Oct. 15, 2010
STORRS, Conn. – Junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) scored her team-high 13th goal of the season in the 78th minute to put No. 4/5 Notre Dame in front, but Connecticut got a late equalizer in regulation and the teams wound up finishing with a 1-1 draw in BIG EAST Conference action on a cold and rainy Friday night at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn.
Senior forward/midfielder Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) set up Henderson’s go-ahead score, which looked as though it would stand up as the winner before the Huskies netted the tying goal on Linda Ruutu’s free kick with 2:35 left. Still, the draw extends Notre Dame’s NCAA Division I-record unbeaten streak against BIG EAST opponents to 74 consecutive matches (70-0-4), also the fourth-longest unbeaten conference run across all divisions in NCAA history.
The Fighting Irish (13-1-1, 7-0-1 BIG EAST) outshot Connecticut, 21-12 in the match, with each side recording seven shots on goal. Notre Dame also held a distinct advantage from the corner flag with an 8-1 corner kick edge.
Playing in her home state for possibly the final time as a collegian, senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) registered six saves in the Fighting Irish net. Her UConn counterpart, Jessica Dulski, also came up with six stops, including three point-blank saves against Henderson in the second half.
“This was a good lesson for us in understanding that we have to remain focused and strong for the full 90 minutes,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “We got the lead and some other good scoring opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and when you’re playing on the road against a good team like Connecticut, you have to take advantage of those chances. We gave UConn a good look with that free kick and they made us pay. Now we need to apply what we learned tonight and come back with a better performance on Sunday against a very solid Providence team.”
Despite the wet conditions, Notre Dame put together a strong possession game for much of the match, controlling the tempo and keeping the fired-up host side largely at bay. Still, it took some time for the Fighting Irish to solve the UConn defense in the final third, with the majority of the first half being played between the penalty boxes. The best Fighting Irish chance in the opening 45 minutes came with less than seven minutes to go in the period, when senior defender Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard) served a cross from the right side that was flicked on by freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) at the top of the box to a lurking Henderson on the left side, but she was flagged for offside.
Ruttu had a pair of good looks for Connecticut (7-6-3, 3-3-2) just before and after halftime, but early in the second half, it became clear that Notre Dame had taken over the run of play. In the 54th minute, freshman forward Adriana Leon (Maple, Ontario/The Country Day School) collected a ball at the midfield circle after a Husky defender slipped on the turf and created a 2-v-1 with Henderson, but the rookie’s lead pass was just a second too late and the play was again whistled down for offside.
With a little more than 25 minutes to play, it looked as though the Fighting Irish were set to break through. Senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) sprang Henderson on a run down the left side, with the Notre Dame striker angling into the box and cracking a 12-yard left-footed shot that Dulski knocked down with a dive to her right. The ball caromed back to Henderson, who reloaded from a sharper left-side angle, and Dulski again had to be on her toes with a second diving stop near the left post.
Henderson tried again in the 74th minute, this time from the right flank, where she cut back on a defender near the top of the box, drove into the area and fired a 10-yard shot that Dulski parried at the right post.
The continued pressure finally paid off with less than 13 minutes to play. Iantorno, who had come on as a second-half substitute only minutes earlier, raced down the right side before lifting a cross towards the area. The ball was deflected by a UConn defender back to Iantorno at the edge of the box and she slipped a low cross to Henderson near the penalty spot. The veteran used a controlled dribble to her left and whipped a low left-footed shot past Dulski into the net at 77:20.
The Huskies pushed forward in an attempt to notch the tying goal, but it would take another 10 minutes before that tactic paid off. UConn earned a free kick just outside the “D” at the top of the Fighting Irish penalty area, about 22 yards from goal. Ruttu stepped up and struck a well-placed shot through the Notre Dame defensive wall and just inside the right post to draw the hosts level at 87:25.
Connecticut capitalized on the momentum from its tying goal and held the better of play in the first overtime period, but the Huskies’ best chance was a hopeful long-distance ball by Danielle Dakin in the 97th minute that skipped on the wet turf and forced Weiss to push wide of the left post for UConn’s lone corner kick of the match.
The second extra period was more evenly played, with neither side having any major threats in the 10-minute session, as Notre Dame settled for its first tie since a scoreless draw on Oct. 4, 2009, at Pittsburgh.
The Fighting Irish continue their BIG EAST weekend road swing through New England on Sunday with a 1 p.m. (ET) match at Providence — live Gametracker stats for that contest will be available through the official Notre Dame athletics web site, www.UND.com.
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— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: In addition to keeping its BIG EAST unbeaten streak intact at 74 matches and counting, Notre Dame stretches its current overall unbeaten streak to 10 matches … Friday marked the second overtime match of the season for Notre Dame following a 2-1 setback in the first OT at #13 UCLA on Sept. 10 … the Fighting Irish are 20-4-10 (.735) when going to extra time during the 12-year Randy Waldrum era (1999-present), now having gone unbeaten in eight of their last nine overtime matches (5-1-3) dating back to the 2007 season … Notre Dame had its string of consecutive matches with at least two goals snapped at eight in a row, scoring once in a contest for the fifth time this season and first since Sept. 12 in a 1-0 win at Loyola Marymount … this was just the fourth match all season (and second in the past 13 matches) in which the Fighting Irish did not score inside the opening 30 minutes … Notre Dame has allowed one goal or fewer in 28 of its last 30 matches, and improves to 402-10-16 (.958) all-time when giving up 0-1 goals in a match … Henderson not only scored her team-leading 13th goal of the season, but it also was her ninth in the past six matches (9G-3A, 21 pts in that time) … Henderson netted her 48th career goal, tying her for 11th place in school history with Amanda Guertin (2000-03), while her 110 career points (48G-14A) are two shy of 16th place in the school record books (Susie Zilvitis from 1988-91) … Friday’s draw marked the first time in Henderson’s three-year career that Notre Dame did not win a match in which she scored a goal or tallied a point — the Fighting Irish now are 32-0-1 all-time when she scores a goal and 39-0-1 when she registers a point (which she’s done in 13 of 15 matches this season and 20 of her last 25 outings dating back to last year) … Notre Dame moves to 20-4-4 in the all-time series with Connecticut, with a 4-2-4 record at Morrone Stadium (not counting a 6-0 record against other teams in neutral-site matches during the BIG EAST Championship).