Aug. 27, 2006

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OXFORD, Miss. – The Notre Dame women’s soccer team has been dangerous on set plays throughout the Randy Waldrum era and that proved to be the case on a scorching Sunday afternoon at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium, as the Irish overcame a rare early deficit to emerge with the 2-1 victory over a University of Mississippi squad that returns all 11 starters from its 2005 Southern Conference divisional championship team.

Notre Dame (2-0-0) – ranked as high as third among the four national polls and no lower than sixth – extended the second-longest scoring streak in the program’s history to 38 games while overcoming the challenge of playing on back-to-back days for the first time in 10 years, after topping Iowa State in Saturday’s season opener at Alumni Field (9-0). No previous team in the program’s 19-year history ever had faced the task of playing on back-to-back days in venues that were more than a couple hundred miles apart. Notre Dame arrived at its hotel in Oxford shortly before midnight, some 12 hours prior to kickoff.

Forwards Amanda Cinalli and Kerri Hanks – both members of the 2004 signee class – accounted for the Irish goals, with Cinalli sending home a header after a corner-kick scramble while a finish from Hanks yielded the first throw-in assist with the Irish for freshman frontrunner Michele Weissenhofer, whose flip-style throw-in should prove to be a dangerous weapon throughout the season.

Notre Dame continued to play minus two sophomores – central defender Carrie Dew and midfielder Brittany Bock – who both started on Sunday halfway around the world, helping the United States Under-20 National Team top Germany in the quarterfinals of the Under-20 World Championship (4-1). That victory means that Dew and Bock will miss next weekend’s tournament action at Alumni Field, as the Irish face two top opponents in USC and Santa Clara (SCU likewise has two players on the U.S. U-20 squad, which also includes USC forward Amy Rodriguez).

The third-largest crowd in Ole Miss Soccer Stadium history (1,421) was on hand to see the first game between the teams, with the Irish improving to 76-25-2 in all-time series openers (43-5-0 since ’93). Mississippi (1-1-0) entered the game ranked as high as 24th in the national polls.

Notre Dame should receive consideration for the No. 1 ranking next week, as Santa Clara and Florida State are the only other unbeatens among teams that were ranked in the top-six of at least one preseason poll. SCU pulled out a pair of 1-0 wins over Wake Forest and Utah while FSU played just once this weekend, beating another top-ranked team in Portland (2-1, two days after the Pilots had played to a 1-1 tie with Florida). In other action involving the top teams, North Carolina split on its trip to the lone star state (0-1 vs. Texas A&M, 3-0 vs. SMU) and UCLA dropped a 3-1 decision in a showdown with Penn State – with the Bruins then beating Maryland (3-0) while the Nitttany Lions tied Tennessee (1-1).

The Irish totaled a 16-7 shot edge in Sunday’s 97-degree heat and owned a 6-3 margin in shots on goal, holding the hosts a single shot on goal over the final 53 minutes of game time. Notre Dame’s dominant corner-kick edge (11-2) marked the 14th time in the eight-year Waldrum era that the Irish have totaled 11-plus corners in a game.

Ole Miss freshman Hannah Weatherly opened the scoring in the third minute, marking the earliest deficit for the Irish in a game since the middle of the 2003 season. Weatherly controlled the ball at the edge of the attacking third and was able to catcher the Irish central defenders in a flat position, breaking free for a 1-on-1 chance and beating junior goalkeeper Lauren Karas with a shot to the lower right corner (2:30).

Following the graduation of corner-kick specialists Katie Thorlakson and Annie Schefter, the Irish have rotated several players into that role this season and on Sunday it was time for Hanks to send her crosses from the flags. Six minutes before halftime, Hanks connected on an outswinger from the right side that found the head of freshman defender Haley Ford near the far side of the six-yard box. Cinalli ultimately headed the ball from close range and Ole Miss defender Lyndsey Williams was unable to head the ball away before it had cleared the plane of the goal line (39:32). It marked the first goal of the season for Cinallli and 21st of her career, to go along with 22 assists.

Another junior forward, Susan Pinnick, had a chance early in the second half put `keeper Ann Shelton rushed to the top of the box to prevent a shot. Minutes later, Cinalli showcased her strength on the ball and battled to the right endline – but her cross skipped harmlessly through the penalty area with nobody filling the middle.

The eventual gamewinning goal camp seven minutes into the second half, as Weissenhofer uncorked a throw from the left sideline. The 40-yard throw found the head of 5-foot-11 senior midfielder Jill Krivacek, who then sent a flick-header in the direction of Hanks on the far side of the six-yard box. Hanks finished the sequence into the right side of the net for her third goal of the weekend and 31st of her career (52:00).

Two minutes later, Weissenhofer streaked down the left side and played an endline pass to Pinnick, who was denied by the near post. Weissenhofer then showed her ability with a long cross in the 62nd minute, serving the ball from the left flank as the `keeper was caught off her line. Hanks was running free in the heart of the penalty area but a defender raced in to save what would have been an easy tap-in.

The hosts nearly tied the game with 12 minutes remaining, when Chrissy Strini’s 40-yard free kick clanged off the upper right corner of the goalframe. Weissenhofer was at it again two mintues later, passing to classmate Courtney Rosen for a header from eight yards out that went wide right.

The closing moments saw Weissenhofer nearly score her third goal of the season, banging a shot off the post before Cinalli nearly put home the rebound.

QUICK KICKS – Weissenhofer (2G-3A) leads the Irish in scoring with 7 points and actually was involved in more than half (6-of-11) of the team’s goals this weekend, including the run and cross that produced an own-goal in the ISU game … Hanks picked up the 7th gamewinning goal of her ND career and now has scored in 9 of the past 10 official fall games with the Irish … ND is 20-0-0 when Hanks has scored a goal the past two seasons … Cinalli’s 64 career points are tied with former teammate Candace Chapman for 24th in ND history … ND now is 4-1-0 vs. SEC teams, including the 4-1 win over Florida in ’05 … ND has played three previous games in southern states during the Waldrum era and also struggled in those other games, in ’99 vs. Texas A&M (1-0) and SMU (0-1) – both played in Klein, Texas, and without star midfielder Anne Makinen – and in the 2004 game at Arizona State that featured similar high-90s temperatures and an early deficit before ND eked out a 2-1 win … the quick deficit was the earliest faced by the Irish since West Virginia’s Laura Kane scored at the 1:43 mark on Oct. 6, 2003 (ND lost that road game, 3-0) … the last time an ND team had more than 11 corner kicks was 12 vs. Providence in 2004 (most of the Waldrum era is 15 vs. Tulsa in 2000 while the overall ND record is 21 CKs vs. Loyola in ’93) … ND now has played back-to-back games 21 times, going 16-5 in game-1 and 13-5-3 in game-2 … five previous ND teams have played back-to-back at different sites: 1989 (1-2 at Wis.-Milwaukee; 0-6 at Wisconsin), 1990 (0-4 at Duke, 1-5 at UNC Greensboro), 1991 (2-3 at Central Florida, 1-1 at Florida International), 1993 (6-0 at Ohio State, 3-0 at Detroit) and 1996 (14-0 at Providence, 6-0 at Boston College) … the combined record in those five previous pairs of back-to-back games in different sites was just 4-5-1 … when including the exhibition games vs. Virginia and Xaver, nearly one-third of ND’s goals (6-of-19, including at least one in each game) has come off a set play: a header by Krivacek vs. UVa (corner kick by Ashley Jones); a direct-kick goal by Xavier and Cinalli’s header later in that game (off Jen Buczkowski’s CK); Krivacek’s header off a Weissenhofer CK vs. ISU; and the pair of goals vs. Ole Miss … Sunday’s game marked the first top-5 ranked opponent for Ole Miss since the 2001 season opener at No. 4 Virginia … it was the first time the Rebels ever hosted a top-5 opponent … the ND seniors improved to 69-7-2 for their careers, with midfielder Jen Buczkowski appearing in all 78 of those games (D Christie Shaner in 77, F/M Lizzie Reed in 74, D Kim Lorenzen in 71 and Krivacek in 70).

NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Randy Waldrum – “We were not sharp for most of the game. We had to shorten the bench and there were some people we played a lot yesterday that did not play at all today. We tried to rotate players the best we could to stay strong on the field but also keep some fresh legs out there. We just did not have the same energy, playing in the heat and playing back-to-back games. The most disappointing thing was the mental mistakes we made. When they scored, it didn’t even wake us up. We got a little bit of a wakeup call at halftime but there was only 45 minutes left. It had been 10 years since a Notre Dame women’s soccer team played back-to-back games and I hope it’s 10 years until we have to do it again. At the end of the day, the plus is that we won against a team that is top-25 caliber and should be in the NCAAs. I’m just not happy with the mental mistakes we made. we could have scored four or five goals in the second half. We did not have many chances in the first half but had a lot of corners. We better be better next weekend or we will be in trouble. … We have a lot of options on set plays and are just trying to look at as many as we can – we have scored a lot of goals off them. Michele’s flip-throw adds another level of set plays. When you have someone who can do that, you have to use it to your advantage. Yesterday against Iowa State, she had two of the throws in a row early in the game and it set the tone. It’s another weapon in our arsenal. She has the combination of power and accuracy with her throw, you don’t see many players at this level with that type of throw that can go so far with accuracy.”

MISSISSIPPI HEAD COACH STEVE HOLEMAN – “We defended very well, and we created some opportunity – it was awesome for us to get on board early. I think we kind of shocked Notre Dame a little bit and woke them up. But they are an incredible team. Look for them to make it to the Final Four. … The defenders had their work cut out for them. They played against the best forwards in the country today. They did well.”

#5 Notre Dame (2-0-0) 1 1 – 2
Mississippi (1-1-0) 1 0 – 1

MISS 1. Hannah Weatherly 1 (-) 2:30; ND 1. Amanda Cinalli 1st of season/21st of career (Haley Ford) 39:32; ND 2. Kerri Hanks 3rd/31st (Jill Krivacek, Michele Weissenhofer) 52:00.

Shots: ND 5-11 – 16, MISS 3-4 – 7
Corner Kicks: ND 6-5 – 11, MISS 0-2 – 2
Saves: ND 2 (Lauren Karas), MISS 4 (Ann Shelton))
Fouls: ND 19, MISS 18
Offside: ND 1, MISS 0
Yellow Cards: Elise Karlowicz (MISS) 3:51; Christine Breaux (MISS) 49:58; Kerri Hanks (ND) 59:14; Haley Ford (ND) 72:19; Amy Gill (MISS) 89:52