Aug. 12, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Seven different Notre Dame players chalked up points on opening night as the fifth-ranked Irish kicked off their exhibition season with a 3-1 victory over defending Conference USA champion Memphis on Tuesday night at Alumni Field. With the win, Notre Dame improves to 8-1-1 in preseason games vs. college teams under 10th-year head coach Randy Waldrum.
Senior All-America forward and Hermann Trophy candidate Kerri Hanks (Allen, Texas/Allen) got the Irish going as she has done so many times in her brilliant career, scoring in the 31st minute. A pair of sophomores — midfielder/forward Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) and forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) — then padded the Notre Dame lead with second-half tallies as the Irish dominated the run of play for the first 70 minutes before Memphis avoided the shutout with a fluke goal late in the second half.
For the game, Notre Dame outshot the Tigers, 25-10 (many of UM’s shots came in the closing moments), including a 10-4 edge in shots on goal. The Irish also rolled up a 10-1 advantage in corner kicks. Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo) got the start and the victory, posting a clean sheet in the first half while making an outstanding save on a ball ticketed for the upper 90. Sophomore netminder Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) worked the final 45 minutes and registered two saves while yielding the lone Memphis score.
“The first thing you always want to keep in mind is winning the game and we got that done, so that’s a plus,” Waldrum said. “We did take some positives from this game. We got to play 20 players and see a lot of different looks out there, and got answers to some of the questions we had before the night started.
“I was pleased with the play of our young players,” Waldrum added. “Memphis is a good team and they battled us all the way. They also exposed some things that we need to work on. I was disappointed with giving up 10 shots, with most of those coming after they got their goal which seemed to give them some new life. But I thought for about 70-75 minutes tonight, we played well.”
The vast majority of the first half was spent in the Memphis end of the field, as Notre Dame outshot the Tigers, 13-3 during the opening 45 minutes. Knaack and freshman forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) tested UM goalkeeper Elise Kuhar-Pitters early on, while Hanks and rookie defender Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) rang shots off the woodwork in the first 20 minutes to set Memphis on its heels.
After several probing runs in the first few minutes, Henderson set the stage for Notre Dame’s first score, breaking free on the right side of the penalty area and serving a ball back across the goal mouth. Junior midfielder Courtney Rosen (Brecksville, Ohio/Hathaway Brown) made a nifty dummy run at the penalty spot, leaving Hanks unmarked on the left side and the Irish striker made no mistake with a low shot to the far right post at 30:47.
Hanks nearly got a second goal less than five minutes later after sophomore defender/midfielder Lauren Fowlkes (Lee’s Summit, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) saw her header off a free kick knocked down in the area. Hanks picked up the loose ball, but her sharp angle try from inside the six-yard box was deflected harmlessly over the end line.
Memphis got its best offensive chance of the first half in the 39th minute, as Lizzy Simonin got away on the left side and cracked a bending ball from the edge of the 18 that looked to be destined for the top right corner of the goal. However, Lysander read the shot perfectly and dove back over her left shoulder to parry the ball around the post and keep the Tigers off the board.
Iantorno was one of several halftime substitutions for Waldrum, and she immediately began to pay dividends with a pair of shots, one of which was saved and the other sailing wide. The third time proved to be the charm for the second-year Irish forward, as she got a lift from a pair of veteran teammates to double Notre Dame’s lead at 64:57. Junior forward Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) started the sequence with her ever-dangerous flip throw from the right side, which was headed on by senior defender/co-captain Carrie Dew (Encinitas, Calif./La Costa Canyon) and nudged by Fowlkes to the far post, where Iantorno was there to bury a shot from point-blank range.
Exactly six minutes later, Notre Dame struck again, as another substitute, freshman midfielder/defender Ellen Jantsch (Kansas City, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) knifed through the left side of the Memphis defense. She charged all the way down the edge of the area before pivoting at the end line and serving a perfect cross to a cutting Knaack, whose shot was true from the top of the six-yard box.
Memphis scored an unassisted goal at 75:03, as Ashley Berra’s cross from the right endline was misplayed by Weiss at the near post before trickling over the goal line.
Notre Dame will play its second and final exhibition game Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET) when it travels to Traverse City, Mich., for a matchup with sixth-ranked Virginia at the Keystone Soccer Complex (Field 12). The Irish then will return home to open the 2008 regular season Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. (ET) when they play host to Michigan at Alumni Field.
— ND —