Nov. 24, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior forward Meotis Erikson (Kennewick, Wash.) continued her strong postseason play by scoring the decisive goal in the fifth minute of overtime, as the top-ranked Notre Dame women’s soccer team dodged a big-time bullet to defeat 24th-ranked Santa Clara, 2-1, in NCAA quarterfinal action Friday night at Alumni Field.
Notre Dame (23-0-1) moves on to face another familiar foe-North Carolina-in the semifinals, to be played Friday, Dec. 1 at San Jose’s Spartan Stadium (game time is TBA, either 5:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. PST). UNC-which beat the Irish 2-0 in the 1999 NCAA title game-improved to 19-3-0 with a 3-0 victory Friday afternoon over visiting Connecticut.
Notre Dame will be making its sixth trip to the semifinals in the last seven seasons while North Carolina has advanced to the semi’s in all 19 NCAA Championships. The other half of the semi-final bracket will be determined on Saturday, when Portland plays at 7th-seeded Penn State (1:00 p.m.) while 6th-seeded UCLA travels to 3rd-seeded Clemson (7:00 p.m.).
Santa Clara (16-7-1) forced overtime in dramatic fashion and dominated the scoring chances, with an 18-4 edge in shots and a 9-3 corner kick advantage (the most shots and CKs by a Notre Dame opponent and the fewest shots by the Irish this season). Junior defender Anna Kraus scored her first goal of the season with just 2:48 left in regulation, forging the 1-1 tie.
Irish junior goalkeeper Liz Wagner (Spring, Texas) proved to be the player of the game, with her eight saves thwarting several quality scoring chances and bringing back memories of her eight-save effort in the 0-0 tie at UConn on Oct. 21. Wagner’s impressive totals this season in “big games”-vs. ranked teams and/or in the postseason-include 38 saves and just four goals allowed (in 11 such games).
SCU head coach Jerry Smith came away impressed with Wagner’s performance. “She made a lot of key saves today. She flipped a couple of them over the bar, and poked a few around the post,” said Smith, whose squad was denied a fifth straight trip to the semifinals.
“You have to give credit where credit’s due. I don’t think anybody doubted that we’d have chances to score, but it was just a matter of whether we could get one by their goalkeeper.”
The win provided several milestones for the Irish, who tied the team record for longest unbeaten streak (the `95-’96 teams combined to go 24-0-0 while the ’94 and ’97 teams also opened 23-0-1). The Irish also posted their 26th consecutive home victory, one shy of the team record (27) set from 1992-95.
Notre Dame also has gone 33-1-2 since its last regular-season loss, a 4-2 game at SCU on Oct. 17, 1999.
Erikson-who has 11 points (3G-5A) in six postseason games this season (including 2G-3A in three NCAA games)-also had the primary assist on the first goal of the game, working the ball to sophomore Ali Lovelace (Dallas, Ga.) for a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
The game marked Notre Dame’s eighth one-goal victory of the season (SCU finishes 5-4 in one-goal games) while Kraus’s goal represented just the sixth time this season a team has come from behind to tie the Irish (SCU also forced a 1-1 tie in its 6-1 loss at ND on Sept. 8).
“Santa Clara played very well and I thought we came out, played well and got the goal and for some reason we just shut down after that,” said second-year Irish head coach Randy Waldrum, whose first two Notre Dame teams have combined for a .900 winning percentage (44-4-2).
“They created a lot of problems and my hats off to that group because I thought they were fantastic tonight.”
The highly-physical game featured 38 combined fouls (19 by each team), the most combined fouls in any Notre Dame game this season.
A key turning point came midway through the opening half, when Irish sophomore midfielder Ashley Dryer was forced to leave the game in the 26th minute due to injury (she did not return). Notre Dame had managed its third shot of the game eight minutes earlier (17:40) but an uncharacteristically lengthy drought then ensued, with the Irish-who have averaged 24 shots per game this season-going 77 minutes without a shot, before Erikson ended the game.
“Ashley does so many things for us and is such a key player, because she is so good at running at people,” said Waldrum, who in 1999 became the first Division I women’s soccer coach ever to take a team to the NCAA semifinals in his first year as that team’s coach.
“As soon as she went out, the complexion of our midfield changed … and they ultimately were able to put a lot of pressure on us.”
While Erikson provided the finishing touch on the game-winning goal, a pair of freshmen set the play in motion. A Santa Clara player tried to clear the ball near the left corner but forward Amanda Guertin (Grapevine, Texas) raced down the ball and threaded a pass down the endline for her classmate Randi Scheller (Kutztown, Pa.), who was playing in place of the injured Dryer.
Scheller kept the ball moving through the penalty area and Erikson-who has not missed a game in her ND career and reached the 100 GP milestone on Friday (one shy of the Irish record)-was in position for her 13th goal of the season and the 59th of her career.
“I didn’t have to do much. Randi played an awesome pass and I just had to tap it in,” said Erikson, who now owns 17 points (5G-7A) in 15 career NCAA Tournament games, including a goal two weeks ago versus Michigan, followed by a pair of assists in the Harvard game.
“I wasn’t thinking and that’s the best thing. Usually when I am thinking, I mess it up.”
The exciting first half had yielded just seven shots (four for SCU, three for the Irish) but the Broncos proceeded to rack up an 11-0 shot edge in the second half. The last of those shots-SCU’s 15th of the game-proved to be the equalizer and was set up by Ally Wagner’s leftside corner kick. The ball ended up near the top of the box but Kraus-who missed the earlier loss to ND, as did Wagner and star defender Danielle Slaton-then delivered a laser shot for just the second goal of her career (in 64 games played).
Kraus sent a tricky one-timer above the crowded penalty area and towards the upper left corner. A diving Wagner managed to tip the ball and senior defender Monica Gonzalez was lurking near the post but the rising shot ripped into the netting for the tie score (87:12).
Waldrum conceded that he had some serious concerns at that moment.
“With that goal coming so late and with all the pressure they were putting on us, I was worried that we might feel too deflated,” said Waldrum. “But I’m so proud of how we came back in the overtime and created the opportunity to get the game-winning goal.
“That shows the character that we’ve had on this team in some of the tight games and when things have been down. We’ve found ways to win and that’s what we did tonight.”
Lovelace-whose 22 career points include 13 in postseason play (5G-3A)-brought back bad memories for the SCU faithful by scoring in the 17th minute (her late goal provided the only scoring in a 1-0 NCAA semifinal win over then-No. 1 SCU last season, in a game where the Broncos held a similar 17-3 shot edge).
Gonzalez-who has totaled five of her six points in the last seven games, including assists in all three NCAA contests-inititated the goal-scoring sequence with an outlet pass down the left flank for Erikson, who spied Lovelace battling for position near the upper left corner of the box. Lovelace took the pass and gained some separation from her defender before ripping a shot into the side-netting of the far right post for her fourth goal of the season and first since early October, halting an 11-game goal drought (16:31).
Wagner made at least four diving saves to tip shots over the crossbar, including a huge stop in the overtime (when she made three of her eight saves). SCU senior Heather Aldama provided the challenge with a shot from just outside the top of the box, following a short free-kick sequence. The ball was headed for the upper right corner but Wagner saw the play developing and shifted to her left before leaping to tip the ball away.
Smith and his players departed Alumni Field knowing they were close to posting their third road victory of the 2000 NCAAs.
“We felt like we were the better team out there today,” he said. “Tomorrow or yesterday might have been different. But today we felt we were the better team.
“But it’s not about shots. It’s about goals and winning, finding a way to do it. And we didn’t do it this year and we didn’t do it last year. There’s something Notre Dame is doing that is really shutting us down … or maybe it’s the luck of the Irish. I don’t know.”
#24 Santa Clara (16-7-1) 0 1 0 – 1
#1 Notre Dame (23-0-1) 1 0 1 – 2
ND 1. Ali Lovelace 4 (Meotis Erikson, Monica Gonzalez) 16:31, SCU 1. Anna Kraus 1 (-) 87:12, ND 2. Erikson 13 (Randi Scheller, Amanda Guertin) 94:59.
Shots: SCU 4-11-3-18, ND 3-0-1-4. Corner Kicks: SCU 3-5-1-9, ND 2-1-0-3.
Saves: SCU (Crystal Gordon) 1-0-0-1, ND (Liz Wagner).3-2-3-8.
Fouls: SCU 5-12-2-19, ND 7-11-1-19.
Offsides: SCU 1, ND 3.
GAME NOTES: The previous high this season for combined fouls in an ND game was 37, in the earlier win over SCU (19-18) and the 0-0 tie at UConn (24-13) … SCU’s 19 fouls equaled the most by an ND opponent this season (Washington also had 19) … the four shots easily are ND’s lowest of the season (the Irish had seven at UConn and 10 vs. the Huskies in the BIG EAST title game) … ND has scored first in 22 of 24 games this season, with just six teams coming back to forge a 1-1 tie (none had done so in the 13 games prior to the NCAAs, before Michigan scored for a 1-1 game) … ND now leads the SCU series 4-2-0, with three straight wins … the home team is 5-0-0 in the series while Friday’s game was the fourth in which one of the team’s was top-ranked (two of the previous three resulted in upsets) … ND boosted its all-time record in the NCAAs to 23-6-1 (.783) … ND’s six trips to the NCAA semi’s are tied with UConn and UMass for third all-time (behind UNC’s 19 and SCU’s seven) … the Irish are 12-1-1 in their last 14 overall postseason games (36-8 scoring edge), 17-2-1 in the last 20 (53-12) … ND owns a 16-1-0 all-time home record in NCAA Tournament games … SCU suffered its first overtime loss of the season (3-1-1) while ND is 3-0-1 in OT this season (4-0-2 in its last six OT games) … the Irish are 3-1-1 in NCAA games that have gone to OT (SCU now is 3-3-0).
TEAM & PLAYER NOTES: ND’s season scoring edge now stands at 75-8 (no team has managed more than one goal vs. the Irish) … the Irish scored in the first 12 minutes during six of the season’s first 14 games but have managed just one such “quick-strike” goal in the last 10 outings … the Irish have not trailed for 10 games (spanning six weeks) and the Irish have trailed for just 28 minutes (out of 2,216) all season (vs. BC, on Oct. 13) … the Irish have scored in the first half 19 times this season … updated season stat edges: 564-150 shots (avg. 24-6), 319-71 shots on goal (13-3 avg.), 154-61 CKs (6-3 avg.) … the Irish are 94-3-1 in their last 98 games at Alumni Field (118-7-1/.941 in 11 seasons overall) … ND owns a 36-3-1 all-time record when playing as the top-ranked team … ND’s and Wagner’s NCAA-best season GAA both not sit at .302 (she has played 89% of the minutes) … the senior class has helped ND compile an 88-8-4 record (.900) from 1997-2000 and is two wins shy of joining the class of ’98 (91-6-4, from ’94-`97) as the only ones to reach 90 wins … ND has reached 23 wins for the fourth time (UNC has posted 23-plus Ws 12 times while four others have done it once) … the ND record for wins in a season is 24 (’96) … the Irish are 13-1-2 in their last 16 games away from home (4-1-0 on neutral fields) … ND has given up just two goals in nine games away from home this season (6 GA in 15 home games) … Erikson has points in nine of the last 11 games (5G-8A) and six of the last seven (3G-6A) … she is tied with M Holly Manthei (’98), M/F/ Jenny Streiffer (’00) and D Jen Grubb (’00) for 2nd on the ND career GP list, one behind the record held by former M Shannon Boxx (’99) … Erikson’s 59 career goals tie her with Michelle McCarthy (’96) for 6th in ND history … Lovelace scored the first goal of a game for the first time this season and extended ND’s random streak in which a player whose first name starts with A or M has scored every 1st goal for the Irish this season (or helped set up an opening own goal).
MORE ERIKSON QUOTES: “We were playing as if we were trying to hang on. And when you play like that against a team like Santa Clara, they are going to get one on you. After that, we kind of just tried to take the attitude that we’re going to do whatever we have to in order to get it done. … You want to win pretty but if you are going to win ugly, all that matters is that you win at the end. We’ll take it. … I’m gonna rest my mind for a few days before thinking about the next game. We definitely will be preparing for the game all week but for our team we just need to relax. We play the best when we are having fun and not stressing out and I think that’s going to be key for us.”
LIZ WAGNER QUOTES: “I was pretty focused today. I knew that it was going to be a big game and I had to step it up some. We needed to hang in it and I had to make some big saves. And we got the win, so I’m so excited. … I think we are confident but not that confident, because we know that we haven’t proven anything yet, especially after our performance tonight. Santa Clara came out and pretty much just kicked our butts. To hang on and get the win is great. We are confident because we know we are a good team and I think we play well when we are confident, but we have to come out and prove ourselves, because we still have to get two more wins to win the national championship.”
MONICA GONZALEZ QUOTES: “I think that if we were going to beat Santa Clara, we all pretty much had to leave everything we had on the field. Liz made some incredible saves. It doesn’t matter how good the defense plays if a team gets a shot that goes in and Liz has been playing extremely consistent all year and all of our defense has. It starts with the forwards and not letting them get crosses in and put high pressure all over the field. That’s what has been working for us all year long.”
MORE WALDRUM QUOTES: “I’m excited for the kids to be able to go back to the final four, because of all they’ve done this year. … You’d like to think that when you win this many games, it’s a sign that you’ve got a good team and are able to withhold some close games like this. I’ve been saying all along that I think Liz Wagner is the best goalkeeper in the country this year. The fact that she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves has been kind of amazing to me. … They can only enjoy it tonight and then tomorrow morning we’ll be back up for practice and get ready for Carolina. We’ve got our work cut out because Carolina has been on a roll. They’ve been playing well the last three of four weeks of the season. … I’ve said this all along, until somebody can beat Carolina a couple years in a row, they still are the team to beat. It’s going to be a great battle. … Meotis has been big for us in most of our big games this season. She got the first goal up at Washington and the early goal that held up in the 1-0 game at Portland. She is just a great who has evolved into one of those big-time players for us. We had to have that out of her today. … We thought it would be a close game. Most people look at out last score with them being 6-1 and say we killed them. But that was a 2-1 game with 10 or 15 minutes left until we finally broke it open. We didn’t anticipate it being a high-scoring game. I just thought we would perform better overall and that’s the thing that surprised me the most.”
MORE SMITH QUOTES: “I wouldn’t say we were confident we could get the final goal, but we felt there was a good chance to get the goal. … We knew we’d get more shots, but I think our best chances score were at the first part of the game. … I have to give our players a lot of credit. They’ve worked hard, they battled. ‘Never Say Die’ is what Danielle Slaton was saying throughout the game … and the kids didn’t. … Notre Dame took advantage of their opportunity in overtime and won the game. They played us very well today. … I don’t think our players were doubting. It’s been a very tough year for us. We’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity. We have been able to put a string of nice games together. I think we were very confident. … In overtime, it’s about who’s going to catch a break and take advantage of it. And Notre Dame did that. They caught the first break and created a great goal. … We knew we had this kind of performance in us when we were out here earlier in the year. We’re just glad we got another shot so we could prove that score wasn’t quite so accurate.”