Nov. 20, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The second-ranked Notre Dame women’s soccer team used yet another dominating defensive effort and goals from Candace Chapman and Katie Thorlakson to advance past visiting Connecticut, 2-0, in Saturday night’s NCAA third-round game at Alumni Field. Notre Dame (22-1-1) – now the highest-seeded team (4th) left in the NCAAs – next will face 5th-seeded Portland in the quarterfinals, tentatively scheduled for Friday, Nov. 26 at Alumni Field (7:00 p.m.).
Notre Dame had several near-misses (including two shots off the posts) and again dominated the run of play to the tune of a 24-4 overall shot edge, plus 10-2 in shots on goal and 9-1 in corner kicks (the Huskies were held to one shot and no corners in the final 50 minutes of play). The Irish now have accumulated a 59-8 shot edge in three NCAA Tournament games (all shutouts) while allowing just three shots on goal (31-3) and one corner kick (19-1).
Thorlakson’s goal gives her 21 goals and 21 assists for the season, making her just the sixth Division I women’s soccer player ever to reach that distinction. The previous five include four – UNC’s Mia Hamm (32G-33A, ’92) and Lindsay Tarpley (23G-27A, ’03), UConn’s Sara Whalen (21G-22A, ’97) and Santa Clara’s Mandy Clemens (24G-23A) – who earned some form of national player-of-the-year honors while the fifth is former ND great Jenny Streiffer (22G-22A, ’96), who remains one of two players (along with Hamm) ever to reach 70 goals and 70 assists in their careers.
Connecticut, ranked 15th in the latest NSCAA coaches poll but slotted outside the 16 NCAA seeds, concludes its season with an 18-7-1 record. Since losing a wild 5-4 game to UConn in 1995, Notre Dame now is unbeaten at Alumni Field in its last 57 games vs. BIG EAST teams (56-0-1).
The win quickly avenged a 2-1 loss to the Huskies in the BIG EAST championship game. The Irish had claimed the lead in that Nov. 7 game and had several cracks at the magical 2-0 cushion that has proven to be insurmountable in the 17-year history of Notre Dame women’s soccer – as the Irish now are 229-0-1 all-time when claiming a 2-0 lead. Notre Dame has won 206 straight games when stretching out to a 2-0 lead, dating back to Sept. 15, 1991 (when Vanderbilt ultimately forced a 3-3 tie). There have been only two other games in the program’s history when the Irish gave up a 2-0 lead (but still went on to win): a 4-3 victory over UConn in the 1996 BIG EAST championship game (the Irish led 3-0 but the Huskies scored three straight) and a 3-2 win over Duke at a 1993 lateseason tournament in Houston, meaning that the last 119 opponents to face a 2-0 deficit vs. the Irish have been unable to even tie the score.
Notre Dame’s steady pressure finally broke through for a goal in the 66th minute of Saturday’s game, when Chapman headed in a leftside cross from freshman midfielder Ashley Jones for her 11th goal of the season. Thorlakson then sent a penalty-kick shot squarely under the center of the crossbar in the 82nd minute, extending her point streak to eight straight games and giving the player-of-the-year frontrunner a four-week stretch in which she has scored or assisted on 19 of Notre Dame’s last 23 goals. Her 63 points in ’04 are nine shy of the Irish record (72, by Cindy Daws in ’96) and rank third all-time in the ND record book (Streiffer had 66 in ’96).
Thorlakson also broke Anne Makinen’s team record for points in one postseason, with 20 (7G-6A, besting Anne Makinen’s 19 points on 8G-3A in ’97).
“I felt like the whole night we created enough chances that we would finally get one. They have a good `keeper and she always plays well against us. The only thing that worried me a little bit was their counter attack,” said Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, now one win shy of his 300th victory in 23 overall seasons as a college soccer coach (299-125-24, including 116-20-5 in six seasons with the Irish).
“I think the most important thing is that you keep your gameplan and maintain your composure. You just have to keep plugging away and getting those opportunities. We actually had a lot of better looks at the goal than we did on Chapman’s score.”
Notre Dame now is 8-1 all-time in NCAA round-of-16 games, also advancing to the quarterfinals every year from 1994-2000. The Irish improved to 29-10-1 all-time in the NCAAs (.738, second-best in the tournament’s history) and own a 34-3-0 record when playing postseason games at home.
Portland (9) and Notre Dame (8) are two of the most-common participants in the quarterfinal round of the NCAAs, with just North Carolina (22), UConn (17), Santa Clara (13) and UMass (10) making more all-time trips to the quarterfinals. Since Notre Dame began its program in 1988, only UNC (16), SCU (13), UConn (12) and Portland (9) have made more quarterfinal trips.
Next weekend’s game will be a replay of the 1998 matchup that produced what remains the Notre Dame program’s only defeat in the NCAA quarterfinal round (6-1-0). That 2-1 loss to Portland also was the first postseason defeat ever suffered by the Irish at Alumni Field. Notre Dame leads an action-packed series with Portland (6-3-0) that has seen every game decided by one goal, including three NCAA Tournament wins by the Irish: a 1-0 semifinal in 1994 (at Portland), the 1995 championship game (1-0, in triple-OT) and a 3-2 semifinal in ’96 (after early 2-0 Pilots lead, at Santa Clara).
The seven teams that have advanced to the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals include: #16 seed Santa Clara and unseeded Illinois (they will meet in the other half of ND’s bracket); #7 seed Princeton, 15th seed Washington and #14 seed UCLA (which awaits the winner of Sunday’s game between 11th seed Tennessee at #6 seed Ohio State).
Notre Dame’s veteran back line – comprised of senior central defenders Melissa Tancredi and Gudrun Gunnarsdottir and sophomore outside backs Christie Shaner and Kim Lorenzen – turned in a strong performance while shutting down UConn’s potent pair of first team all-BIG EAST forwards, Kristen Graczyk and Jessica Gjersten. Tancredi displayed her All-America form while leading a dominating display in the air by the entire Irish squad.
The Irish continue to own more goals this season (65) than opponent shots on goal (61; 2.5/gm) and have lowered the team’s season goals-against avg. to 0.50 (4th in the nation and 4th-best in ND history). Notre Dame also has held 19 of its last 20 opponents to 0-1 goals and is riding a 22-2 scoring edge over the last eight-plus games.
Junior goalkeeper Erika Bohn saved the only two shots she faced while dropping her NCAA-leading season goals-against average to 0.37 (which would tie LaKeysia Beene’s ND record, set in ’97). Since allowing a goal at Georgetown on Oct. 10, Bohn’s has surrendered just two goals (by UConn, in the BIG EAST title game) spanning her last 913 minutes of game action, good for a 0.20 GAA in that stretch.
The first Notre Dame goal sequence came after UConn had a brief series of tries to crack through in their attacking third. The hosts quickly took the action the other way and Jones showed her strong crossing ability by playing the ball from beyond the left side of the box. Chapman was filling the middle and managed to nudge a header past charging `keeper Megan Jessee for the 1-0 lead (65:34).
“I knew where Ashley wanted to put it, so I tried to time a run and got a head on it,” said Chapman, the converted outside back who steadily has returned to form this season after a 2003 ACL knee injury.
“We definitely didn’t panic. We knew we were getting chances, so we were confident that one of them was going to go in.”
Fifteen minutes later, Alisse Kosloski was whistled for a hard foul on freshman forward Amanda Cinalli and Thorlakson stepped forward to convert her third penalty-kick goal in as many tries this season (81:43).
** Notes and quotes follow below the stats **
Connecticut 0 0 – 0
Notre Dame 0 2 – 2
ND 1. Candace Chapman 11 (Ashley Jones) 65:43; ND 2. Katie Thorlakson 21 (PK) 81:43.
Shots: UConn 3-1 – 4, ND 12-12 – 24.
Corner Kicks: UConn 1-0 – 1, ND 5-4 – 9.
Saves: UConn 8 (Megan Jessee), ND 2 (Erika Bohn).
Fouls: UConn 12, ND 13.
Offsides: UConn 3, ND 4.
Yellow Card: Kim Lorenzen (ND) 72:44; Zahra Jalalian (UConn) 81:44.
FRESHMAN FOCUS – The rookie tandem of Cinalli and Jones have played key roles in all three games vs. UConn this season … Cinalli scored late for the 1-0 regular-season win and Jones had her only goal of the season to open the scoring in the BIG EAST title game (before adding the big assist tonight).
SERIES NOTES – ND has gone 2-1-0 in all three seasons in which it has faced UConn three times, also in 1996 (4-5, 1-0, 2-0 in NCAA 3rd rd) and ’97 (1-0, 6-1, 1-2 in NCAA semifinal) … ND now leads the UConn series 14-4-2 (4-1-0 in last 5) … ND now is 15-5-0 in NCAA Tournament games that served as rematches from the regular season (7-2 in last 9) … the Irish are +100 in the won/loss column vs. BIG EAST teams, since joining the conference in 1995 (110-10-3, .907) … ND’s 3-game stats vs. UConn this season include a 55-17 shot edge (25-8 SOG, 18-2 CKs).
THOR KEEPS THUNDERING – Thorlakson has totaled 29 points (15G-9A) in her current 8-game point streak, after a rare 4-game point “slump” … she has scored or assisted on 65% of ND’s goals this season (42 of 65) and has totaled 16 points (6G-4A) in six games vs. top-25 teams … her 21 goals tie Rosella Guerrero for 7th on that ND single-season list … only four previous ND players have totaled more than 22 goals in a season: Jenny Heft (28 in ’98), Daws (26) and Monica Gerardo (23) both in ’96, and Makinen’s 23 in ’97 … her 105 career points (35G-35A) remain 14th in ND history, seven behind Suzie Zilvitis (’88-’91) … eight previous ND players have reached 35G-35A in their careers … Thorlakson now has logged 67 straight games with the Irish since returning from the 2002 Under-19 World Championship.
QUICK HITS – In six overall postseason games, ND has allowed just 2 goals, 23 shots, 9 shots on goal and 2 corner kicks (17-2 scoring edge, 115-23 in shots/avg. 20-4, 61-9 shots on goal/10-1.5), 35-2 CKs/6-0.3) … ND’s updated season stats include a 65-12 scoring edge, plus 520-131 in shots (avg. 22-5), 261-61 in shots on goal (11-2.5) and 139-35 in corners (8-1.5) … the Irish have faced just five deficits all season, spanning 88 minutes … the four backline starters have combined for 237 career games played at ND (192 starts) … ND owns a 165-14-3 all-time record (.914) at Alumni Field, including 47-10-1 vs. top-25 teams … ND’s 13-0-1 home record in ’04 includes a 44-6 scoring edge (avg. 3.1-0.4), plus 342-51 in shots (24-4), 172-27 in shots on goal (12-2) and 90-19 in corner kicks (6-1) … top scorers at Alumni Field in ’04 include Thorlakson (16G-15A, 47 pts, 7 GWG; 7G-6A in last 5 home games) and Chapman (9G-4A, 22 pts) … Thorlakson has totaled 65 points at Alumni Field over the past two seasons (23G-19A, 9 GWG in 29 GP) … ND has won nearly 80% of its “big games” during the Waldrum era (’99-’04), posting a 46-13-3 record (.766) when facing an NSCAA top-25 or postseason opponent … ND owns a 28-4 first-half scoring edge in ’04 and has allowed just 26 first-half goals over the past four seasons (in 88 games) … since a 3-2 loss to BYU (10/19/02), ND has trailed in just 10 games for 269:26 (5.8% of 4,739:29), going 45-5-2 in that 52-game stretch.
Katie Thorlakson – “Once we got the first goal, we just had to step up on defense and keep focused. We were creating a ton of chances all game and just not putting them away. Our defense stayed focused the entire game this time and didn’t make any mistakes. (Tancredi) did awesome today. She beat (Gjersten) to every ball. She was a threat but ‘Mel’ kept her in check the whole game. We just want it this year, just trying to stay focused and get to our goal, which is a national championship.”
Candace Chapman – “Just from the beginning of the season, it’s been tough trying to get back in shape, trying to get back in the rhythm. Every game I play it gets easier. … We were working on midfield play, trying to have Jill (Krivacek) and Jen (Buczkowski) sit back a bit to prevent (counterattacks) from happening. We did a really good job doing that.”
Randy Waldrum – “Defense has been kind of the cornerstone for us the last few years. I kept saying to the backs this season, challenging them a little bit, saying `you guys will keep us in it in a couple games later in the season.’ I think this could be one of the best back lines that Notre Dame has ever had. That’s saying an awful lot because you’ve had so many great players. People will remember this back four. Tancredi is dominant. Shaner trained sparingly this week but did very well. `Gunna’ was outstanding tonight. We really worried about Graczyk because she controls the flow from a forward position, from a back midfield, and we didn’t want to allow her to have that freedom and that space because she’s the one that hurt us last time. I thought that she was a non-factor today. Between Gunna and Kimmy Lorenzen when she was in midfield, you could even see the frustration with Graczyk and she couldn’t find any game. … Kim gives us so many weapons and has such great service of the ball when she gets forward and has such an athletic body, getting up and down the line all day is not difficult for her to do. She is just a warrior and is one of our best players, an underrated player that we really can’t do without. … Ashley has become our top sub and you saw what she can do tonight. She came in and handled things immediately like a veteran. We have such a good group of players, the hard part is getting her the minutes she deserves but she just keeps getting better every week. .. Notre Dame and Portland have been consistently through the years two of the best teams in the country. It should be a great battle. Those are the type of games you want to play. But they clearly are a very dangerous team and have had a great year. We’re looking forward to it.”
UCONN HEAD COACH LEN TSANTIRIS – “We got behind a couple of times but we didn’t get forward enough to create an opportunity. We had to be more possessive of the ball going forward. You have to possess the ball to be able to connect. We did some good things but they were not consistent. Notre Dame consistently moved the ball well. … Next week’s game is going to be a good one. Portland moves the ball well and they have some big-time players. That will be the key for Notre Dame, how they play those players. Those players are very ‘quiet.’ They are not very aggressive but they can beat you in an instant. We found that was the most difficult team to defend against. It was early in the season when we played them, but they are very deceiving, very precise. It is going to be a good matchup.”