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ND Women’s Soccer: Hanging in the balance

Andrew Gastelum | Sunday, November 6, 2011

It all happened within a few minutes. The ball ricocheted hard off the post, a game-tying put-back was overruled and Notre Dame’s hopes of a Big East championship ended with a resounding thud off the crossbar in a 2-1 loss to Louisville on Friday.

The defending national champion Irish (10-7-3, 6-3-2 Big East) made a furious comeback attempt in the final 15 minutes of the Big East semifinals, starting with a controversial non-call after senior forward Melissa Henderson was pulled down in the penalty area in the 76th minute.

Soon after in the 82nd minute, a free kick from senior midfielder Jessica Schuveiller hit the post and the rebound fell to the feet of freshman defender Taylor Schneider. Schneider poked in the chance for what seemed to be the game-tying goal before the linesman flagged her for offside.

The dynamic freshman had another chance to equalize just three minutes later, but her shot from the right flank clanged off the crossbar, thwarting the Irish comeback.

“We had the chances and we went in the hole early,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We had a chance to come back and it just didn’t work out. It is what it is. [After all those chances] it just seemed like it wasn’t going to be your day.

“It has just been one of those years. We have tried to sort of make our own luck but it just didn’t work out [on Friday]. But I am really proud of the effort the girls showed out there.”

Notre Dame trailed the entire game, giving up two goals within the first 11 minutes of the game. After a 12-yard strike from sophomore forward Christine Exeter put Louisville (12-6-3, 7-1-2) up 1-0 in the fourth minute, senior defender Katie McDonald doubled the Cardinals’ lead with a header off a corner in the 11th minute. Trailing 2-0 at the half, Waldrum said his team’s focus was on cutting the lead in half, rather than panicking for two quick goals.

“Well we had to focus on the fact that we had to get one [goal] back and then go from there,” Waldrum said. “We felt if we scored one we could really pressure them and make them pretty nervous, which we ended up doing. But [Louisville] is such a defensive team and put everyone back to defend that it was tough on us.”

The Irish got their chance in the 72nd minute, when Henderson back-heeled a pass from the penalty spot to sophomore forward Adriana Leon, who fired a laser into the back of the net from outside the box. But Leon’s goal — her sixth of the year — proved to be the only point on the board for the Irish, despite outshooting the Cardinals 12-5 in the second half.

Notre Dame, whose 62-match conference unbeaten streak ended in a 1-0 loss to Louisville on Sept. 16, has outshot the Cardinals 39-21 this season. Despite the considerable shot margin Waldrum said his team didn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities to propel the Irish to victory.

“We didn’t create enough quality chances,” Waldrum said. “We needed all the stars to show up and I don’t think we had anyone willing to really take someone on. We didn’t execute well and play those full 90 minutes that we have been striving to all year.”

Notre Dame will learn of its postseason fate when the NCAA announces the field for the 2011 Women’s Soccer Championship at 4:30 p.m. Monday.


Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel01@nd.edu