Aug. 31, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Midfielder Mary Boland (Hudson, Ohio) found the net just seven minutes into her first regular-season game while the poised play of sophomore forward Amanda Guertin (Grapevine, Texas) ultimately made the difference, as the fourth-ranked Notre Dame women’s soccer team held off a late charge from eighth-ranked Penn State, 2-1, in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Alumni Field.
The game-part of the annual Key Bank Classic-served as a 90-minute showcase of attractive and attacking soccer, with players from both teams repeatedly creating offensive excitement. Penn State junior forward Christie Welsh-considered the frontrunner for national player of the year-failed to score despite five shots (three of them on goal) and several strong chances. It was Welsh’s playmaking that set up a tense final 20 minutes, as her low cross from the left side resulted in a well-struck redirection shot from sophomore forward Heidi Drummond.
“That was two athletic teams going at each other and it was end-to-end,” said third-year Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, whose squad showed signs of tiring in the lategoing while coping with the absence of three regulars.
“I was very pleased with our frontrunners, early in the game particularly. We were very good at getting behind them. I thought at any time that our frontrunners could get behind their backs, which was somewhat surprising.”
Notre Dame tied a team record with its 27th consecutive victory at home-good for a share of fifth in NCAA history-while improving to 22-0-1 in its last 23 regular-season games. The Irish also are 95-3-1 in their last 99 games at Alumni Field, with a 70-12 scoring edge in the current 27-game home winning streak.
Notre Dame continued to play without junior midfielder Ashley Dryer (who is recovering from mononucleosis) while sophomore forward Melissa Tancredi also did not play and freshman defender Gudrun Gunnarsdottir was limited to a handful of minutes of the bench (as she continues her return from a summer knee injury).
Boland-whose summer included an impressive stint as a forward with the U.S. under-19 team-stepped into Dryer’s midfield spot and turned in a solid all-around game, highlighted by her hustling goal in the seventh minute. Sophomore forward Ali Lovelace provided a perfect cross from the right endline, after using her speed and agility to leap over a charging defender as she drove towards the goal. Boland was in position for a diving header, sending the ball inside the near-right post as goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk was leaning the other way (6:54).
“Ali served a perfect ball and I just made a near-post run and saw the opportunity to get there and finish it,” said Boland, who became the first freshman to open the season scoring for the Irish since Rosella Guerrero scored in the 1992 opening loss to North Carolina State (Guerrero scored ND’s other two goals in that 4-3 loss and remains the only Irish freshman ever to record a hat trick in the season opener).
Boland’s goal also is the second-earliest ever by a Notre Dame freshman and the earliest in 12 seasons, dating back to the 1989 season opener vs. St. Joseph’s when Margaret Jarc scored just 80 seconds into her Notre Dame career. Boland’s goal is the sixth-earliest in a season opener ever by an ND player, with the other five coming vs. unranked teams.
Notre Dame entered the season with tremendous depth at forward but three of those players-Tancredi, Boland and freshman Candace Chapman (who started at right outside back, with senior Lindsey Jones sliding inside to occupy the open central spot)-did not see any action at forward vs. PSU.
Senior forward Kelly Tulisiak made the most of her entry into the game early in the second half, setting up Guertin’s goal with a thru-ball near the top of the box. Oleksiuk was charging on the play but Guertin showed her trademark poise, sidestepping the goalie to the left and nudging a 14-yard shot into the vacated net as the Lions defenders closed in too late (57:35).
Penn State-which held a 15-12 shot edge-nearly struck first in the earlygoing, after Bonnie Young’s rightside corner kick presented Welsh with an open look from 10 yards out. But Irish sophomore midfielder Randi Scheller cleared the near-post shot off the goalline and Drummond pushed her rebound try wide of the right post.
“That might have changed the outcome, maybe the flow of the game,” said Penn State’s Paula Wilkins, who was making her debut as the Lions head coach. “But that’s what the game’s all about. They capitalized on their opportunity early and we didn’t.”
Welsh’s pinpoint pass finally put Penn State on the board, with Drummond drilling a one-timer into the upper left corner as Liz Wagner was leaving her line (67:18). Just one minute later, a long pass down the middle sprung Welsh for a chance at the equalizer-but Wagner was charging on the play and batted away Welsh’s shot from the top of the box. The Lions then appeared to be celebrating a 2-2 game in the 75th minute, but the goal was waved off by the linesman due to an offside violation.
Despite its 2-0 lead, Notre Dame elected not to take an overly-defensive posture and continued to create scoring chances.
“I thought we needed to keep going,” said Waldrum, whose ND teams have combined for a 45-5-2 record. “You saw the last 10 minutes, when we started to tire, how hard it is when a team just starts to put you under with a lot of pressure. At that point, they’ve got nothing to lose. There was a lot of time left to be sitting back.”
MORE WALDRUM QUOTES: “Physically, we didn’t come in here with all of our players. With not having a few of our key kids that normally would be in, it was a great effort by our team considering the number of young people we had on the field. … I’ve got to be happy in the sense that (Welsh) didn’t score any goals. She’s a handful and she’s going to get her chances. She’s definitely one of the best players in the country. We gave her a couple of opportunities where we overplayed the ball or tried to go in too early and she used her body and rolled off us. We’ve got to be a little bit better in our defensive posture. … We couldn’t sub at the end like you’d want to and you start to wear down at the end of a game like this. Kelly Tulisiak came on and had some great timing to get the assist on that second goal and her sister Kate came in at the end and we used Gunna for a few minutes here and there. We just had to throw a little hodgepodge team together to make it work. … Ali gave us 70 minutes tonight, worked very hard and got the great assist. And Mary laid her body out there to get that diving header. It was a great goal. She’s a big-time player.
MORE WILKINS QUOTES: “Notre Dame did a good job in the very beginning, coming off and catching us a little off-guard. Their pace was a little bit faster (at the start) and we weren’t prepared for that. They have very good attacking forwards. … When these type of teams meet, it’s always exciting. There was action on both ends. There was a lot of offensive stuff tonight, ‘1-v-1’, and the battles were fun to watch.”
MORE BOLAND QUOTES: “Tonight’s game was very nerveracking but its great to come away with a win. We showed that we can beat a good opponent early in the season and I think that’s important. … The last few weeks have been very exciting. The team makes it so easy to adapt and they help you out with everything you need and just the environment at the school is amazing. … I’m not playing how I can be playing. I thing it’s going to take some time. I just have to stay with it and keep a positive mindset.”
NOTES: Notre Dame improved to 12-2 all-time in season openers (8-1 in the last eight) … the top four home-winning streaks in NCAA history belong to North Carolina (84 from 1986-94, 40 from 1981-84 and 29 from 1996-99) and Santa Clara (32, from 1997-2000) … ND has not lost at home since the 1999 opener, 3-2 in double overtime vs. UNC in the KeyBank Classic … the Irish have not lost in the regular season since the 4-2 loss at SCU on Oct. 17, 1999 … ND’s quickest all-time goals in a season opener includes Jarc’s vs. St. Joseph’s in 1989 (1:20) and Michelle McCarthy’s (5:31) in the 1995 win over Providence (7-0)-plus the trio of scores from Amy Van Laecke (1:50), Shannon Boxx (5:57) and Cindy Daws (6:50 in the 1996 win at PC (14-0) … Guerrero scored ND’s first goal of the 1992 (18:02, vs. N.C. State), 1993 (7:45, vs. LaSalle) and 1995 (7:36, vs. Rutgers) seasons … Friday marked the first-ever meeting between ND and PSU, with the Irish now winning their last 15 series openers (25-3-0 since 1993) … since 1993, teams making their first visit to Alumni Field are now 1-28-1 vs. the Irish in those games (the Irish now are 38-6-0 in all series openers played at home).
#8 PENN STATE (0-1-0) 0 1 – 1
#4 NOTRE DAME (1-0-0) 1 1 – 2
ND 1. Mary Boland 1 (Ali Lovelace) 6:54, ND 2. Amanda Guertin 1 (Kelly Tulisiak) 57:35, PS 1. Heidi Drummond 1 (Christie Welsh) 67:18.
SHOTS: PS 6-9-15, ND 7-5-12.
SAVES: PS 2-1-3 (Emily Oleksiuk), ND 2-5-7 (Liz Wagner 6, team defensive save 1).
CORNER KICKS: PS 3-1-4, ND 3-1-4.
FOULS: PS 4-2-6, ND 7-7-14.