Oct. 16, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Junior forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin) turned in a career-high five-point night with two goals and an assist, while classmates Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) and Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) also scored two goals apiece, as No. 7/8 Notre Dame rang up its biggest win of season, toppling BIG EAST Conference rival Connecticut, 6-1, on a cold Friday evening before a crowd of 1,343 fans at Alumni Stadium.
With the victory, the Fighting Irish extend their current unbeaten streak to nine games (8-0-1), while also stretching their NCAA Division I-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 60 games (57-0-3).
Knaack actually had a hand in the first four goals of the evening for Notre Dame, as she was fouled midway through the first half to set up the first of Augustin’s two free kick scores on the night. The speedy Texan also came within an eyelash of a hat trick, as her second-half blast from distance caromed off the crossbar and the back of UConn goalkeeper Jessica Dulski, but the ball was ruled not to have crossed the goal line before it was swept away by the Huskies’ defense.
Junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) made her fourth consecutive start for Notre Dame, recording three saves in 82 minutes of action. Freshman netminder Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh) then came on to work the final eight minutes for the Fighting Irish, and was not tested in that time. Dulski had two saves in 58 minutes for Connecticut, while Ally Mancino had three stops in the closing 32 minutes for the Huskies — both UConn goalkeepers allowed three goals.
Notre Dame (11-3-1, 7-0-1 BIG EAST) finished with a 27-14 shot advantage in the game, including an 11-4 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish also held a slim lead in corner kicks (3-2), while fouls were nearly even (7-5 Notre Dame) and Connecticut’s Meghan Cunningham was issued the only yellow card of the contest with a bit more than 15 minutes to play.
“Just a tremendous all-around performance by our team tonight,” Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “We really raised our game a notch against an outstanding opponent. Taylor and Rose obviously had super nights and I was so pleased to see Erica get on the board a couple of times, too. But what truly excites me the most is that there was no drop-off at all in the level of play, no matter what combinations we put out there. Everyone contributed to this win and they should take great pride in the effort. Now the challenge for us is to come back on Sunday and see if we can build on this against a much-improved Providence team.”
It didn’t take long for Notre Dame to heat up, even with the game-time temperatures hovering around the 40-degree mark. Knaack did the honors, settling a chip at the top of the penalty area, and turning for a quick shot that was blocked. However, the rebound caromed right back to Knaack’s feet, and the third-year Fighting Irish frontliner reloaded the gun with a rising right-footed shot that may have just scraped some paint off the underside of the crossbar as it settled into the roof of the net at 10:34.
Knaack was the in thick of things again just past the midpoint of the opening half, getting loose on a run down the right channel before she was hauled down 23 yards from goal. Augustin then stepped up and calmly drilled a right-footed free kick that cleanly eluded the Connecticut defensive wall and also caught a piece of the crossbar before ricocheting into the goal at 23:51 for a 2-0 Notre Dame lead.
After creating the opportunity for the second Fighting Irish score, Knaack was “Jenny on the spot” for the third goal less than eight minutes later. Sophomore midfielder Courtney Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West) started the sequence by cutting into the offensive third and driving a dipping cross from the left flank that handcuffed Dulski. The loose ball skittered to the right edge of the six-yard box, where Knaack was waiting to emphatically slam home her second goal of the night at 31:20, once again going high into the attic for the score.
Connecticut (9-6, 4-4) had a couple of solid chances in the first half, recording six shots (one on goal) in the opening 45 minutes. The Huskies also tested Weiss early in the second half with a pair of shots from about 15 yards away, but one drifted wide and the other sailed high. Meanwhile, Notre Dame kept up the pressure, with Knaack nearly completing her hat trick with the aforementioned shot that pinballed through the UConn goalmouth at 53:30.
Knaack then delivered a helping hand — or foot — on the fourth Fighting Irish goal, slipping a perfectly-timed through ball down the right side to Iantorno, who made a nifty play of her own to track down the pass near the end line at the edge of the penalty area. She then cut back on her defender to create a better shooting angle and cracked a bending left-footed shot that curled into the far left side netting (65:18), out of the reach of Mancino, who had come into the game just seven minutes earlier.
The Huskies avoided the shutout 59 seconds after Notre Dame went ahead, 4-0, as Linda Ruutu collected a loose ball near the top right corner of the box, angled towards the center of the field and then uncorked a hard low shot that beat Weiss to the far left post.
The Fighting Irish then closed the door on any Connecticut comeback with two goals in a span of 1:09 inside the final quarter hour. Augustin netted her second free kick goal at 79:17, as her shot bounced through traffic at the edge of the six-yard box and skipped past Mancino, who was distracted on the play by a brilliant dummy run from senior forward/tri-captain Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley).
Then, at 80:26, Weissenhofer broke loose down the right flank, pivoted at the end line and sent a pass back to Iantorno, who was camped at the top right corner of the box. Iantorno then went short side, hammering a right-footed shot that beat Mancino high into the upper right corner of the net.
The Fighting Irish will continue their four-game BIG EAST homestand Sunday with a 1 p.m. (ET) contest against Providence at Alumni Stadium. Tickets for this, and all remaining Notre Dame soccer games, are available through the Fighting Irish Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356), by going on-line to www.UND.com/tickets, or by visiting the Alumni Stadium ticket windows on game day.
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 20-4-3 all-time in the series against Connecticut (the most wins and games played against one opponent in program history), including a 12-1 mark at home … the Fighting Irish also now have an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) against the Huskies since UConn beat Notre Dame, 2-1, in Storrs to win the 2004 BIG EAST Championship (the only loss for the Fighting Irish in their 25-1-1 national championship season); during the current eight-game series unbeaten streak vs. Connecticut, Notre Dame has outscored the Huskies, 22-2, with the only other goal coming on Oct. 21, 2007 in a 2-1 Fighting Irish overtime win at old Alumni Field … the six goals scored by Notre Dame this evening matched the most ever scored by the Fighting Irish in the series, as well as the largest victory margin against UConn (who beat the Huskies, 6-1 to win the 1997 BIG EAST title in Piscataway, N.J., and 5-0 to claim the 2005 conference crown in Milwaukee) … Friday’s six goals and 15 points also were season highs for Notre Dame, two more than the previous high-water marks set in its conference opener (a 4-0, 13-point conquest of DePaul on Sept. 18 at Alumni Stadium) … during their current nine-game unbeaten streak, the Fighting Irish have outscored their opponents, 21-4, while recording six shutouts … Notre Dame’s 27 shots likewise were a season best, topping their 25-shot effort at Pittsburgh on Oct. 4 … the Fighting Irish not only are unbeaten in an NCAA Division I-record 60 consecutive conference matches (57-0-3), but also run their unbeaten streak at home against BIG EAST teams to 90 matches (89-0-1) since Connecticut’s 5-4 overtime win on Oct. 6, 1995, at old Alumni Field … since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, Notre Dame is 130-8-5 (.927) all-time in regular-season conference matches, 32-2-1 (.929) in BIG EAST Championship play, and holds a 693-85 scoring edge against conference foes in that 14-year span … the Fighting Irish move to 160-4-2 (.970) all-time at home against unranked teams (according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll) … other miscellaneous trends for Notre Dame: 283-3-1 (.988) all-time when scoring three goals in a game (185-1 since that 5-4 loss to Connecticut in 1995), 309-0-1 all-time when taking a 2-0 lead in a game (286-0 since a 3-3 tie with Vanderbilt in Cincinnati on Sept. 15, 1991), and 391-9-16 (.959) when holding the opposition to 0-1 goals … Ruutu’s second-half goal snapped Weiss’ personal scoreless streak in goal of 377:25, 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) … it also was the first goal allowed by the Notre Dame defense in 398:07, 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, it was the first goal allowed by the Fighting Irish at home in 461:28, going all the way back to Sept. 4 and the Alumni Stadium opener vs. top-ranked North Carolina (Jessica McDonald at 54:49) … speaking of that UNC game, Notre Dame has bounced back in a big way at their new digs since that opening-night 6-0 loss, winning the five subsequent games by a combined score of 16-1 … Knaack’s goal at 10:34 marked the sixth time in 11 wins this season that Notre Dame has scored inside the opening 20 minutes of play … Knaack played just 54 minutes on Friday, but still found time to register two goals, one assist, and five shots (three of which were on goal, and two of which went in, while the third was millimeters from crossing the goal line) … Augustin collected her second two-goal night of the season, having also potted a pair of scores in the Sept. 18 win over DePaul, while her career-high eight shots were one more than the seven tries she had against North Carolina on Sept. 4 … Augustin’s two goals were her first of the year off set pieces, although she also has a pair of corner-kick assists to her credit this season … Weissenhofer returned to the Fighting Irish lineup on Friday and played 37 minutes in the win over Connecticut, making her first appearance since injuring her hamstring on Sept. 11 at Santa Clara.