Nov. 27, 2004
Two of the most successful programs in women’s soccer history will meet in next week’s NCAA semifinals, as Notre Dame will face Santa Clara on Friday, Dec. 3, as SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (former home of the WUSA’s Carolina Courage, located near Raleigh). The Irish and Broncos will meet in the second semifinal (4:30 EST), following the 2:00 game between UCLA and Princeton. Both of Friday’s games and the NCAA final (Dec. 5, 1:00) will be telecast live on ESPN2.
Notre Dame (23-1-1) is ranked No. 2 in the nation and was seeded 4th in the NCAA field while Santa Clara (18-4-2) is No. 4 in the NSCAA coaches poll but was seeded much lower in the NCAA field (16th). The Irish defeated the Broncos early in the 2004 season, using three late goals for a 5-2 win at the Notre Dame Classic on Sept. 5. Junior forward Katie Thorlakson showed her national player-of-the-year flair in that game, totaling the most points ever by a Notre Dame player vs. a top-25 opponent (8, 3G-2A) while becoming just the third Irish player ever to post a hat trick vs. a top-10 team. Her big day vs. the Broncos has remained the most points by a Division I player in a game vs. a top-25 team this season.
Santa Clara opened the NCAAs with a 2-1 win over Cal Poly before posting a pair of 1-0 overtime victories vs. Stanford and at top-seeded North Carolina. The Broncose advanced to the College Cup semifinals today with a 2-0 win over visiting Illinois.
Seventh-seeded Princeton advanced last night with a 3-1 win over 15th seed Washington while No. 14 seed UCLA won today at 6th seed Ohio State.
UNC is the runaway leader in all-time NCAA semifinal appearances (22), followed by Santa Clara (10), Notre Dame (7) and two others with seven semifinal trips (Portland and Connecticut). Since 1994, the semifinal leaders include UNC (10), ND (7), SCU (7) and Portland (7).
Notre Dame already has defeated two teams – Eastern Illinois (4-0) and Connecticut (2-0) – that it faced earlier in the 2004 season. This marks the fourth time in the program’s history that the Irish have played three-plus rematch games in the NCAAs. It happened three straight seasons in the mid-1990s, including the 1994 NCAAs that saw ND face four NCAA rematch games, vs. George Mason (3-1), William & Mary (2-1), Portland (1-0) and UNC (0-5 title game). The 1995 team then played three rematch games in the NCAAs (5-0 vs. Wisconsin, 2-0 vs. UConn and 1-0 vs. UNC in semifinal) while the ’96 team beat Indiana (8-1) and Wisconsin (5-0) in NCAA rematches before losing the rematch with UNC in a 1-0 title game.
Notre Dame’s six previous NCAA semifinal appearances have featured four rematch games (ND is 3-1 in those games): the 1-0 wins over Portland in ’94 and UNC in ’95, a 2-1 loss to UConn in ’97 and a 1-0 win over SCU in ’99. The Irish are 15-5 in all-time NCAA rematch games (6-2 in the six-year Randy Waldrum era) and the ND program has won seven of the last nine when facing a rematch in the NCAAs, with wins over Michigan in ’98 (3-0) and ’00 (3-1), SCU in ’99 (1-0) and ’00 (2-1), Purdue in ’02 (3-1), and EIU (4-0) and UConn (2-0) in ’04 while the losses came to UNC in ’99 (0-2) and Michigan in ’03 (0-1).
Notre Dame owns a 6-3-0 series record vs. Santa Clara, including 4-1 at Alumni Field and 2-0 in the NCAAs. The teams played just twice in the first 11 seasons of the ND program (’88-’98) but Friday’s game will be the eighth ND-SCU game in the past six seasons (’99-’04). The series includes regular-season games in ’99 (4-2 SCU win) and ’00 (6-1 ND win), with the Irish winning rematches in the NCAAs (1-0 in ’99 semifinal, 2-1 in OT of ’00 quarterfinal). Other meetings include ND’s 1-0 home win in ’95, SCU’s 3-1 home win in ’96, SCU’s 4-0 win at the ’02 ND Classic and ND’s 2-1 win in ’03.
Both teams have overcome the loss of All-America caliber players – SCU senior defender Jessica Ballweg and ND senior forward Mary Boland – to broken-leg injuries early in the 2004 season (Boland was injured early in the previous SCU game).