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ND Women’s Soccer: Twice denied

Deirdre Krasula | Monday, December 8, 2008

CARY, N.C. – Not even an undefeated season and a goal within the first 17 seconds of the title game could secure Notre Dame a National Championship.

With two nearly untouchable shots by Casey Nogueira, North Carolina ended the perfect Irish season.

In the 87th minute, Nogueira tested her left foot. Standing from the left side of the Irish 18, Nogueira sent a chip that deflected off an Irish defender into the top right corner of the Irish net. The goal was a final surprising blow in a game the Irish thought was theirs from the start.

Kerri Hanks and Notre Dame caught North Carolina flat-footed in the first 17 seconds. Hanks took a long ball from Courtney Rosen and buried a ball in the right corner of the net and past Tarheel’s keeper Ashlyn Harris.

“Kerri Hanks is a great player. There’s no way I’m going come flying out for that ball, she’ll tap it right past me or dribble me, I have way too much respect for her,” Harris said. “I just tried to come out, make myself as big as a I could, she just had so much time, she just tapped it right past me in the corner.”

And even though the Tar Heels managed to outshoot the Irish 7-2 in the first half, Notre Dame clung to the 1-0 lead going into halftime. But the early lead wasn’t enough – that’s just how soccer goes, Hanks said.

“That definitely wasn’t our game plan [scoring early]. You score a goal early and that’s good for our team, just try to keep doing it, but obviously we didn’t get it done,” Hanks said. “I thought we played a good game, but that’s how it goes. The game of soccer.”

One fewer foul and the game could have gone to the Irish. But in the 48th minute, Notre Dame committed a foul at the top of its own 18-yard box, giving North Carolina a chance to tie it at 1-1. And that’s just what Nogueira did. The Tarheel junior drilled the free kick into the bottom left of the Irish net, evening the score at one and deflating the Irish sails.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said Notre Dame seemed to fall off its rhythm early in the second half, but he felt that his team turned it back around.

“I actually thought we were better after about 15 minutes,” Waldrum said. “I thought early in the second half we were still working, finding our way to get our rhythm to get out, but I actually thought after the first 15 minutes I thought we started to get our rhythm back and create some opportunities.”

The Tar Heels continued to outshoot the Irish 11-5 in the second half, but the game looked like it was headed for overtime. With five minutes of regulation time remaining, both teams seemed to slow their pace and prepare for a golden-goal opportunity. That never happened.

And even though Nogueira had both goals for North Carolina, Notre Dame never planned to alter the game plan for her.

“I wasn’t worried about Casey Nogueira, I mean any more than any other player Carolina has,” Waldrum said. “She’s a great player along with a lot of great players, we didn’t make any special arrangements for her, we didn’t do anything different than we would do with anybody else on their team.”

Neither team seemed to change its game plan, knowing either could have notched a win. Notre Dame and North Carolina could arguably be the two best programs in the country – unfortunately for the Irish, soccer isn’t a seven-game series sport.

The Irish were understandably unhappy with the outcome, especially after a debated lack of call in the box late.

In the final 30 seconds Hanks made a run down the left flank and fell to the turf. Hanks felt she was fouled.

“I was running and I know she didn’t mean to trip me but she did,” she said. “It’s in the box and she’s the last player. It should have been a call.”

Waldrum declined comment on the possible foul, but told fans to watch replays and make the decision for themselves.

A call in the box and the Irish could have been right back in the game with a shot at overtime. But the luck just didn’t swing their way.

Notes:

uCourtney Barg, Kelsey Lysander and Kerri Hanks were named to the All Tournament team.

uCarrie Dew was named the defensive MVP of the tournament.