Oct. 18, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Junior forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) continued her recent offensive explosion with an early first-half goal, and senior midfielder Amanda Clark (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) added her first score of the year less than 10 minutes later, as No. 7/8 Notre Dame posted an efficient 2-0 BIG EAST Conference win over Providence on a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of 1,526 fans at Alumni Stadium.
With the victory, the Fighting Irish are unbeaten in their last 10 outings (9-0-1) and lengthen their NCAA-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 61 games (58-0-3).
Sophomore midfielder Courtney Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West) collected her second assist in as many games, while junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) made three saves in the Notre Dame net to post her fourth solo shutout of the season, all in the past five games. The Fighting Irish outshot Providence, 22-8, with a 9-3 advantage in shots on goal. Notre Dame also doubled up the Friars on corner kicks (8-4), while fouls were nearly even (13-11 for the hosts) and PC was assessed the lone yellow card of the afternoon (Lindsay Trubia at 5:08 of the first half).
Sunday’s win capped off an impressive weekend for the Fighting Irish, who have had to deal with a handful of nagging injuries and other challenges in recent weeks. As a result, Notre Dame rolled out a pair of new lineups to great success, outscoring Connecticut and Providence by a combined 8-1 spread while putting itself on the verge of clinching a fifth consecutive BIG EAST National Division title and a seventh consecutive regular-season conference crown overall (the Fighting Irish played in the BIG EAST’s old Mid-Atlantic Division in 2003, while the conference didn’t feature divisional play in 2004).
“This was a good result for us and a good performance following up Friday’s win over Connecticut,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “We made the most of our chances early and got the lead, then did a nice job maintaining possession and controlling the pace of play. We had some people getting some extended minutes due to our injuries, and we’re also working others back into the lineup, so for us to keep our heads and play a smart brand of soccer was important. With our fall break this week, we’ll have a chance to let some of these knocks heal, but that doesn’t take away from the fact we have two more key games coming up next weekend and we’ll need to remain focused and disciplined.”
One player who has been especially dialed-in of late is Knaack, who scored her fifth goal of the season and capped off a seven-point weekend (three goals, one assist) with Sunday’s gamewinning score against Providence. The goal came at 16:56 of the first half, starting with a left-side flip throw by senior forward/tri-captain Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) which was headed around by several players at the top of the penlty area. The ball eventually caromed out to the right edge of the box, where Knaack made a cheeky 1-v-1 move to wriggle free of her defender and then uncorked a blistering right-footed drive into the far left-side netting past Providence goalkeeper Jill Schott.
Notre Dame (12-3-1, 8-0-1 BIG EAST) wasn’t satisfied with a one-goal lead and doubled the margin at 26:25. After a failed Friars’ defensive clearance, Barg tracked down the ball in the middle of the offensive third and smartly chipped the PC backline. Clark timed her run perfectly and settled the pass before drilling a low right-footed shot inside the right post as Schott charged off her line in vain.
Clark nearly added a second goal less than five minutes later, finding herself all alone near the penalty spot for a header off a right-flank service by junior midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit), but Schott dove to her left and was able to get a fingertip on Clark’s shot and push it wide of the right post.
Schott had to make two other point-blank saves in the closing moments of the first half. Junior forward Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) fired from an acute angle near the right edge of the six-year box, but the PC goalkeeper was able to get a piece of the shot that seemingly was destined for the inside of the left post. Freshman midfielder Lindsay Brown (Ladera Ranch, Calif./Mater Dei) also had a golden opportunity in the final minute of the period, turning on a loose ball inside the six, but Schott made a reflex save on the rookie’s left-footed shot.
Providence (7-7-3, 2-5-2) did not record a shot in the first half, but made some offensive in-roads in the second stanza. Six minutes into the half, Alyssa Gillespie challenged Weiss with a searching corner kick into the area, but the Notre Dame netminder came out confidently to punch away the threat. In the 61st minute, the Friars had perhaps their best chance of the day, as Tara Ricciardi drove a rising 25-yard shot that was tipped off the crossbar by Weiss, who then gathered the loose ball to prevent a follow-up chance.
Three minutes later, the Fighting Irish had their most promising opportunity of the scoreless second half, as Augustin sent a corner kick all the way from the right flag to the left side of goal. Sophomore defender Ellen Bartindale (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) played the ball back across to the right flank for a second look by Augustin, whose cross was met by junior forward Lauren Fowlkes (Lee’s Summit, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) with a flying side volley at the top of the six-year box, but Schott came out of nowhere to make the stop on a shot headed for the upper right corner of the net.
Providence’s last chance to break through came with under eight minutes to play, as Rebecca Fish latched on to a pass in the right channel and squeezed off a well-placed low shot that Weiss tracked well, diving to her right to pushing the ball wide of the far post and out of danger.
Notre Dame is back on the Alumni Stadium pitch next Friday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. (ET) when it plays host to Villanova in game three of a four-game BIG EAST homestand to wrap up the regular season. Tickets for this, and all remaining Fighting Irish soccer games, are available through the Notre Dame Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), by going on-line to www.UND.com/tickets, or by visiting the Alumni Stadium ticket windows on game day.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 14-0-0 all-time against Providence, including an 8-0-0 record at home, while compiling a 73-1 series scoring lead over the Friars … during their current 10-game unbeaten streak, the Fighting Irish have outscored their opponents, 23-4, while recording seven shutouts (four by Weiss) … Notre Dame is not only are unbeaten in an NCAA Division I-record 61 consecutive conference matches (58-0-3), but also extends its unbeaten streak at home against BIG EAST teams to 91 matches (90-0-1) since Connecticut’s 5-4 overtime win on Oct. 6, 1995, at old Alumni Field … since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, Notre Dame is 131-8-5 (.927) all-time in regular-season conference matches, 32-2-1 (.929) in BIG EAST Championship play, and holds a 695-85 scoring edge against conference foes in that 14-year span … the Fighting Irish move to 161-4-2 (.970) all-time at home against unranked teams (according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll) … other miscellaneous trends for Notre Dame: 310-0-1 all-time when taking a 2-0 lead in a game (287-0 since a 3-3 tie with Vanderbilt in Cincinnati on Sept. 15, 1991), and 392-9-16 (.959) when holding the opposition to 0-1 goals … Weiss has allowed only one goal in her last 483:08 of action, dating back to the Sept. 11 game at Santa Clara (SCU’s Jordan Angeli scored at 23:52; Weiss didn’t play in the second half of that game) … the Notre Dame defense has allowed just one goal in the past 511:50 overall, going back to the Oct. 2 overtime victory at West Virginia (WVU’s Blake Miller scored at 48:51) … as if that weren’t enough, the Fighting Irish have allowed only one goal in the past 575:11 (six-game span) at its new home, Alumni Stadium, with the lone score coming on Friday night by Connecticut’s Linda Ruutu at 66:17 … during the current six-game home winning streak, Notre Dame has won by a combined score of 18-1 … Knaack’s goal at 16:56 marked the seventh time in 12 wins this season that Notre Dame has scored inside the opening 20 minutes of play … Knaack’s combined stat line for the weekend — three goals, one assist, one uncredited assist (she was fouled to set up the first of Augustin’s two free kick goals Friday vs. Connecticut) and seven total shots (four of which were on goal, and three of which went in, while the fourth was millimeters from crossing the goal line in the second half vs. UConn) … beginning with her gamewinner in overtime (90:41) on Oct. 2 at West Virginia, Knaack has scored all five of her goals — including two gamewinners — and chalked up 11 of her 14 points on the season (5G-1A) during the past six games; prior to this stretch, Knaack had five career goals (no gamewinners) and 12 career points … Clark becomes the 11th different goalscorer and 15th separate point scorer for Notre Dame this season, netting her third career goal and first since a long-distance blast to close out the scoring on Sept. 12, 2008, vs. SMU at old Alumni Field … Bartindale made her first career start on Sunday, while Weissenhofer made her second consecutive appearance in the Fighting Irish lineup after missing nine games with a hamstring injury suffered on Sept. 11 at Santa Clara … sophomore forward Melissa Henderson, senior defender Haley Ford, senior goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander, freshman defender Jazmin Hall and freshman forward Tereza Stastny were among the walking wounded for Notre Dame this weekend, with all five sidelined on Sunday after Ford came out midway through the first half on Friday night vs. Connecticut — that quintet joins a lengthening list of injured Fighting Irish players that already includes senior midfielder/tri-captain Courtney Rosen and freshman midfielder Liz McNeil.