Nov. 1, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) registered her second career hat trick, while junior forward Lauren Fowlkes (Lee’s Summit, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) added a goal and an assist, as No. 5/7 Notre Dame rolled over South Florida, 5-0 in a BIG EAST Conference Championship quarterfinal game on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
With the victory, the Fighting Irish not only extended their current unbeaten streak to 13 games (12-0-1) and active winning streak to seven in a row, but they also have punched their ticket to the BIG EAST semifinals for the 14th time in their 15 years as a conference member, and will get set to face St. John’s in a nationally-televised (CBS College Sports) semifinal matchup on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (ET) at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn.
Henderson did all her damage in the first 28:03 of the game, carving up a Bulls’ defense that had only allowed three goals in a game once all season, and converting on all three of her shots on goal in the contest. It is just the 10th postseason hat trick in program history, and the first since Nov. 24, 2006, when current Fighting Irish senior forward/tri-captain Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) had three goals in a 4-0 NCAA quarterfinal win over eighth-ranked Penn State at old Alumni Field.
It’s also the first Notre Dame hat trick in the BIG EAST Championship in almost exactly five years (Oct. 31, 2004 – Katie Thorlakson four goals in a 7-0 quarterfinal victory over St. John’s at Alumni Field), and just the third in the program’s 15-year conference affiliation (Anne Makinen also pulled off the feat in the 1997 BIG EAST final vs. fourth-ranked Connecticut in Piscataway, N.J.).
Sophomore midfielder Ellen Jantsch (Kansas City, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) netted her first goal of the season, and second of her career, in the 39th minute, as the Fighting Irish blitzed USF for all five of their scores in the opening 38:59 of play. In addition to Fowlkes’ assist, junior defender and reigning BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard), freshman defender Jazmin Hall (Highland Village, Texas/Marcus) and junior midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) also picked up assists, while junior forward Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) had two uncredited assists, setting up Henderson’s third goal and Jantsch’s score.
All three Notre Dame goalkeepers saw action in Sunday’s win, with neither junior Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate), senior Kelsey Lysander (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo) or freshman Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh) asked to make a save as the Fighting Irish recorded their 13th shutout of the season, and seventh in the past eight games. USF starting netminder Mallori Lofton-Malachi went the first 33:43 in goal, making one save and allowing four goals before giving way to Gaby Garton, who had four saves and one goal allowed during the remainder of the contest (the Bulls also were credited with a team save in the second half).
Notre Dame (15-3-1) held a decisive 25-4 shot advantage, including an 11-0 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish also earned the upper hand in corner kicks by a 4-1 count, and were called for 13 fouls, compared to nine for USF.
“That was a really well-executed and decisive effort for us,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “When you get into the conference tournament, and particularly when you’re coming in off a bye while the other team has had a chance to play already, there’s a concern that you might come out flat or unfocused. But we were sharp right from the opening kickoff, we got the early goal and we kept putting the pressure on them. Everyone came prepared and ready to fill their roles, and there was no drop-off in the intensity and intelligence of play, from the first minute all the way to the final whistle. It says a lot about how far this team has grown since the start of the season, but we also know that there’s no room for error at this stage, so we’ll need to raise our game again when we see St. John’s on Friday.”
For the fourth time in the past five games, the Fighting Irish got on the scoreboard inside the first 20 minutes of action. Scheidler started the sequence by tracking down an errant USF clearing attempt in the right channel, then serving a bending ball into the area, where Henderson was camped out at the penalty spot. The preseason BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year quickly settled the ball, turned and drilled a low shot past Lofton-Malachi at 10:12 of the first half.
With the crowd still buzzing from the early score, Notre Dame doubled its lead just five minutes later. This time, it was Fowlkes who set the table, gathering a loose ball at the top right corner of the box, and after contemplating a shot on goal, she curled a cross over the USF back line and found Henderson making an angled run from the left side of the area. Henderson swiftly raced onto the dipping ball and volleyed it past a perplexed Lofton-Malachi at 15:28.
Playing in their first-ever BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal, the Bulls (9-8-3) struggled to manufacture offense, taking only two shots in the first half — one that was blocked and another that sailed harmlessly off-target. Meanwhile, Notre Dame continued to keep the ball in its offensive third and it paid dividends again in the 29th minute, as Iantorno sent a cross from the right flank that Lofton-Malachi tried to gather on a short hop in the six-yard box. However, the USF ‘keeper bobbled the ball and Henderson was right there on the doorstep, gathering the garbage near at the left post, dribbling past a prone Lofton-Malachi and dumping the ball into the empty net at 28:03, giving her a team-high 11 goals this year.
As was the case on the first two Fighting Irish goals, the next two also came five minutes apart. After Henderson completed her hat trick, it was Fowlkes’ turn to get into the scoring column with a little help from a rookie teammate. Hall had missed the previous four games (and all but 54 seconds of the fifth) with a quadriceps injury, but just 36 seconds after making her return to action, she created a spark, knocking down a clearing pass in front of the Notre Dame bench and pushing forward down the left side before lofting a pretty left-footed cross into the area. Fowlkes went high over her defender to deliver a sharp header that eluded Lofton-Malachi and clanged off the underside of the crossbar before dropping just over the goal line at 33:43.
That would be all for the main actors in Sunday’s theater, as Henderson and Lofton-Malachi headed to the bench. But Notre Dame still had one more card left to play, and it was again fueled by Iantorno, who started the final scoring run with another right-side cross that just missed connecting with freshman midfielder Lindsay Brown (Ladera Ranch, Calif./Mater Dei) near the penalty spot. However, the ball squirted all the way through the box to the left end line, where Augustin tracked it down, nutmegged her defender with a brilliant 1-v-1 move and chipped a cross back into the goal mouth. This time, Jantsch got away from her mark and converted the pass with a crisp header from three yards out with 6:01 left in the first half.
From that point on, the fourth official at the scorer’s table took on the role of a traffic cop more than anything else, waving in a steady stream of Notre Dame and USF substitutes during the final 50 minutes. The Fighting Irish wound up sending in all 21 players who suited up on Sunday, with each of them getting at least 10 minutes of valuable postseason experience. Fowlkes and Brown had the best chances to add to the Notre Dame lead in the second half, with Fowlkes having her point-blank header cleared off the line, and Brown’s curling shot from the right edge of the box ringing off the left post. Meanwhile, Chelsea Klotz had both of the Bulls’ shots in the second half, both from well outside the area and neither threatening the Notre Dame goal.
The Fighting Irish will head to Storrs, Conn., later this week to get ready for Friday’s BIG EAST semifinal against St. John’s, the American Division runner-up and a 1-0 double-overtime winner over Georgetown in quarterfinal play on Sunday. In the early semifinal on Friday, West Virginia (a 1-0 winner at No. 9/11 Rutgers) will take on No. rv/12 Marquette, which dispatched visiting Villanova, 1-0. Both semifinals will be televised live nationally by CBS College Sports (DirecTV Channel 613, Dish Network Channel 152), with Notre Dame still alive in its pursuit of an 11th BIG EAST postseason championship.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame’s five first-half goals were the most the Fighting Irish have scored in a single half since Nov. 10, 2006, when they logged five second-half tallies in a 7-1 win over Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Championship at old Alumni Field … Notre Dame continues its remarkable run of success in the BIG EAST Championship, improving to 33-2-1 (.931) all-time in the conference tournament and advancing to the semifinal round in each of its 14 appearances to date … the Fighting Irish also are 11-0 (with a 45-1 scoring margin) in quarterfinal games since the BIG EAST added a quarterfinal round in 1998 … Notre Dame is 17-0 all-time at home in BIG EAST tournament games, outscoring those 17 conference foes by a combined 63-4 margin … since former league member Miami (Fla.) pushed an injury-riddled Fighting Irish squad to overtime in 2003 (Notre Dame won 2-1 on Amanda Guertin’s golden goal at 2:54 of the first extra period), Notre Dame has shut out its last six BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal opponents by a combined 28-0 score — chronologically starting in 2004, those wins were against St. John’s (7-0), Georgetown (6-0), St. John’s again (3-0), Rutgers (2-0), Cincinnati (5-0) and USF (5-0) … Sunday’s win also extends the Fighting Irish unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 64 consecutive games (61-0-3) and lengthens their home unbeaten run against BIG EAST teams to 94 in a row (93-0-1) … Notre Dame now is 3-0-0 all-time against USF with a 12-0 scoring margin and even more astronomical 83-10 shot spread in the series; in fact, the Fighting Irish have allowed the Bulls to take only three shots on goal in three all-time matchups (all three coming in the first series meeting on Oct. 2, 2005, in Tampa) … since opening the season with a 3-3-0 record, Notre Dame is unbeaten in its last 13 games (11-0-1) and also has posted a 32-4 scoring margin during its current streak, with 10 shutouts (five solos by Weiss) in that run … what’s more, since falling to the nation’s current top-ranked team, Stanford (2-0) on Sept. 13, Notre Dame has led or been tied for all but a total of 16:38 in the 1190:41 of game action during its present streak (1:18 at Cincinnati on Sept. 25; 15:20 at West Virginia on Oct. 2) … the Fighting Irish move to 164-4-2 (.971) all-time at home against unranked teams (according to the NSCAA poll) … other miscellaneous trends for Notre Dame: 313-0-1 all-time when taking a 2-0 lead in a game (290-0 since a 3-3 tie with Vanderbilt in Cincinnati on Sept. 15, 1991), and 395-9-16 (.960) when holding the opposition to 0-1 goals … Weiss has allowed only one goal in her last 663:08 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 781:50 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 845:11 (nine-game span) at its new home, Alumni Stadium, with the lone score coming on Oct. 16 by Connecticut’s Linda Ruutu at 66:17 … during the current nine-game home winning streak, Notre Dame has won by a combined score of 27-1 … the Fighting Irish move to 20-0 when Henderson scores a goal and 22-0 when she picks up a point in her two-year (44-game) career at Notre Dame … Scheidler now has recorded an assist in each of the past three games, the longest point streak of her career … Hall logged her second career assist, also previously connected with Fowlkes for the game-winner in the 84th minute at No. 10/12 Rutgers on Oct. 9 … Jantsch’s other career goal came in her first college game on Aug. 22, 2008, vs. Michigan, when she headed home a cross from senior forward Rachel VanderGenugten (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) in the 86th minute at Alumni Field … in Friday’s BIG EAST semifinal, Notre Dame will be playing St. John’s for the first time since Oct. 7, 2007, when it posted a 3-0 win over the Red Storm in Queens, N.Y.; the Fighting Irish are 11-0-0 all-time against St. John’s, including a 3-0 record in BIG EAST Championship play (all three wins came in the quarterfinal round in 2001 [2-0], 2004 [7-0] and 2006 [3-0] at Alumni Field).