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ND Women’s Soccer: ND advances in NCAAs

Allan Joseph | Monday, November 15, 2010

A simple tactical change sparked a formerly struggling No. 7/10 Notre Dame offense to a pair of wins in the NCAA tournament this weekend. The Irish defeated New Mexico 3-0 Friday night in the first round before blowing out No. 22 Southern California 4-0 Sunday afternoon.

Irish (17-2-2) coach Randy Waldrum had seen his team uncharacteristically struggle to find the back of the net in the second half of the Big East season before they fell at home to Connecticut in the tournament quarterfinals 2-0. The loss prompted Waldrum to move senior Lauren Fowlkes up to an attacking position. Fowlkes played forward in 2009 but had been playing defense in 2010.

“I had been worried for a while but we were still tying games and not losing them, so I was a little reluctant to make any changes,” he said. “I’m never one that wants to lose but I think it could have been a blessing.

Certainly pushing Lauren up front and putting [junior defender] Molly Campbell in the back has seemed to re-energize the front line.”

The substitution paid off, as Fowlkes scored three goals and had two assists over the weekend to shake fourth-seeded Notre Dame out of its offensive doldrums. The pair of victories was especially pleasing for Waldrum, as they came on the heels of an unexpected upset loss.

“It was a huge weekend. As difficult as the four teams were, I was really, really pleased with how we handled it,” he said. “I thought we were good Friday night against New Mexico, but maybe played our best game we’ve played all year [against USC.]”

It took the Irish some time to shake off the rust against the Lobos, but junior forward Melissa Henderson’s penalty-kick goal twenty minutes into the game gave Notre Dame a 1-0 halftime lead. Fowlkes broke out in the second half, scoring twice in fifteen minutes to put the game away. The Irish dominated the stat sheet, firing 20 shots to New Mexico’s seven.

Sunday’s game was all Notre Dame from the starting whistle right down to the final horn. Senior forward Rose Augustin ripped a shot past Trojan goalkeeper Shelby Church from 22 yards away seven minutes into the contest, followed sixty seconds later by Fowlkes’ third of the weekend.

“The early start with Rose’s goal and for Lauren to come back a couple of minutes later – to get those two so quick was exactly what we needed,” Waldrum said. “It was a great start. I thought the kids played well really all game.”

Henderson scored in the second half on an assist from Fowlkes, and the two displayed some nifty passing in earning a double assist late in the game on a goal for freshman forward Adriana Leon. The chances were plenty for the Irish in both games against two defensively sound teams.

“One of the most pleasing things to me was that we played two really good teams and created a lot of chances in both games,” Waldrum said. “I think the kids were really ready to play.”

The victory sets up a third-round clash with No. 1-seeded North Carolina, Notre Dame’s traditional postseason nemesis. The game will take place this weekend, tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. pending approval from the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer committee.

The team will have a full week of practice to prepare for the next round.

“We’ve got to just keep doing the things that we do well,” Waldrum said. “We can go to Carolina and get a win.”