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ND Women’s Soccer: Notre Dame splits contests

Brian Hartnett | Monday, September 10, 2012

It was a tale of two games for Notre Dame this weekend, as the young Irish squad showed its inconsistency in a West Coast road trip that featured an encouraging tie followed by a deflating loss.

The Irish (3-3-1) started their road trip with a 1-1 tie against No. 18 Portland on Friday, but experienced some first-half struggles en route to a 3-0 loss to No. 22 Washington two days later.

“We took a couple of steps forward Friday and a couple of steps backwards Sunday,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We have to put together a full 90 minutes of soccer.”

In front of a packed crowd of 4,932 fans at Merlo Field in Portland, Ore., the Irish fell into an early hole, as Portland (4-1-1) freshman forward Rebekah Kurle scored off an uncleared free-kick 30 minutes into the game. Notre Dame countered less than nine minutes later, as sophomore defender Sammy Scofield drove home a header off a corner kick by freshman forward Anna Maria Gilbertson.

The Irish looked poised to take the lead at the end of the first half, but junior midfielder Elizabeth Tucker’s shot boomed off the inside of the post in the 41st minute. Notre Dame experienced a similar missed opportunity midway through the second half, as sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy’s strong attempt from 22 yards out struck the underside of the crossbar. Buoyed by freshman goalie Elyse Hight’s nine saves, the Irish defense kept Portland at bay and 120 minutes of action resulted in a 1-1 tie.

Waldrum said he was pleased with his team’s performance against the Pilots, a perennial power in women’s soccer.

“We were really good against a good team in a tough place to play,” Waldrum said. “We handled pressure really well and played a really entertaining game that could have gone either way.”

Notre Dame got off to a rocky start two days later at Husky Soccer Field in Seattle, as Washington (7-0-0) junior midfielder Lindsay Elston drilled an 18-yard shot past Hight in the 29th minute to put the Huskies on the board. Washington wasted little time widening its lead, as sophomore forward Jaclyn Softli knocked down Hight’s clearance attempt and booted the ball past two defenders to score Washington’s second goal in the 38th minute.

A halftime goalie switch, with sophomore Sarah Voigt relieving Hight, made little difference for the Irish, as the team struggled to find the net. A late goal by Washington in the 89th minute pushed the Huskies’ margin of victory to three.

“We just came out really flat against Washington and got down in the first half, which made it really difficult to come back,” Waldrum said.

Waldrum said he made the decision to switch out Hight for Voigt because Hight had been limited in practice last week due to a slight shoulder injury.

“Elyse was not able to do much training this week because of a shoulder injury,” Waldrum said. “Although she played well, she made some slight mistakes Friday, and I contemplated making a change then, since the fact that she was out during the week hurt her. Sarah did a nice job in the second half, and we have two goalkeepers we feel are capable of handling the job.”

With the grueling non-conference portion of its schedule over, Notre Dame will look toward its Big East conference slate, which begins Friday with a nationally televised contest against No. 12 Louisville. Waldrum said his team’s nonconference competition, which included four ranked opponents, strongly prepared the Irish for the rigors of the conference schedule.

“We had a tough schedule early with a lot of our young players playing, and we hope it makes us better,” Waldrum said. “I think we’re in a good place as we head into conference games.”

Notre Dame will be bolstered in its conference games by the addition of junior midfielder Mandy Laddish and freshman all-purpose player Cari Roccaro, who helped the United States capture the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup title with a 1-0 triumph over Japan on Saturday. Waldrum said both players should be available to face Louisville on Friday.

“It will depend on how much practice they get this week, but I expect them to play next weekend,” Waldrum said.

Notre Dame will take on Louisville Friday at 4 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu