Nov. 26, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Amanda Cinalli scored a pair of early goals, Katie Thorlakson solidified her player-of-the-year credentials with a goal and two assists and the Notre Dame defense again flexed its muscle by limiting Portland to a handful of scoring chances – as the Irish women’s soccer team advanced to the College Cup semifinals for the seventh time in the program’s history with Friday’s 3-1 win over the visiting Pilots.
Notre Dame (23-1-1), making its third NCAA semifinal appearance in the six-year Randy Waldrum era, awaits the winner of Sunday’s quarterfinal between Illinois at 16th seed Santa Clara. The Irish next will play at SAS Stadium in Cary, N.C., on Friday, Dec. 3 at either 2:00 p.m. or 4:30 EST (TBA, both semifinals will be shown live on ESPN2). The NCAA championship game is slated for Sunday, Dec. 5, at 1:00 p.m. EST (also at SAS Stadium), with the other side of the bracket now pared down to Princeton (a 3-1 quarterfinal winner over Washington) and the winner of Sunday’s game between 14th seed UCLA at 6th seed Ohio State.
The game featured possibly the top contenders for major national player-of-the-year honors, in Thorlakson and her Canadian national teammate Christine Sinclair (who scored to forge a 2-1 game in the 58th minute).
Notre Dame – ranked No. 2 but seeded 4th – was the highest seed that advanced to even the quarterfinal round. In fact, this marks the third time in the past five seasons that only one top-4 national seed has gone on to reach the College Cup semifinals. The first time that ever happened in the 23-year history of the NCAA Division I women’s soccer tournament was when Notre Dame’s top-seeded team advanced in 2000 (Washington, Clemson and Nebraska each were tripped up) and it happened again in 2002 when North Carolina was the only top-4 seed to advance (#1 seed Stanford lost in earlier rounds, as did Pepperdine and Connecticut).
UNC leads in all-time NCAA semifinal trips (22), followed by Santa Clara (9), Notre Dame, Portland and UConn (each with 7) – but since 1994, only the Tar Heels (10) have made more semifinal trips than the Irish (7; also in ’94-’97, ’99, ’00). Portland is the only team ever to defeat Notre Dame in the quarterfinal round (7-1-0), in a 1998 game at Alumni Field (2-1).
The Irish held a 7-1 edge in first-half shots but the Pilots managed more offense in the final 45 minutes (15-10 final edge for ND). The hosts also doubled up Portland in shots on goal (6-3, plus two Irish shots off the crossbar) and owned a decisive 9-2 edge in corner kicks.
Fifth-seeded Portland (20-4-0) – which had allowed just 14 goals all season, including one in the last five games – surrendered three goals for the first time all season while being held to three or fewer shots on goal for just the third time in 2004.
Notre Dame now leads the series with its sister school Portland (both schools were founded by the Holy Cross order) by a 7-3-0 margin but Friday’s result marked the first win ever in the series for the home team (1-7-0, plus two neutral-site games) while the nine previous games all had been decided by one goal.
The win also provides a memorable milestone for Waldrum, who now has collected 300 victories in 23 total seasons as a college head coach (300-125-4, including 117-20-5/.842 with the Irish).
Notre Dame’s four NCAA tournament games have included a 10-1 scoring edge, plus 74-18 in total shots and dominating margins in shots on goal (37-6) and corner kicks (28-3).
Thorlakson – who has scored or assisted on 22 of Notre Dame’s last 26 goals and is riding a nine-game point streak – set up the first goal with a pass back to junior midfielder Annie Schefter, who then one-touched a serve from 40 yards out on the left flank. Cinalli was slanting in from the right and elevated past her defender to flick a header from eight yards out into the left side of the net, for her ninth goal of the season and second of the NCAAs (3:42). It marked the third-quickest goal for the Irish this season and is the earliest postseason goal for Notre Dame since the 2001 BIG EAST final.
Cinalli was quick to credit the Academic All-American Schefter, who continues to show great accuracy from long range as both a scorer and setup player.
“Annie had it on the outside and she crossed a great ball,” said Cinalli, who now has opened the scoring in five games this season (tops on the team). “I just jumped up, got a head on it and it kind of curved in.”
Midway through the opening half, Cinalli struck again for the magical 2-0 lead – as Notre Dame now is 230-0-1 all-time when claiming a 2-0 cushion. Sophomore defender Kim Lorenzen did not receive an official assist but her free kick after a Portland yellow card found Thorlakson in the right side of the box. The junior forward then showed her patented skills with her back to the goal, sliding the ball between her legs and quickly turning to her left and racing to the endline to beat the Portland pursuit. Her low cross found Cinalli’s foot on the doorstop and the surging rookie roofed a shot into the topnetting for the 2-0 lead (29:59), giving her three goals in four NCAA games after not scoring in the previous eight games.
“Katie made a great move, got to the endline and crossed it back across the goalline,” said Cinalli. “It went past the goalkeeper and I was right there. But if I wasn’t there, Annie was right behind me to get it.”
Portland (20-4-0) appeared to gain some momentum after scoring early in the second half. Kristen Rogers sent free-kick into the penalty area and Lisa Sari flicked a header from the top of the box. The ball carried towards the far left side of the box and Sinclair was able to split through an Irish defender and goalkeeper Erika Bohn before sending her 22nd goal of the season into the open net (57:11).
“(Rogers) pounded a ball into the box and I’m not sure how it happened,” said Sinclair, the 2002 national player of the year. “I just had to battle one player and there was an open net.”
Thorlakson seemingly took the air out of Portland’s comeback hopes six minutes later, on a goal scored directly off a corner kick from the left flag. The inswinger curled under the center of the crossbar to give Thorlakson her own 22nd goal of the season (63:44) while pushing her season point total to 67 (22G-23A), now second all-time in Notre Dame history behind the 72 by Cindy Daws during her 1996 Hermann Trophy season.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, scoring directly off a corner like that. I don’t normally curl the ball,” said Thorlakson.
Thorlakson also has racked up eight corner-kick assists this season, including two earlier in the NCAAs from the same northwest flag (on Cinalli’s goal vs. EIU and Jill Krivacek’s 90th-minute goal that beat Wisconsin).
“I was slipping a little bit on the corner kicks at the other end during the first half,” said Thorlakson. “The ground was very muddy. It was a lot better on the other end. The ground was less muddy and I was able to strike the ball better.”
With the goal, Thorlakson became just the fifth Division I women’s soccer player ever to reach 22 goals and 22 assists in the same season. She nearly scored moments later, rocketing a 25-yard shot that smacked off the crossbar (her teammate Candace Chapman then sent the rebound try off the crossbar as well).
** Note – see updated ND notes and additional postgame quotes below the stats **
#6 Portland (20-4-0) 0 1 – 1
#2 Notre Dame (23-1-1) 2 1 – 3
ND 1. Amanda Cinalli 9 (Annie Schefter, Katie Thorlakson) 3:42.
ND 2. Cinalli 10 (Thorlakson) 29:59.
UP 1. Christine Sinclair 22 (Lisa Sari, Kristen Rogers) 57:11.
ND 3. Thorlakson 22 (-) 63:44.
Shots: UP 1-9 – 10, ND 7-8 – 15.
Corner Kicks: UP 0-2 – 2, ND 5-4 – 9.
Saves: UP 3 (Cori Alexander), ND 2 (Erika Bohn).
Fouls: UP 14, ND 13.
Offsides: UP 1, ND 1.
Yellow Cards: Emily Michaelson (UP) 29:53, Natalie Budge (UP) 44:34.
FIRST-HALF FORTRESS – Notre Dame traditionally has been very strong in the 1st half and that continued on Friday, with the Irish totaling a 7-1 shot edge and all five corner kicks in the first 45 minutes … ND now owns a 30-4 season scoring edge in the 1st half, plus 262-61 in shots (avg. 10.5-2.4), 134-25 in shots on goal (5.4-1.0) and 72-11 in CKs (2.9-0.4) … in the NCAAs, the Irish 1st-half dominance now includes 4-0 in goals, 43-6 in shots, 24-3 in shots on goal and 16-1 in corners … ND has not allowed a 1st-half goal in the last 8 games (the only 1st-half goal by an ND opponent in the last 11 games came after a fluke short goal kick, in the Oct. 24 Seton Hall game) … in the past 4 seasons, ND has allowed just 26 goals in the 1st half (89 GP, 0.29./gm) … Waldrum noted that “the first half was key because we put them under so much pressure. They never really got anything going.” … Portland head coach Garrett Smith saw a big boost from his team in the 2nd half, saying, “We were just trying to get back to doing some of the things we’ve been doing throughout the playoffs, pushing people on. In the first half, we were a little too tentative with the conditions and too worried about losing our footing. They had us kind of stuck in our half. Give them a lot of credit for keeping us in our half of the field and creating that many opportunities and corner kicks but we solved our problem and made some quality adjustments at halftime and gave them probably more than they wanted in the second half. That was the difference in the second half, we were pushing people up.” … senior D Kristen Rogers had a similar take: “I was getting tired (early in the game) and a lot of our problems were not pushing up, that false security of bringing people back and putting you on your heels. For defense, the best thing is a good offense and you can hold the ball and we were having a hard time getting it out of our half. We kept trying to clear it. By the second half, we figured out what we had to do and we adjusted well. We were pushing players on and not having so many back, so we could win it in the upper part of the field.”
STOMPING ALONG – Here are some updated notes on Katie Thorlakson’s historic 2004 season … she joins former ND great Jenny Streiffer (22G-22A, ’96) plus UNC’s Mia Hamm (32-33, ’92) and Lindsay Tarpley (23-27, ’03) and Santa Clara’s Mandy Clemens (24-23, ’99) as the only five players in Division I women’s soccer history ever to reach 22G-22A in the same season … with one more goal, she would join Hamm, Tarpley and Clemens as the only “23-23” players … and with two more goals and one assist, she would rank alongside Hamm as the only players ever to reach 24G-24A … she has totaled 24 points in her last 6 home games (8G-8A) and has 69 points at Alumni Field over the past two seasons (24G-21A, 9 GWG in 31 GP) … she now leads the nation in points (67) and assists (23) while ranking 3rd in goals (22) … her 67 points are 37 more than the team’s 2nd-leading scorer (Candace Chapman, with 30) … has totaled 33 points (11G-11A) in current 9-game point streak after rare 4-game point “slump” … has played role in nearly 70% of team’s goals in ’04 (G/A on 45 of 68) … has totaled 20 pts (7G-6A) in eight ’04 games vs. top-25 teams and has racked up an ND-record 24 pts (8G-8A) in postseason action this season (7 GP, after totaling just 6 points in 7 postseason games during first two seasons) … also has tied the ND records for goals and assists in one postseason (Anne Makinen had 8G in ’97, Holly Manthei 8A in ’94) … her 23A rank 12th in NCAA history (3rd-most since ’97) and are 4th in the ND record book behind NCAA career assist leader Manthei’s 44 in ’96, 34 in ’97 and 30 in ’94 … her 22G are 5th in ND single-season history (trailing only Jenny Heft’s 28 in ’98, Daws’ 26 in ’96, Makinen’s 23 in ’97 and Monica Gerardo’s 23 in ’96) … her 109 career points (36G-37A) still remain 14th in ND history (3 behind Suzie Zilvitis) … has appeared in 68 straight games with ND since returning from the ’02 Junior World Championship … has scored or assisted on 14 of ND’s 23 gamewinning goals in ’04 (team-highs of 8 GWG, 6 GWA) and has 35% of the team’s gamewinning points (22).
BEST OF THE BEST? – Waldrum did not mince words in his assessment of the national player-of-the-year race, saying, “Christine Sinclair is a great player in her own right, no question about it she’s a big-time player. But for this particular year, you saw tonight why Katie Thorlakson is the best player in the country right now. She is a different kind of player. Katie is going to be involved for 90 minutes, that’s what she does and she’s going to get other people involved in the game. Christine is that prototype great goalscorer. You give her a chance and she’s going to score, you saw that tonight when we made a little bit of a mistake and she’s there to pounce on it.” … Cinalli does not have a vote but if she did it would go to her fellow ND frontrunner, saying, “No doubt that Katie is the best player in the country. She is such a great role model and such a strong character and strong presence on the field. Her skills are unbelievable and she’s just a great person to look up to.” … Sinclair has seen a boost in her national teammate, noting that “the experience that Katie has had with the (Canadian) national team has helped her a bunch. I remember playing with her on the under-19s a few years ago and she has improved so much. She is a tremendous player. She is playing with more confidence. She is confident taking players on and if she gets stopped, the next time she gets the ball she’ll try it again.” … adds Smith: “Katie is a quality player, somebody that you always want to keep your eye on. She is very agile and very nimble.”
IT TAKES TWO – ND’s 230-0-1 all-time record when taking a 2-0 lead includes 207 straight wins when stretching out to a 2-0 cushion … the last 120 opponents to face a 2-0 deficit vs. the Irish have been unable to even tie the score … Waldrum on the halftime cushion: “To go in 2-0 at the half was huge. Portland always has been very comfortable playing in tight games. When you have players like Sinclair, you just need one chance. We told the kids that 2-0 is almost a more dangerous lead because it gives you that thought that you are home free and we stressed that we had to get the third goal. But it made a huge difference to be up two goals.”
BLAME IT ON RIO? (actually … Campinas) – Notre Dame has embarked on two preseason training trips during the Waldrum era (’00 and ’04) and both have resulted in seasons where the Irish earned the No. 1 ranking and went on to the NCAA semifinals (the ’00 team was ranked #1 for most of that season while the ’04 team held the top spot for six weeks).
SENIOR SALUTE – Reaching the College Cup semifinals comes as a well-deserved reward for a battle-tested group of seniors who have endured more than their share of individual and team heartache … fifth-year standout Melissa Tancredi and fellow senior Gudrun Gunnarsdottir have been rock solid as the central defenders while Candace Chapman has made an impressive switch back to forward after being an All-American at right back in 2002 (she missed all of ’03 due to an ACL knee injury, as did Tancredi in ’00 while Gunnarsdottir missed several games due to injury earlier in her career) … a streak of bad luck also saw illness/injury with Chapman in ’01 and Tancredi in ’03 lead to rare 2nd-round NCAA exits for the Irish (Chapman also was injured early in the 2002 third-round game, when ND still was close to upsetting top-ranked Stanford) … finally, their classmate Mary Boland was lost early this season with a broken leg but the talented forward has remained a supportive teammate throughout the past few months (the senior class also includes two other key members, in outside back Kate Tulisiak and midfielder Sarah Halpenny) … all of that subplot was not lost on Waldrum, who said: “You have to feel so good for our seniors. You see (Gudrun Gunnarsdottir) go through a broken ankle and broken wrist during her career and Tancredi with her ACL and other injuries she’s gone through. And then Candace with her ACL. Those kids have endured and are just warriors for you. They were all great today and `Gunna’ has been great the past few weeks in the playoffs. And you see why Tancredi is the best defensive player in the country. She and `Gunna’ really kept Sinclair in check the whole game. I’m really happy for those kids. They deserve this but they have even bigger goals ahead of them.”
POSTSEASON POISE – ND owns a 56-12-1 all-time record in postseason play (.819), including 35-3-0 at home (.921) and 30-10-1 in the NCAAs (.744, 2nd-best all-time) … ND’s ’04 overall postseason includes a 20-3 scoring edge, 130-33 in shots (avg. 19-5), 67-12 in shots on goal (10-2) and 44-5 in CKs (6-1) in 7 GP … ND is 47-13-3 (.770) in the Waldrum era when facing a top-25/postseason opponent.
HOME SWEET HOME – ND owns a 166-14-3 all-time record (.915) at Alumni Field, including 48-10-1 vs. top-25 teams … ND completed its 7th unbeaten season at home (14-0-1) and first since the 2000 team went 15-0-0 at Alumni Field … others are ’91 (10-0-0), `93 (8-0-0), `94 (8-0-0), `96 (14-0-0) and `97 (11-0-1) … the 14-0-1 home record includes a 47-7 scoring edge (avg. 3.1-0.4), plus 357-61 in shots (24-4), 178-30 in shots on goal (12-2) and 99-21 in corner kicks (7-1) … Schefter has recorded 14 of her 15 points this season at home (4G-6A).
QUICK HITS – ND is riding a 27-3 scoring edge over the last 9-plus games … the team GAA stands at 0.52 while the Irish are averaging 2.72 goals/gm … updated season stats include 68-13 in scoring, 535-141 in shots (21-6 avg.), 267-64 in shots on goal (11-2.6) and 148-37 in corner kicks (6-1.5)… ND has four more goals (68) than opp. shots on goal (64)… the Irish have held 20 of the last 21 opponents to 0-1 goals … ND’s 23 wins are one shy of team record (24-2-0 in `96, also 23-1-1 in `94, `97 and `00) … ND owns a 43-1-0 record in its last 44 games when scoring first … ND is 212-3-1 all-time (.984) when scoring 3-plus goals (116-1-0 since 10/6/95) and 296-9-12 (.953) when holding the opponent to 0-1 goals (102-3-5 since 9/9/99) … ND still has trailed just five times all season (spanning 89 minutes) and has trailed in just 10 of the last 53 games for 5.6% of the minutes in that span (269:26) … junior G Erika Bohn had allowed just 2G in a stretch of 970 minutes before Sinclair scored (Bohn’s season GAA rose slightly to 0.41) … she has held 47 of the last 51 opponents to 0-1 goals … Cinalli picked up her 4th GWG of the season (tied with Jen Buczkowski for 2nd on the team) … the four backline starters (Tancredi, Gunnarsdottir, Christie Shaner and Kim Lorenzen) have combined for 241 career games played at ND (196 starts) … Tancredi appeared in her 80th career game with the Irish and continues to lead ND in minutes played (2,132; 85/gm) followed by Shaner (2,009/80).
Portland Head Coach Garrett Smith – “We were still fighting through the end. We felt if we got to two, it was anybody’s game – even when they were up 3-1. Our goal in the second half was to get two goals back, one at a time. … There are no excuses. Being as young as we are, the team is walking away with a lot of experience.”
Portland Freshman Forward Natalie Budge – “It was just a complete battle. Every time you got the ball, you knew you had someone there fighting for it. You just try to be tough.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Randy Waldrum – “I’m really excited and so proud of the kids with the way that they played. In a difficult situation, I thought we were very good. We had 20 minutes in the second half where we lost a little bit of the rhythm but one of the things we did great was weather the storm. When they scored the goal to make it 2-1, you saw the maturity of this team. They didn’t panic and they came back and got the third goal and that’s something we’ve been able to do this season. It was huge to respond to that. … You have to go down a long list of players who played well today. … We had discussions about whether we wanted to mark (Sinclair) or just continue to play our game. At the end of the day, we just felt like we were a better team and said we are just going to keep doing what we do. Had we come in with more of a defensive posture, maybe it gives them some ideas that they can come in and play. … We have such a young team and none of these players were involved in our last `final four.’ Melissa (Tancredi) was injured. It’s important that they see it and get to experience it and hopefully that helps us as we go on to next year and the year after. … We’ve been home for a while and have enjoyed that. That’s why we worked hard all year to be a top-four seed and play these games at home. … We did expect to put that type of pressure on. We watched other teams play them and they have such a good team defensively, that was one of the questions – could we put them under enough pressure to play the way we normally play? Or do we sit in and be more conservative and more defensive, in trying to deal with Huie and Sinclair. We felt that we have a lot of weapons and are the kind of team where the other team has to say `Maybe we better do things differently to handle Notre Dame.’ We made that decision to come out and press and put pressure on them. We’ve been able to do that all year long. … The biggest thing for us this year is the depth we have, the quality of the young players we have and staying relatively healthy.”
ND Junior Forward Katie Thorlakson – “Our gameplan was to play hard. Portland is a very good opponent and (Sinclair) is one of the best forwards in the nation and you have to always watch her. Our plan was get up and hopefully stay up. … (The early goal) was so important. It set the tone for our team. Sometimes when you score a goal that early, it’s dangerous because you let off a little bit but we came back and got the second goal. … Portland is one of the best teams at playing down a goal, they love playing down a goal. I see their players adapt well to that. We stayed with it when they scored the goal and momentum was going their way but thankfully we got a goal off a corner. … I haven’t really thought of the season as a whole, just taking each game as they come. Seven days before the next game, it’s anxiety all week. … I’ve never been to the `final four’ before and it’s awesome, it’s where we deserve to be. Our focus and being good at our gameplan every game has helped us get the job done. … Amanda has been very clutch for us and played two huge goals tonight. Hopefully she will do well next week too.”
ND Freshman Forward Amanda Cinalli – “We’ve been working all year for this and our hard work is really paying off. This definitely was a goal in coming to Notre Dame and we are looking to go for a national championship. … It was a little bit slippery and wet but both teams had to play with it and manage it. I think we did a great job with that. … I’m happy to be scoring goals but they aren’t everything. We are pulling the wins off and it’s definitely a team effort and the team is playing great so I couldn’t be happier for us. … The second goal helped a lot. We knew that Portland could come back and there was a lot of time left in the game so we just had to keep focused and keep composed.”