Head coach Randy Waldrum will lead the #8 Fighting Irish into their inaugural ACC regular-season match at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C.

#25/20 Irish Earn Berth In 2012 NCAA Championship

Nov. 5, 2012

2012 NCAA Championship BracketGet Acrobat Reader

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For the 20th consecutive season, the No. 25/20 Notre Dame women’s soccer team (13-5-2) has earned a berth in the NCAA Championship. The Fighting Irish received an at-large bid to the tournament, with Notre Dame beginning its journey towards the program’s fourth NCAA title at 7 p.m. ET Friday, when it plays host to Horizon League champion Wisconsin-Milwaukee (8-8-1) at Alumni Stadium.

Tickets for Friday’s NCAA Championship first-round match against the Panthers will be available by contacting the Notre Dame Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) weekdays. Fans also can order tickets online through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets, or they may visit the ticket windows at Alumni Stadium on Friday night.

“We’re obviously very happy to be headed to the NCAA tournament once again, and even more excited that we’re going to be able to play in front of our great fans at home inside Alumni Stadium at least one more time in 2012,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “Our team has continued to grow and improve as the season has gone on, and this will be a great experience for all of our younger players. Milwaukee is an outstanding program with a long tradition of success and it’s going to be a challenge for us to go up against them on Friday night, but it’s a test I know we’re ready to face and I hope all of our fans will come out to Alumni Stadium and help us bring home an NCAA tournament win.”

The Fighting Irish enter the NCAA Championship as one of the nation’s youngest teams, featuring 18 underclass players (including 12 freshmen), and only four veterans from their 2010 national championship squad. Notre Dame is unbeaten in 11 of its last 13 matches, winning a share of the BIG EAST Conference National Division title (their 14th regular-season crown since joining the league in 1995) and advancing to the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship for the 16th time in the program’s 18-year membership. Along the way, Notre Dame’s defense emerged as a pillar of the team’s success, with the Fighting Irish allowing just eight goals in those final 13 matches, posting seven shutouts in that span.

At the other end of the pitch, Notre Dame features a balanced offensive attack with 12 different players scoring a goal and 16 separate players notching a point this season. Included in that group are five players with at least five goals to their credit, led by freshman forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy), who earned second-team all-BIG EAST and BIG EAST All-Rookie Team honors after logging a team-high eight goals and 18 points during her initial season under the Golden Dome.

Thomas was one of several players to be recognized during last week’s BIG EAST Awards Banquet in East Hartford, Conn., with rookie forward/midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) taking home three trophies as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year (Notre Dame’s first since 2008), a first-team all-conference selection, and a member of the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team, after tallying five goals and 11 points in just 12 matches after getting a late start to her season following a successful run with the victorious United States U-20 Women’s World Cup Team. Fellow freshman defender Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) was a mainstay on the Fighting Irish backline and was a third-team all-BIG EAST pick while joining Thomas and Roccaro on the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. Junior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Lee’s Summit) rounded out Notre Dame’s BIG EAST awards contingent was a second-team all-conference choice for the second consecutive year, collecting a goal and three assists in 13 matches after playing alongside Roccaro on the U.S. U-20 Women’s World Cup Team.

Laddish also earned a spot on the BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament Team, along with fellow junior midfielder/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) after sparking a stout Notre Dame defense that blanked Syracuse (1-0) in the quarterfinals and held No. 15/10 Marquette scoreless for more than 70 minutes in their semifinal match before a late MU goal proved to be enough to eliminate the Fighting Irish, 1-0.

The past eight years have seen the NCAA shift to a different seeding system for the tournament, abandoning the format where there were 16 national seeds that were assigned number 1-16. The current format has four seeds (listed 1-4) in each of the four quadrants of the bracket. Notre Dame is unseeded in its portion of the bracket, with Florida State (16-3-0) the No. 1 seed in the Fighting Irish quadrant, Florida (17-4-1) the second seed, Wake Forest (13-5-3) the third seed and Ohio State (16-4-1) the No. 4 seed. Should the Fighting Irish advance, they would be in line for a possible second-round match against Wake Forest on Nov. 16 in Gainesville, Fla. (the Demon Deacons play host to Georgia Southern in a first-round contest), with Florida the highest seed among the four teams on the other side of the Gainesville sub-regional.

This is the second year that the NCAA Championship has featured its current scheduling format, with 32 campus sites hosting first-round matches this weekend. The remaining teams then will move on to next weekend’s action, which features second- and third-round contests on Nov. 16 & 18, also on campus at the highest remaining seeds in that portion of the bracket. The quarterfinals then will be played during the weekend of Nov. 23-25, also at the highest remaining seeds.

The 31st annual NCAA Division I Women’s College Cup will be played Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif., with the national semifinals (at 8:30 and 11 p.m. ET) to be televised live to a national audience (first semifinal on ESPN3.com/tape delayed on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. ET Dec. 2; second semifinal on ESPNU), and the title contest to air live at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

The Fighting Irish also are one of four BIG EAST teams selected for this year’s NCAA Championship, joining Georgetown, Marquette and Rutgers in the 64-team field.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee is making its 10th trip to the NCAA Championship, and fifth in as many seasons. The Panthers started very slowly this season, winning only once in their first eight matches, but they have come alive in the final six weeks of the season, collecting wins in seven of their last nine matches, including identical 1-0 double-overtime wins over Loyola-Chicago and Wright State to win the Horizon League Championship last weekend on their home pitch (Engelmann Field) in Milwaukee. UWM also shared the Horizon League regular-season title with Detroit, with both sides posting a 5-2-0 record.

Notre Dame is 6-1-0 all-time against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, having won the past six matches between the schools after the Panthers won the initial encounter, 2-1 on Sept. 8, 1989, in Milwaukee. The teams last met on Aug. 22, 2010, at Alumni Stadium, with the Fighting Irish claiming a 3-0 victory behind two goals from Rose Augustin that followed the opening (and match-winning) score by Tucker in the 52nd minute.

Notre Dame also has faced Wisconsin-Milwaukee once before in the NCAA Championship, defeated the Panthers, 1-0 in a second-round match on Nov. 12, 2006, at old Alumni Field. Then-freshman Michele Weissenhofer scored the lone goal just 4:37 into the contest, and the Fighting Irish defense made it stand up for the victory.

The Fighting Irish and UWM have played two common opponents this season — Wisconsin and Marquette — and both teams lost their two matches against common foes. Notre Dame suffered identical 1-0 defeats to both opponents (at Wisconsin on Aug. 17; vs. Marquette in BIG EAST Championship semifinals on Nov. 2 in East Hartford, Conn.), while Milwaukee dropped a 4-0 decision at Marquette on Aug. 24, and tumbled at home to Wisconsin, 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 12.

Notre Dame owns a 2-5-2 record this season versus teams in the 2012 NCAA field, earning a 2-1 win over No. 24/16 Santa Clara at the adidas Invitational on Aug. 31 at Alumni Stadium and a 3-0 win over Summit League champion Oakland on Sept. 23, also at Alumni Stadium. In addition, the Fighting Irish picked up a 1-1 draw at No. 19/18 Portland on Sept. 7, and earned a 2-2 draw with Rutgers on Oct. 7 at Alumni Stadium. It should be noted that all five of those losses represent the only setbacks on the Notre Dame schedule this year, with three coming by 1-0 scores when the decisive goal scored in the final 19 minutes (in addition to Wisconsin and Marquette, also vs. North Carolina on Sept. 2 at Alumni Stadium).

The Fighting Irish have a 59-16-1 all-time record (.783) in NCAA tournament play, including 44-3-0 (.936) in NCAA games at home. Notre Dame has earned three NCAA titles (1995, 2004 and 2010), joining North Carolina as the only three-time champions in the history of the tournament, and the Fighting Irish have finished as the NCAA runner-up five times (1994, 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2008), as part of their 12 NCAA College Cup berths (also semifinalist in 1997, 2000 and 2007), all since 1994.

With this year’s selection, Notre Dame also extends the second-longest active streak of consecutive NCAA Championship berths with 20, trailing only North Carolina (31) in that category, and ranking as the third-longest run of its kind in the tournament’s 31-year history (Connecticut had a 26-year NCAA postseason bid streak from 1982-2007). Starting with Notre Dame’s first NCAA postseason appearance in 1993, the Fighting Irish and UNC remain 1-2 in virtually all tournament appearance records — round-of-16 trips since 1993 (UNC-19, ND-16), quarterfinals since 1994 (ND-14, UNC-14), College Cup berths since 1994 (UNC-13, ND-12) and title match appearances since 1994 (UNC-11, ND-8; no one else with more than three).

For more information on the Fighting Irish women’s soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDSoccer or @NDsoccernews), 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.

— ND —