April 23, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame junior forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) scored her second goal of the spring in the eighth minute to erase an early deficit, but the Mexican Women’s National Team scored three times in the final half-hour, including twice on the counterattack in the final three minutes, to ease past the Fighting Irish, 4-1, on a damp Friday night before a spirited overflow crowd of 2,737 fans at Alumni Stadium.
It marks just the second time in eight spring matches between Notre Dame and Mexico that Los Tricolores have come away with the victory, the other coming in 2004, when Mexico earned a 3-2 victory at old Alumni Field (the Fighting Irish went on to win their second national championship eight months later).
Evelyn Lopez had a goal and an assist for Mexico, which is ranked third in CONCACAF and 22nd in the FIFA world rankings (as of March 12). Tania Morales, Nayeli Rangel and Natalia Gomez-Junco scored the other goals, as Mexico improved to 3-1-1 against college opponents this spring, having defeated UCF (2-1) and Auburn (3-2) and tied Georgia (2-2). Meanwhile, Notre Dame caps its spring season with a 2-2-1 record, earning wins over Purdue (6-0) and Iowa (3-1), as well as a scoreless draw with Michigan State. The other Fighting Irish loss was a 1-0 setback at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars, who compete in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS).
Junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) went the distance in the Notre Dame net, making one save. Erika Vanegas also played the full 90 minutes in the Mexican goal, stopping five shots. Mexico outshot the Fighting Irish, 19-12, although the hosts held a 6-5 edge in shots on goal. Mexico also earned four of the six corner kicks in the match, while committing 10 of the 15 fouls.
“We scheduled this game for a reason and there’s a lot we can take from it,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “In the eight times we’ve played Mexico in these spring exhibitions, this is probably the best team they’ve brought in here. They make you pay for every little mistake and they know how to play with the lead, and those are some good lessons for our players to learn. I thought we did some nice things tonight and had some stretches, especially early in the second half, where we played with good pace and made some things happen. The final score is pretty deceiving, considering we pushed up quite a bit near the end to try and get that tying goal. Overall, we had a good spring season and we saw many players make solid improvements, which we can carry forward as we look ahead to next season.”
It didn’t take long for Mexico to get on the scoreboard on Friday night, as Morales worked her way into the offensive third and drilled a low shot that ricocheted off a charging Weiss. As the ball squirted away, it glanced off the arm of a Notre Dame defender, resulting in a penalty kick that Morales deposited in the low left corner in the fourth minute.
Knaack drew the Fighting Irish even just four minutes later, running on to a long lead pass near the top left corner of the box. The veteran then turned her defender around and caught Vanegas off her line, curling a pinpoint shot just inside the right post from 16 yards out.
Notre Dame had a chance to take the lead midway through the first half, as sophomore defender/captain Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) worked a brilliant combination play with junior midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit), building up from the center line and getting a return service as she streaked through the right channel. However, as Schuveiller broke into the box for a 1-v-1 opportunity with Vanegas, the second-year back saw her shot sail high over the bar.
Knaack and junior midfielder Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) broke free on the left side and had similar looking shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of the first half, but both attempts were secured by Vanegas. On the other end, Weiss kept the score tied with a superb leaping save, tipping a drive by Letitia Villalpando over the bar in the 30th minute.
Mexico finally snapped the tie just past the hour mark, as Lopez drove to the right end line, then snapped a service across the goal mouth. Rangel managed to slip in front of her defender and was able to head the cross just past the outstretched hands of Weiss and under the bar from four yards out.
Now trailing by a goal, Notre Dame moved to a more offensive-minded posture and it nearly paid off four minutes after the Mexican score. Knaack sent a cross from the right side that Augustin latched on to near the penalty spot, settled and then cracked a sharp shot that Vanegas did well to stop with a reflex save. Moments later, junior All-America forward Lauren Fowlkes (Lee’s Summit, Mo./St. Teresa’s Academy) rose to meet an Augustin free kick and looked to have beaten Vanegas with a looping header, but the Mexican netminder furiously backpedaled and cradled the shot on the goal line.
Mexico ended the night’s drama with two late goals, both from distance. Lopez scored the first of the two in the 88th minute, corralling a loose ball just inside the midfield stripe after a Notre Dame defender slipped down on the wet turf. Lopez then caught Weiss off her line with a dipping shot from 45 yards out that tucked under the bar as the Fighting Irish goalkeeper also slipped while trying to retreat. Gomez-Junco came on to replace Lopez after that goal and the stoppage-time reserve added a tally of her own from 25 yards away, finding the upper left corner of the net.
Notre Dame will open its fall training schedule in August, with a single exhibition match against Virginia scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 13 in Traverse City, Mich. The Fighting Irish will open the 2010 regular season at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 20 against Minnesota at Alumni Stadium.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Friday’s match was part of the Alumni Stadium dedication weekend, with the official ceremony to dedicate the new $5.7 million state-of-the-art home for Fighting Irish soccer slated for 10 a.m. (ET) Saturday at the stadium … the four goals are the most Mexico has scored against Notre Dame in eight career spring exhibitions, with the previous high being three goals in a 3-2 Mexico win in 2004 … freshman midfielder Jordan Snyder (Dallas, Texas/Ursuline Academy) — who joined the team in time for the spring 2010 season — made her Alumni Stadium debut with the Fighting Irish on Friday, playing the final 17 minutes of the first half … one of the members of the Mexican National Team is Rebecca Mendoza (’09), who played at Notre Dame from 2005-08, helping the Fighting Irish to three consecutive NCAA Women’s College Cups, including national championship match appearances in 2006 and 2008 … the Notre Dame players are auctioning off their jerseys from Friday’s exhibition, with the proceeds going to benefit Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do, a Fort Wayne camp for children with cancer and their families; bidding on the jerseys (which will be autographed by the wearer and one other Fighting Irish player of the bidder’s choice) is being conducted through the official Notre Dame athletics web site, with the auction continuing until 3 p.m. (ET) Saturday at www.und.com/auctions.