Nov. 5, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 14th series meeting between the Notre Dame and Connecticut women’s soccer teams produced another hard-fought battle Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field, with an early own goal holding up as the only scoring for a 1-0 Irish victory in the BIG EAST Conference championship game.
Top-ranked Notre Dame (20-0-1)-which has won six straight BIG EAST titles since joining the conference in 1995-now awaits the announcement of the NCAA Tournament 48-team field, to be made tonight at 10:00 p.m. Live broadcasts of the selection show will be aired on Empire Sports (DirectTV 626, Dish Network 432) and Home Team Sports (DirectTV 629, Dish Network 424). Satellite coordinates for the selection show are: C-band, Telstar 5, Transponder 24, downlink frequency 4180 MHZ). The tournament field and pairings also can be monitored at the official NCAA website (www.ncaa.org).
The Irish-who posted their 15th shutout of the season and 11th in the last 13 games-likely will be seeded first in the NCAA field and are one of 24 teams to have secured automatic berths in the tournament (see complete list below). The top 16 seeds will receive a first-round bye before hosting second-round games on Nov. 11th or 12th.
Notre Dame’s run of six consecutive titles ranks as one of top all-time streaks in any BIG EAST sport (see note below). The 2000 squad is just the second in the Notre Dame program’s 13-year history to enter the NCAAs with an unbeaten record (the ’97 team likewise was 20-0-1).
Irish junior midfielder Mia Sarkesian (Canton, Mich.)-who had the first goal and assisted on the second in Friday’s 3-0 semi-final win over Boston College-was named the tournament’s outstanding player, after playing a leading role in Sunday’s pivotal midfield battle.
“The last time we played UConn (a 0-0 game on Oct. 21 in Storrs), they dominated in the midfield and (head coach) Randy (Waldrum) took us aside and said we’ve got to win the midfield battle and that’s what we did. We worked really well together,” said Sarkesian, in reference to ND’s solid trio of central midfielders that also includes senior Anne Makinen and sophomore Ashley Dryer.
“Compared to the last time that we played UConn we definitely came out with much higher intensity and defensively we were more organized in the first half,” added Sarkesian, whose postgame recognition was fitting for one of the several Irish players whose contributions often go unheralded.
Connecticut (15-6-2) again gave the Irish a battle and owned a 6-1 edge in corner kicks (second-most by an ND opponent this season, behind Portland’s seven) while the Irish held a narrow 10-8 shot advantage. Notre Dame junior goalkeeper Liz Wagner needed to make just three saves but two of them thwarted the best scoring chances of the game.
The own-goal sequence was set up by a low cross from the right flank by Irish freshman forward Amanda Guertin, with UConn sophomore defender Lauren Naida then sending the ball into her own net on the attempted clear. Notre Dame junior defender Lindsey Jones set the play in motion, after heading a short UConn clear near the right sideline. Guertin trapped the ball and was facing the sideline before quickly pulling the ball backwards, rotating 180-degrees and gliding between a pair of UConn players.
Guertin found some space and sent a low, left-footed cross into the box for senior forward Meotis Erikson, who was making a diagonal run from the far side. The ball had plenty of pace on it buy sailed well left of Erikson, who carried her defender, Naima Montacer, out of the play. The ball then took a short bounce in front of Naida, who was stationed just to the right of the 12-yard penalty kick dot.
Naida had plenty of open space around her but elected to make a one-touch clear, with the ball knuckling off her left foot and heading towards the right post. Sophomore goalkeeper Maria Yatrakis made a dive to her left but was too late as the ball rolled inside the post (12:13).
“The thing about own goals is that they don’t happen if you don’t put on the right kind of pressure up front,” said Waldrum, who has employed a hockey-like forecheck from his forwards this season. “If Meotis doesn’t make that run it might have been an easy clearance for the defender. You’d love to score on your own but you still have to give some credit to the work we did off the ball to make that happen.”
The Huskies nearly tied the game three minutes later, when a thru-ball from junior midfielder Mary-Frances Monroe sprung junior forward Aleza Borisjuk into the top right corner of the box. Borisjuk pushed the ball ahead of her but the hard-charging Wagner was at point-blank range for the ensuing shot, with the ball deflecting off Wagner’s chest before being cleared by senior Monica Gonzalez.
“I just know on breakaways when there is a long touch that you’ve got to go,” said Wagner. “I just went out and we both kind of collided and Gonzo cleared it.”
UConn’s other strong scoring chance came with 10 minutes left to play, with Borisjuk making a run into the left side of the box before playing a pass for junior midfielder Mary-Beth Bowie, whose one-timer from 14 yards out was boxed over the crossbar by Wagner.
“I could tell that she was going to shoot,” said Wagner. “I just had to get set and she hit it right above me. I just put my hand up and tipped it over.”
MORE WALDRUM QUOTES: “In the first half, we played pretty well. But I don’t think we did a very good job in the second half. In the last 20-25 minutes, we kind of went through the motions and did what we had to do to hang on. To get pushed at the end and coming off Friday night’s big win, we have to be pretty happy. It would have been nice get another one of those opportunities in the first half that we didn’t finish. If we would have got that second goal, the game would have really opened up for us. But that’s a credit to them. They fought hard and they fought all the way, which they always do. … We were able to keep them from getting really fired up, like when we played them at their place. They were just on a high and had great intensity when we played them at UConn. In the last 15 minutes today, they really had to go at us and push forward to try to get the goal. We hung on and you’ve got to be able to win close games from here on in. … There’s no way that you can convince me that Liz is not the goalkeeper of the year in this conference. She is leading the country in goals-against average and came into the conference tournament and got three shutouts. She came up big twice, once in the first half and then there at the end of the game. It just happens that we don’t give up 40 shots a game and Liz doesn’t have those high saves numbers. But every time somebody has had an opportunity, Liz has come up big and made the save.”
MORE WAGNER QUOTES: “It’s nice having Kelly (Lindsey) back in the defense because she is so intense and everyone always steps it up when she is in there, because she brings a spark to the defense. … I think playing a game like this helps and motivates us. We didn’t play our best and want to come out in the next game and play better.”
SIX STRAIGHT RANKS 6TH: ND’s string of six consecutive championships rates as the sixth-longest ever recorded in any of the 20 BIG EAST-sponsored sports and is the third longest in any of the nine “team-based” sports, trailing only UConn’s seven consecutive women’s basketball titles (’94-’00) and Pittsburgh’s seven consecutive volleyball titles (’88-’94, with ND winning the next four after joining the league in ’95) … Pittsburgh also won 10 straight BIG EAST championships in men’s swimming and diving (’83-’92) and nine straight in women’s swimming and diving (’83-’91) while Boston College won eight consecutive BIG EAST men’s tennis titles from ’81-’88 … to put ND’s tournament streak in greater perspective, no school ever has won more than two consecutive BIG EAST titles in men’s basketball while the longest BIG EAST championship streaks in field hockey and women’s outdoor track have been just three years … four others sports-men’s golf, men’s soccer, softball and men’s indoor track-have failed to produce a streak of better than four straight titles by one team while the longest BIG EAST title streaks in women’s tennis and men’s outdoor track have been five years … ND’s six straight women’s soccer titles equals the title runs fashioned by the ’83-’88 Villanova women’s indoor track teams and VU’s ’89-’94 women’s cross country squads.
AUTOMATIC NCAA BIDS: The following 24 teams have secured automatic bids (21 through conference titles, three via “play-in” games) in the 48-team NCAA field: Boston Univ., BYU, Cal Poly, Florida, Holy Cross, Jacksonville, Liberty, Marquette, Miami (Ohio), Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Carolina-Greensboro, Notre Dame, Penn State, Portland, Princeton, Quinnipiac, San Jose State, Southwest Missouri State, Washington, William & Mary, Wright State, Xavier.
WILD YEAR: NCAA Tournament play will begin with just five teams (out of 271) that have a record with two losses or better: Notre Dame (one tie), #3-ranked Nebraska (one loss, no ties) and three with two losses: #2-Washington, unranked Furman and unranked Jacksonville.
NOTES: ND now is 15-0-0 in BIG EAST Tournament play, with a 54-7 scoring edge in those games … the 15 shutouts are three shy of the team record, set in ’95 and ’97 … ND now leads the UConn series 10-2-2, with a 30-16 scoring edge (16-7 in the last eight) … ND has held UConn to 0-2 goals in 12 of the 14 games … just three of the games in the series have featured more than three combined goals … ND has led for 57% of the minutes this season while trailing just once in 2000 (for 28 minutes vs. BC in the regular season, or 1.4 percent of the 1,940 minutes) … the team that has scored first in the ND-UConn series is 12-0-1 … Wagner lowered her NCAA-leading GAA to 0.266 and will carry a 670-minute shutout streak into the NCAAs … ND is 28-0-1 in its last 29 games vs. BIG EAST opponents (70-3-2/.947 since joining the BIG EAST in ’95) … ND dropped its nation-leading team GAA to 0.278 and has allowed just 3G in the last 16-plus games (1,538 minutes) … the Irish have posted 23 straight wins at Alumni Field and own a 115-7-1 (.939) record in 11 seasons at the facility (91-3-1 in the last 95) … ND’s 21-game unbeaten streak is three shy of the team record (set in ’95-’96, tied in ’97) … ND has notched 1st-half goals in 16 of 21 games this season … updated season stat edges: 68-6 in scoring, 513-119 on shots (24-6 avg.), 295-56 in shots on goal (14-3 avg.), 138-48 in CKs (7-2 avg.) … ND is 33-3-1 all-time when playing as the No. 1-ranked team … Erikson has played in all 97 games of her ND career and is tied with D Kate Sobrero (’98) for 9th on the ND games played list, one behind three other players … ND is 30-1-2 in its last 33 games.
#24 CONNECTICUT(15-6-2) 0 0 – 0
#1 NOTRE DAME (20-0-1) 1 0 – 0
ND 1. Own goal (12:13).
Shots: CONN 8, ND 10.
Corner Kicks: CONN 6, ND 1.
Saves: CONN 7 (Maria Yatrakis), ND 3 (Liz Wagner).
Fouls: CONN 10, ND 16.
Offsides: CONN 2, ND 2.