh enters Thursday’s match with an even 6-6 record, including a 2-2 ACC mark, in 2014. The Panthers are riding a two-match winning streak after earning a pair of victories (1-0 over Syracuse on Sept. 28; 3-0 over North Carolina State on Oct. 4) in conference play.
Junior midfielder/forward Roosa Arvas leads Pittsburgh with eight goals, 18 points, 34 shots and 20 shots on goal through her first 12 games. Arvas has scored five of the six game-winners thus far in 2014 for the Panthers. Freshman forward Taylor Price has chipped in three goals and three assists, while freshman midfielder Hanna Hannesdottir has two goals and three assists during her rookie season at Pittsburgh.
Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Francis has earned the decision in all 12 Pittsburgh matches thus far entering the weekend, posting a 0.99 goals-against average and a .831 save percentage. Francis also has posted 3.1 shutouts.
Head coach Greg Miller is in his third season at the helm of Pittsburgh, entering Thursday’s match sporting a 17-30-3 (.370) record with the Panthers. Miller has already exceeded his win total from his first two seasons at Pittsburgh thus far in 2014, winning the program’s first two ACC matches during the team’s current winning streak.
THE NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH SERIES
Notre Dame is 11-0-1 all-time against Pittsburgh, including a 4-0-1 record on the road, with all but one of the previous meetings between the teams taking place in BIG EAST Conference play. The Fighting Irish own a staggering 43-4 aggregate goal advantage in the series.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND PITTSBURGH MET
Forward Cari Roccaro had a hand in all three Fighting Irish goals, scoring once and adding a career-high two assists as No. 5/3 Notre Dame picked up its sixth consecutive win, downing Pittsburgh, 3-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play on Sept. 29, 2013, before 1,123 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Forward Lauren Bohaboy got Notre Dame on the board less than 20 minutes into the match with her team-leading sixth goal of the year (and third match-winner), and midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish capped off the comprehensive victory, scoring her first goal of the campaign in the 64th minute.
Goalkeeper Kaela Little wasn’t asked to make a save in 79 minutes of action before giving way to Sarah Voigt, who came up with one save in the closing minutes to preserve Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive shutout and fifth in the past six matches.
The Fighting Irish built up massive statistical margins in all categories, ending with a 32-3 edge in total shots, including a 13-1 advantage in shots on goal (not counting two second-half attempts that hit the crossbar). Notre Dame also held a 7-1 spread on corner kicks, while fouls were nearly even (5-4 against the Fighting Irish, along with the day’s lone yellow card).
OTHER NOTRE DAME-PITTSBURGH TIDBITS
-Notre Dame won the first nine matches in the all-time series against Pittsburgh, compiling an aggregate 38-3 goal edge. The Panthers ended the winning streak by forcing a scoreless draw between the teams on Oct. 4, 2011, at Pittsburgh.
-The Panthers have scored a total of one goal during Notre Dame’s five prior trips to Pittsburgh. Conversely, the Fighting Irish have scored a total of 15 times (15-1 aggregate) in those contests.
-Pittsburgh is one of four current ACC members that Notre Dame has compiled an unbeaten record against during its 27-year history. The other teams include Clemson (1-0), Syracuse (10-0) and Wake Forest (4-0-1).
LAST TIME OUT: #4/5 VIRGINIA
Junior midfielder/tri-captain Cari Roccaro scored an unassisted goal with 6:01 left in regulation to bring the No. 14/10 University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team even, but Virginia’s Brittany Ratcliffe answered by scoring the game-winning goal with 21 seconds remaining to give the No. 4/5 Cavaliers a 2-1 win over the Fighting Irish in Atlantic Coast Conference play on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
Virginia extended its series lead during regular season matches against Notre Dame to a perfect 3-0, winning in its inaugural trip to South Bend. The Cavaliers finished with a 19-6 edge in total shots, as well as an 11-4 margin in shots on goal and a 10-2 spread on corner kicks.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little was solid once again in the Fighting Irish net, tying a career-high with nine saves, while her Virginia counterpart Morgan Stearns collected three saves in the victory.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: #4/5 VIRGINIA
-All four Notre Dame losses this season have been by only one goal. Dating back to last season, 11 of the last 12 Fighting Irish defeats have been by a single goal.
APPROACHING WIN #500
The Notre Dame women’s soccer program is two victories away from reaching 500 all-time wins, entering play on Sunday with 499 victories against only 100 losses and 29 draws (.818) in 27 seasons of varsity competition.
The Fighting Irish have averaged 18.5 wins per season since the women’s soccer program was elevated to varsity status in 1988, reaching the NCAA Championship in 21 consecutive seasons. Notre Dame has also appeared in the NCAA Women’s College Cup 12 times, including eight berths in the NCAA Championship match, and has won three national championships (1995, 2004, 2010) to tie for the second-most NCAA titles in Division I history.
The women’s soccer and softball programs at Notre Dame, both in their 27th official seasons of varsity status, are the only two Fighting Irish athletics teams never to log a losing season in their respective histories.
IRISH DOMINATE IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Entering Thursday’s match at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame is 174-18-11 (.884) all-time in conference play dating back to the 1991 season. The Fighting Irish have never lost more than five league matches in a single season, and have posted unbeaten conference marks on 15 occasions.
The Fighting Irish are a combined 159-47-15 (.753) all-time in road matches entering Thursday’s contest at Pittsburgh. Notre Dame is 4-0-1 away from Alumni Stadium in 2014.
NEXT UP FOR THE IRISH: MIAMI
Notre Dame returns home after its brief ACC road trip to host Miami on Sunday at Alumni Stadium. The noon (ET) match will be streamed live on WatchND (WatchND.tv). The Fighting Irish are a combined 6-1 all-time against the Hurricanes, including 5-0 in matches contested in South Bend.