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ND Women’s Soccer: Twice is nice over Scarlet Knights

Chris Khorey | Monday, November 6, 2006

STORRS, Conn. – Sophomore forward Kerri Hanks scored two goals in the first 10 minutes and Notre Dame hung on at the end to beat Rutgers 4-2 Sunday and claim its ninth Big East Championship at Morrone Field.

“Our ultimate goal is a national championship, but it’s a big deal to win the Big East championship,” Irish senior captain Kim Lorenzen said. “Our freshman year we didn’t win it, so the senior class made it a point to win it each year since then.”

Notre Dame (20-0-1) advanced to the conference final with a 2-0 win over Marquette Friday in Storrs, getting goals from sophomore Brittany Bock and freshman Michele Weissenhofer.

The Scarlet Knights (15-3-3) came into the title game Sunday off an emotional, come-from-behind 3-2 victory over West Virginia in the semifinal Friday. Rutgers fell behind 2-0 before scoring three unanswered goals to win.

“We thought that coming off of Friday’s game there might be a little letdown, especially if we could jump on them early,” Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said.

That’s exactly what the Irish did.

Hanks gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead just 57 seconds into the game. The sophomore took a centering pass from Bock and found the back of the net for the quickest goal in Irish postseason history.

The Scarlet Knights had a chance to tie a few minutes later when Notre Dame keeper Lauren Karas tried to pick up a ball that had rolled just outside the box and got called for a hand ball. The ensuing free kick was deflected and ended up just wide of the net.

The Irish bounced back, however, scoring two minutes after the near miss on another pass from Bock to Hanks. Bock sent a pass down the right sideline and Hanks beat a defender to it and nutmegged Rutgers keeper Erin Guthrie.

Hanks credited a tactical change by Waldrum with getting her open for the two scores. The Irish looked for more through-balls to create breakaways, rather than slowly building up offensively.

“We decided to play it through and just be off to the races,” Hanks said. “Usually we’re a team that likes to pass it around and actually play soccer, but they hunkered in and we had to change our formation a little.”

After 55 scoreless minutes, Weissenhofer added to the Notre Dame lead. The freshman got the ball at the top of the box, turned and put a shot into the bottom left corner, just out of Guthrie’s reach.

Five minutes later, Notre Dame defender Ashley Jones lofted a pass into the box right onto the head of midfielder Amanda Cinalli. Guthrie dove and tipped Cinalli’s header, but the ball hit the inside of the post and went in the net to give the Irish a 4-0 lead.

Rutgers finally got on the board on a goal by midfielder Gina DeMaio with 15 minutes left in the game. DeMaio fired a shot from outside the box and Karas appeared to slow down, thinking it was going wide, but the ball snuck inside the left post for the score.

Rutgers got its second goal with two minutes to play. Lorenzen, the only Notre Dame starter left in the game after Waldrum decided to clear his bench, lost the ball trying to clear it and Scarlet Knights forward Kim Mineo took it in and beat freshman keeper Kelsey Lysander, who had replaced Karas.

“It was a total lack of communication all around,” the senior captain said of the goal. “I was going to head it out, but it didn’t take a big enough bounce, then [Lysander and I] looked at each other and I thought she was going to get it. Then I played it, but it went right to one of their girls that I didn’t know was there.

“It was a breakdown, but it won’t happen again.”

After the goal cut the lead to two, Waldrum put most of the starters back in the game.

“I wanted to send a message to those kids that when we make changes the level of play has to stay the same,” he said. “We’ll talk to them about that.”

The game was unusually physical, with 40 combined fouls, and two Rutgers players – midfielders Alicia Hall and Tierney Brady – suffered serious injuries in the first half. Hall limped off the field after a vicious collision with Cinalli and didn’t return. Cinalli was yellow carded on the play.

“Anyone who knows Amanda Cinalli, knows she wouldn’t have purposefully hit somebody,” Waldrum said. “She just came in hard for the ball.”

Brady had to be taken off on a stretcher with 18 minutes left in the half and was later airlifted to the hospital after colliding with Irish midfielder Courtney Rosen. No foul was called.

“They just ran into each other,” Waldrum said. “I hope that girl is okay. We didn’t feel like we did anything dirty. I know Courtney felt bad, so I talked to her a little bit. She was just playing hard soccer.”

The Irish, who are almost assured of a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, will find out their first-round opponent today. The game will be played Friday at Alumni Field, with the second round, if necessary, also at home Sunday.