Dec. 1, 2000
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The top-ranked Notre Dame women’s soccer team used a surprise formation and an early goal to claim a 1-0 lead in Friday night’s NCAA semifinal game but fifth-ranked North Carolina surged to the victory with a pair of second-half goals, as the teams wrote another chapter in their ever-growing rivalry, in front of 8,596 fans at Spartan Stadium.
Notre Dame’s memorable season (23-1-1) ended in heartbreaking fashion, with UNC freshman midfielder Jordan Walker scoring the game-winner on a rocket shot from outside the box, with 7:27 left to play. North Carolina (20-3-0) moves on to Sunday’s championship game and will face UCLA, which used a late header goal to beat Portland in the second semifinal (1-0).
The Irish abandoned their usual 4-3-3 formation-due partly to the absence of injured sophomore midfielder Ashley Dryer and in response to UNC’s strengths-with the new alignment featuring four forwards and just two midfielders.
“In seeing how much Carolina presses and how effective they are on the flanks, continually getting service in to the point where they lock you in, we felt there was no reason to play three in the midfield because the midfield is going to be bypassed anyway,” said second-year Irish head coach Randy Waldrum.
“So we played four up front and I thought we did a pretty good job early. We were able to keep a pretty good handle on the flanks.”
The game produced just the second deficit faced by the Irish all season and marked the first time in 2000 that a Notre Dame opponent had scored more than one goal.
The new formation payed dividends in the game’s 20th minute, when freshman forward Amy Warner-making her first start since late September (due to a knee injury)-used her speed to get behind the UNC defense for her 10th goal of the season. Senior forward Meotis Erikson added to her strong 2000 postseason by setting up the goal with a thru-ball near the right side.
Warner slanted onto the ball and raced into the right side of the box, with UNC sophomore goalkeeper Jenni Branam coming out to challenge. But Warner delivered in typical fashion, swiping a low crossing shot that tucked into the far sidenetting for the early lead (19:48).
“In the first half, we actually had Carolina on their heels,” said Erikson, who totaled 12 points (3G-6A) in seven postseason games this season and tied the Notre Dame record for career games played (101).
“We were going after them. Too many teams sit back and try to defend for a goal later. We were very confident going into the game. For some reason, in the second half we began to sit back. Whenever we’ve had problems, it’s when we sit back and try to hold onto a lead rather than pushing and attacking.”
Notre Dame nearly claimed a 2-0 lead in the 62nd minute, when sophomore forward Ali Lovelace ran onto a long pass at the top of the box and nudged the ball to her right past a charging Branam. The ball carried to the edge of the box and Lovelace sent a shot on net but UNC freshman defender Catherine Reddick-a former club teammate of Lovelace’s-was stationed a couple yards off the goalline and swept the ball out of danger.
“That was a huge play by Reddick,” said Waldrum. “If we get that goal, it would have been a very different game. That could have turned the game.”
UNC head coach Anson Dorrance said that his team felt fortunate to be trailing by just one goal at the half.
“Notre Dame came in with a completely different system. … It took us basically an entire half to sort out that,” said Dorrance.
“We were completely outclassed in the first half. We got it together a bit in the second half and I think our fitness basing and our depth were major contributors to helping us overcome an outstanding Notre Dame game.”
UNC steadily built some scoring chances in the second half, ultimately rolling up a 14-3 edge in total corner kicks-well above ND’s opponent average of 3.0/gm and the most allowed by the Irish in a regulation game during the past four seasons (UNC also posted an 11-4 shot edge).
Sophomore Kim Patrick sparked UNC off the bench with her ninth goal of the season, on a near-post header set up by a leftside corner kick from junior midfielder Jenna Kluegel (who has collected many of her 23 assists this season on CKs).
“We had scouted their set pieces pretty well and had rearranged our defending on the corners to compensate for those things,” said Waldrum. “All it takes in that type of space is for somebody to get a step on you. They score a ton of goals on set pieces and long throws. It was just a mental mistake for a split second.”
The decisive sequence was set up by a rightside throw-in, with the ball then kicking out to the top of the box. Walker ran onto the ball and struck a low shot from 20 yards out, for her fourth goal of the season.
The well-struck ball found its way past the feet of UNC’s Alyssa Ramsey and a couple Irish defenders before tucking inside the far left post with just a couple feet to spare. Irish junior goalkeeper Liz Wagner appeared to be screened on the play and was unable to make what would have been a difficult diving stop of the hard shot (82:33).
Erikson nearly helped set up a late equalizer, after maneuvering into the left side of the box and sliding a pass towards the top of the box. Freshman midfielder Randi Scheller was running onto the play and the ball glanced off her foot, carrying onto the right side in the direction of Warner, who had a solid open look at the goal but sent the shot over the crossbar (85:32).
#5 North Carolina (20-3-0) 0-2-2
#1 Notre Dame (23-1-1) 1-0-1
ND 1. Amy Warner 10 (Meotis Erikson) 19:48, UNC 1. Kim Patrick 9 (Jenna Kluegel) 65:11, UNC 2. Jordan Walker 4 (–) 82:33.
Shots: UNC 6-5-11, ND 2-2-4.
Saves: UNC 0-1-1 (Jenni Branam 0, team 1), ND 2-2-4 (Liz Wagner).
Corner Kicks: UNC 3-11-14, ND 1-2-3.
Fouls: UNC 8-11-19, ND 13-11-24.
Offsides: UNC 1, ND 3.
Yellow Cards: Randi Scheller (ND), Jenni Branam (UNC), Amy Warner (ND).
MORE WALDRUM QUOTES: “I was really proud of the effort, due to a lot of the things that we fought through all season due to injuries. Amy Warner gave us a great effort after tearing her ACL (midway through the season). We got almost 90 minutes out of her and she scored a great goal. And then Kelly in the back playing on a torn MCL. We’ve been very good defensively and some of those things just caught up with us. … The thing that killed us today was struggling to get the ball out of the back. We gave up too many set pieces. … What we didn’t want to do is sit back for 90 minutes and just defend and hope we get our chances. They had to drop those two flank players back and defend a little. … You’ve got to give a player like Kelly Lindsey a lot of credit because the kid shouldn’t even be playing because of her injuries. It’s just been one of those kind of seasons where we started out as a pretty deep team but ended up being pretty thin at the end. … I think parity has arrived. Looking at the final eight teams, if any of those eight teams would have won it, it wouldn’t have been that big of a surprise around the country. But somebody still has to dethrone Carolina … for a couple of years. But the gap is closing. … Most people didn’t even expect us to be back with what we lost and the team really gained a lot of confidence through the year. And we have the opportunity to be very good again. We’re going to miss the seniors that we lose. There wasn’t any fear going into this game. We really felt confident that we were going to win tonight. … Our problems stemmed from not being able to deal with the pressure they put on us in the second half. That’s the gamble you take with playing an additional player up front. It’s almost mandated that you’ve got to get the ball forward and get quality services. We didn’t get it done nearly as well in the second half. … We played many of the top teams in the country this year and I haven’t seen a player that is better than Anne (Makinen). I think that she is the best player in the country. She has been huge for us in so many different ways. Not just in scoring goals but in setting things up, organizing our team in the midfield and just being a presence.”
SENIOR D KELLY LINDSEY: “The biggest problem was that no matter what we did, we couldn’t get it out of the box. Our gameplan was to clear it out to the forwards and get them running out there. No matter what we did, we either kicked it our of bounds or gave them another corner. And they have that long throw-in.”
NOTES: Erikson’s 12 postseason points included eight (2G-4A) in four NCAA games … ND’s team GAA and Wagner’s season GAA both end at 0.39 (just shy of breaking the Irish records, both 0.36, set in ’97) … ND is 33-2-2 in its last 37 games, with both losses coming to UNC … the senior class helped ND post an 88-9-4 record (.891) from 1997-2000 … final season stat edges: 76-10 scoring, 568-161 shots (22-6 avg.), 319-77 shots on goal (13-3 avg.), 168-64 CKs (7-3 avg.) … the Irish trailed for just 35:25 out of 2,305:34 during the 2000 season (1.5% of the time, for 27:58 vs. BC and 7:27 vs. UNC) … ND failed to set the team record for longest unbeaten streak (25) … ND scored first in 23 games and scored in the 1st half 20 times … seven teams came back to forge 1-1 ties vs. ND this season (three in NCAAs) … ND is 36-4-1 all-time when playing as the No. 1 team (three losses to UNC) … Erikson totaled 35 points (10G-15A) in 27 career postseason games (5G-8A in 16 career NCAA Tournament games) … Erikson played in all 101 games of her career, matching M Shannon Boxx (`99) in the ND record book … Erikson closed her career with points in 10 of the last 12 games (5G-9A) and seven of the last eight (3G-7A) … she finished her career ranked 7th on the ND career scoring list, with 164 points (59G-46A) … Erikson’s assist was her first career points vs. UNC in five games played … ND suffered its first one-goal loss of the season (8-1) … Erikson totaled 19 points (6G-7A) in ND’s 12 “big games” this season (vs. ranked teams and/or in the postseason) … Warner made her first start since the Sept. 29 Seton Hall game while Lindsey started for the first time since the Oct. 8 game at Villanova … the physical game featured 43 fouls (most in an ND game this season), including 24 by the Irish and 19 by UNC (both tying season-highs by ND and ND opponents) … Warner opened the scoring in five games this season, tied with Erikson for second on the team (Makinen had six 1st-goals).