Senior forward Meotis Erikson set up both goals via corner kicks while the Notre Dame defense turned in another strong showing, as the top-ranked Irish women’s soccer team downed visiting Harvard, 2-0, in frigid NCAA Tournament third-round action Friday night at a surprisingly festive Alumni Field.
Notre Dame (22-0-1) moves on to the quarterfinals for the seventh straight season and will face the winner of Saturday’s Santa Clara at BYU matchup. The quarterfinal game tentatively in scheduled for Friday, Nov. 24, at Alumni Field (7:00 p.m.).
Harvard (12-8-0) saw its season come to an end, after managing just four shots on goal (eight total) versus a tough Irish defense that has allowed just 62 shots on goal all season (2.7 per game).
The game was played in freezing temperatures, with the Notre Dame grounds crew turning in an admirable transformation of a field that was covered by a couple inches of snow and ice at midday. A spirited crowd of 843 fans cheered throughout the game and included a solid contingent of the Notre Dame student body, many who waved oversized foam “No. 1” hands (which cut through the night due to their bright yellow color).
Notre Dame’s 23-game unbeaten streak is one shy of tying the team record (24-0-0 from ’95-’96 and 23-0-1 to open ’97) while the 25-game home winning streak ranks second in Irish history, two shy of the team record spanning the 1992-95 seasons.
Erikson’s leftside corner kick set up a header from senior midfielder Anne Makinen in the 31st minute-the 20th time (and 11th this season) that the classmates have combined on a goal-and Erikson then served the ball from the right side early in the second half, with junior midfielder Mia Sarkesian sliding onto a loose ball in the goalmouth area to nudge home the crucial second goal.
The Irish finished with an 18-9 shot edge and 7-3 corner kick margin, with Harvard’s first CK not coming until the game’s 82nd minute.
Notre Dame came out ready to play from the opening kickoff, a marked change from its disjointed first-half effort in the second-round win over Michigan.
“We had a little talk in the lockerroom the other day and we kind of decided that we have to step it up a little,” explained Makinen, who pushed her career postseason point total to 43 (15G-13A) in 25 games, including 6G-8A in 14 NCAA games.
The two goals are the latest in a recent flurry that has seen Notre Dame total eight goals on set plays during the last 11 games, including four (out of 12) in postseason play. The first goal in the second-round win over Michigan (3-1) likewise came off a set piece, with Erikson volleying in Makinen’s free kick from outside the left edge of the box.
“We were very good in the first half but it was disappointing that we had some more great opportunities that we didn’t finish, and we’ve talked about that throughout the season,” said second-year Irish head coach Randy Waldrum, whose first two Notre Dame teams have combined to win nearly 90 percent of their games (43-4-2).
“It was great to get a handle on the game early and then to get the second goal. That made it a lot tougher for Harvard to get back in the game.”
Erikson-who like Makinen has points in five of the last six games-set up the first goal with a well-placed kick from the left corner flag. The ball sailed to the far post and found Makinen, who deposited a flat-footed header into the right side of the net for her 14th goal of the season and the 65th of her career (30:08).
“We noticed that Harvard puts a couple players on the post and then man-marks in the box and that’s very difficult in that kind of a space, because there’s so much traffic,” said Waldrum, in reference to the goal-scoring sequence.
“This week, we worked on some set pieces trying to actually run off some man-marking. It was a good time to score off a set-piece. At this time of the season, those become big things for you.”
Makinen more or less let the ball come to her. “Meotis played the ball to the far post, which was pretty much planned from practice, and the girl in front of me that was marking me jumped at the wrong time,” she said. “I didn’t jump and it just came to my head and I headed it in.”
Added Erikson, “That (option) looked like it was on and Anne can finish, so … I was trying to hit her or (Monica Gonzalez) and they were right by each other, so my chances were good.”
Harvard’s failure to clear the goal area allowed the Irish to extend their lead. Erikson provided the rightside service and Gonzalez lightly headed the high-bouncing ball before it settled into the goalmouth area. Sarkesian-whose final college choice came down to Notre Dame and Harvard–then slid into the play and pushed the ball past sophomore ‘keeper Cheryl Gunther for her fifth goal of the season (49:24).
“The second goal was very disappointing,” said 14th-year Harvard head coach Tim Wheaton. “In a game like this, to give up a second goal and keep battling is very tough. It takes a lot of character and a lot of fight. We were battling all the way through, trying to get a goal.
“We thought we could give them a battle and I think we did that today.”
HARVARD (12-8-0) 0-0-0
#1 NOTRE DAME (22-0-1) 1-1-2
ND 1. Anne Makinen (Meotis Erikson) 30:08, ND 2. Mia Sarkesian 5 (Monica Gonzalez, Erikson) 49:24.
Shots: HAR 5-4-9, ND 10-8-18.
Saves: HAR 4-2-6 (Cheryl Gunther), ND 3-1-4 (Liz Wagner).
Corner Kicks: HAR 0-3-3, ND 5-2-7.
Fouls: HAR 7-2-9, ND 4-4-8.
Offsides: HAR 1, ND 4.
MORE WALDRUM QUOTES: “It was kind of like the BC game a couple weeks ago. I thought we came out with a lot of intensity and we really set the tone for not getting ourselves in to trouble. I never felt that we were struggling. … Last year, Jen Grubb was so good at hitting free kicks and Anne was too that we really didn’t do much on the free kicks other than let them step up and have it. And this year, we had Anne on our set pieces most of the time but late in the season we’ve begun to make more of an effort to spend some time on set pieces. Anytime you can set the ball down and run something off it that you want, then you need to be good at it. … Harvard has a great team and Tim has done a great job with them historically to hang in games and they have stole some wins that way. That was my biggest concern, that they could counter us. We needed the second goal to kind of ensure things.”
MORE ERIKSON QUOTES: “The fans were awesome and they were cheering a ton. It’s cold out here and it’s always colder when you’re standing and not moving. We’re really proud of our fans and we hope they keep coming back. That really helps a lot. … It’s always nice to score or have an assist but right now we just want to win and keep going on. If we score, great, but we just want somebody to be scoring as long as the job gets done. … We played with a lot of enthusiasm tonight, which was good to see.”
MORE WHEATON QUOTES: “We came in here knowing that if we stepped up and put pressure on them and didn’t take a defensive stance, that we could create our chances and make it difficult for them to play and I think we did that. … They are a fantastic team but I feel like you come in and play the number one team in the country and give up two corner-kick goals, I thought we did a pretty good job. … We created some chances at the end. I was pretty proud of our kids. I thought they came out and played with a lot of heart. … We need to finish a little better but overall in terms of the intensity, the focus and staying organized, I though t they did a fantastic job. … We thought we could get wide a little better and looked at that earlier. But they made some adjustments and took that away … They are the best team that we’ve played this year. They are so athletic and smart and they work so well to give up the ball. … It was cold but both teams played in the same place. The biggest thing was cuts. Our kids are all cut up because of the ice. The surface wasn’t that slippery. The Notre Dame people did a fantastic job getting this field ready considering the conditions. Considering how much it snowed and the weather, this is about as nice a place as you could ask to play.”
AROUND THE BRACKET: In other action Friday night, two homes teams posted victories-7th-seeded Penn State (4-0 over Dartmouth) and 3rd-seeded Clemson (2-0 over Florida State)-but No. 4 seed Nebraska was upset by Connecticut, 1-0 … UConn next will face the winner of Saturday night’s Virginia at 5th-seeded North Carolina game (the winner of that game draws the winner of the ND-SCU/BYU game in the semifinals) … the third round concludes on Sunday afternoon, with Portland at 2nd-seeded Washington (the winner moves on to face PSU) and Texas A&M at 6th-seeded UCLA (that winner next faces Clemson).
TEAM NOTES: Updated season stat edges: 73-7 scoring, 560-132 shots (avg. 24-6), 315-60 shots on goal (avg. 14-3), 151-52 CKs (avg. 7-2) … ND’s 16 shutouts-including 12 in the last 15 games-are two shy of the team record (’95) … ND is 117-7-1 (.940) in 11 seasons at Alumni Field, 93-3-1 in the last 97 and 82-1-0 vs. unranked teams (75 straight wins) … ND dropped its NCAA-leading season goals-against average to 0.297 … ND owns a 66-10 scoring edge in its current 25-game home winning streak … ND owns an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 22-6-1(.776) … Harvard became the 14th straight team to drop a series opener to the Irish … ND’s all-time record in series openers is 57-23-2 (.707), including 24-3-0 since `93 and 37-6-0 in series openers played at home (12-1-0 since ’93) … since the start of the ’93 season, ND opponents that were making their first visit to Alumni Field are just 1-1-27 … the Irish now are 4-1-0 all-time in series openers that took place during the NCAAs … prior to this weekend, ND had played a game on Saturday or Sunday in each of the past 14 weeks (including two of the four games during the 10-day preseason trip to Brazil in mid-August) … since returning from Brazil, the Irish played on Sunday in 11 of the past 12 weeks-plus a travel day on Sunday, Oct. 22 (returning from the fall break trip to Connecticut) … prior to the quarterfinal game, ND will have played just one game in the previous 11 days (Nov. 13-23) … ND is 11-1-1 in its last 13 postseason games (34-7 scoring edge), 16-2-1 in the last 19 (51-11) … the Irish have scored in the 1st half 18 times this season … ND owns a 35-3-1 all-time record when playing as the #1-ranked team … the senior class has helped ND compile an 87-8-4 (.899) record from 1997-2000 … ND has not yielded goals in back-to-back games since Sept. 10 (18 games) … the Irish own a 41-3 scoring edge in the 2nd half … ND is 30-1-2 in its last 33 games … with Nebraska’s loss, every team in the nation-except for ND-has at least two losses … Harvard became the 18th ND opponent this season held to 0-3 CKs … a player whose first name starts with A or M has scored ND’s first goal in every game this season (or helped set up an opening own goal).
INDIVIDUAL NOTES: Makinen’s six game-winning goals this season are two shy of the ND record (set by Rosella Guerrero, in ’94) … Erikson is the 2nd ND player ever to appear in the first 99 games of her career, joining Shannon Boxx (101, 1995-98) in that distinction … Erikson is tied with Kara Brown (’00) for 5th on the ND career games played list, with Boxx owning the record at 101 … junior G Liz Wagner’s combined stats this season vs. ranked teams and in the postseason include 29 saves and just 3 GA (she has 18 SV, 3 GA in the other 13 games) … Erikson has 13 points (4G-5A) in 14 career NCAA games, 31 (9G-13A) in 25 career postseason games … Makinen’s 186 career points leave her five shy of 2nd place on the ND career scoring list (two players have 189, one has 190) … Erikson has points in eight of her last 10 games (4G-7A) and her 44 assists pushes her into a tie with Monica Gerardo (’99) and Brown for 7th in ND history.