Sophomore Cari Roccaro scored in the 78th minute of last year's BIG EAST quarterfinal against Syracuse, pacing Notre Dame to a 1-0 win at Alumni Stadium.

#19/10 Irish Return To #5 Virginia Tech Sunday For ACC Quarterfinal

Nov. 2, 2013

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ACC Championship – Quarterfinal
#19/10 NOTRE DAME “Fighting Irish” (11-6-1/7-5-1 ACC) vs. #5/5 VIRGINIA TECH “Hokies” (14-3-2/9-3-1 ACC)

DATE: Nov. 3, 2013
TIME: 1 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Blacksburg, Va. (Thompson Field – cap. 3,528)
SERIES: Series tied 1-1 (VT leads 1-0 at VT)
FIRST MEETING: ND 5-0 (9/1/02 at ND)
LAST MEETING: VT 1-0 (10/13/13 at VT)
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When the clock struck midnight on Thursday and the month of October was put to bed, so to was Notre Dame’s first regular season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a campaign that featured its share of highs and lows.

It also represented a perfect opportunity to reset the team’s momentum and charge forward into the postseason, which the No. 19/10 Fighting Irish will do at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday when they kick off their inaugural appearance in the ACC Championship with a quarterfinal match against No. 5 Virginia Tech at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va.

This will be the second time in three weeks fifth-seeded Notre Dame and the fourth-seeded Hokies will tangle on this pitch in shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia. Back on Oct. 13, the teams battled to a virtual stalemate through much of the afternoon before Virginia Tech reserve Ellie Zoepfl scored with 3:45 remaining to give the hosts a 1-0 victory.

It was one in a series of near-misses for Notre Dame in the final month of the regular season, with the Fighting Irish losing three double-overtime contests and seeing a fourth end in a draw, along with the loss late in regulation at Virginia Tech. In fact, the Fighting Irish are coming off one of these frustrating last-gasp losses on Thursday night, a 2-1 double-overtime defeat at third-ranked Florida State after the Seminoles scored with 2:35 left in regulation and against with less than six minutes to go in the second extra period.

However, when it comes to the postseason, the Fighting Irish have traditionally found their stride. In 19 conference tournament appearances since 1993 (covering its membership in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League and the BIG EAST Conference), Notre Dame has posted a stellar 42-5-1 (.885) record in league tournament matches, along with a 95-9 aggregate scoring margin in those contests. The Fighting Irish also have won 13 conference tournament crowns in their history, although no current player has a championship ring with the program’s most recent league tournament title coming in 2009 under the BIG EAST banner.

As this year’s Notre Dame squad arrived in Blacksburg late Friday to beginning training for Sunday’s ACC quarterfinal, it was readily apparent that the Fighting Irish are eager to embrace the blank canvas that comes with the start of postseason play.

“It’s a fresh start and the records are wiped away,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “We definitely learned a lot from our first season in the ACC and it’s only made us a tougher and tighter group. The conference tournament is a great opportunity for us to grow and build some solid momentum going into the NCAAs, and in particular, for us to go to a place in Virginia Tech where we really felt we left some points behind with that loss.”

The series between the teams is tied at 1-1 after Virginia Tech’s 1-0 win over Notre Dame at Thompson Field earlier this season. Sunday’s match will be the first meeting between the teams in the postseason.

No. 9/5 Notre Dame battled tooth and nail with a top-10 opponent, but again it didn’t yield results, as No. 10/12 Virginia Tech got a goal from second-half substitute Ellie Zoepfl with 3:45 remaining to pull out a 1-0 ACC victory before a crowd of 1,323 fans on Oct. 13, 2013, at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va.

The contest was a physical, gritty affair, with scoring chances at a premium. Notre Dame finished with a 14-9 edge in total shots, while Virginia Tech had a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-1 margin on corner kicks. Fouls also were nearly even (14-11 against the Hokies), while each team received one yellow card.

Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little went the distance in the Notre Dame goal, making three saves. At the opposite end, Virginia Tech netminder Dayle Colpitts also turned aside three shots for her seventh shutout of the season.

In its first 25 seasons competing in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) and the BIG EAST Conference, Notre Dame was a combined 42-5-1 (.885) all-time in conference championship play … the Fighting Irish have claimed 15 total conference championships, with 13 being won during tournament play (two MCC, 11 BIG EAST), and the other two coming in 1991 and 1992 when the MCC didn’t hold a tournament … Notre Dame holds a 95-9 aggregate goal margin during its first 48 conference championship matches, including a 64-7 mark during its BIG EAST tenure … the Fighting Irish enjoyed a great deal of success during the quarterfinal round of the BIG EAST Championship. Notre Dame was a combined 12-1 in its opening tournament game once that conference added the quarterfinal portion in 1998, posting a 47-3 aggregate goal edge … Notre Dame reached the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship in 16 of 18 seasons as a conference member, posting a 13-3 (.813) record in those contests. The Fighting Irish outscored semifinal opponents by a 47-4 aggregate score during their BIG EAST tenure.

For the third time in the past three weeks, No. 19/10 Notre Dame went to double overtime, and for the third time, the Fighting Irish were denied a reward for their hard work, this time dropping a 2-1 decision at No. 3 Florida State on Thursday night in the ACC regular season finale for both teams before a crowd of 1,123 fans at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, Fla.

Sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson put Notre Dame on the board with a brilliant unassisted goal in the 28th minute, but Florida State rallied behind a pair of goals by Marta Bakowska-Mathews, the first with 2:35 left in regulation to force the added time, and then the match-winner with 5:36 remaining in the second overtime period.

It was another difficult ending for the Fighting Irish, who wound up outshooting the Seminoles, 17-16, while the teams each recorded seven shots on goal (not including one Notre Dame shot that hit the crossbar). FSU had the edge on corner kicks (9-5) and fouls (11-3).

Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little took the hard-luck loss in the Notre Dame net, making five saves. Seminole goalkeeper Kelsey Wys turned aside six shots for the hosts.

Each of the last four Notre Dame losses in ACC play were in matches decided by only one goal, including three in double overtime … Florida State was the eighth ranked team that the Fighting Irish faced during the regular season, a program record. Notre Dame was 3-4-1 (.438) in matches against ranked foes … sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson became the fifth different Notre Dame player to score at least four goals in 2013 with her 18-yard blast in the 28th minute that gave the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead. A total of five players scored four or more goals on the 2012 Notre Dame roster.

A win at Virginia Tech on Sunday would pave the way for Notre Dame to reach the ACC semifinals Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Fighting Irish would take on the winner of Sunday’s Virginia-Maryland match, with kickoff slated for either 5:30 or 8 p.m. (ET) next Friday. During the regular season, Notre Dame defeated Maryland 5-0 on Sept. 26 and fell at Virginia, 3-2 in double overtime on Oct. 10.

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— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director