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ND Women’s Soccer: Offense sparks victory

Matthew Robison | Monday, September 17, 2012

Notre Dame kicked off its Big East schedule with a pair of victories this weekend at Alumni Stadium, winning 2-1 over Louisville on Friday and 7-0 over Cincinnati on Sunday.

Friday’s game was a statement by the Irish (5-3-1, 2-0-0 Big East). Last year, Louisville (6-2-0, 1-1-0) beat Notre Dame in both the regular season and the postseason, knocking the Irish out of the Big East tournament. The Irish won 2-1 on Friday off goals by freshman forward Crystal Thomas and sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy, followed by a late goal by the Cardinals.

Sunday’s game was a different story, as the Irish dominated the Bearcats (3-5-1, 0-2-0) from start to finish. Early on, Notre Dame found an offensive flow and never let off the accelerator.

“That’s a lot more like the way we are used to, having that standard,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We’re used to being able to put those kinds of numbers up and win that way.”

Nine different players contributed with at least one goal or one assist in the overwhelming offensive explosion. Freshman defender Katie Naughton, freshman forward Cari Roccaro and junior midfielder Nicole Rodriguez all scored their first career goals Sunday. Junior captain and midfielder Mandy Laddish scored her first goal of the season. Junior captain and midfielder Elizabeth Tucker and junior midfielder Rebecca Twining also scored. Bohaboy added two assists.

“I don’t know what I would say that really triggered it for us,” Waldrum said. “But I think we started out with our possession and our passing. We got into our rhythm right away, which we struggled with in some of our games lately.”

Roccaro and Laddish played their first games of the season for Notre Dame on Friday. The two recently returned from Japan with a gold medal after playing for the U.S. in the U-20 Women’s World Cup. The addition of the two talented midfielders tied up some loose ends for the Irish in the midfield.

“I think just having Roccaro and Mandy back and getting a second game under their belt with the team helps kind of settle some things down for us, both offensively up front and in midfield,” Waldrum said.

Roccaro was a highly-touted prep player coming out of East Islip, N.Y. She adds a level of talent to the midfield the young Irish lacked in the first several games. She can set up and handle the offense, and other players can work off her, Waldrum said.

“She’s so good at holding the ball for us,” Waldrum said. “She’s almost like a post-up player in basketball. You need that player that, when you play into them, they can hold it so you can get your runs and your movement off that player. Up until she’s come back, we’ve really struggled.”

Laddish has been a big contributor for the Irish over the last two years. As one of the tri-captains and most experienced midfielders, she will be a catalyst for the Irish.

“She’s just so skillful with the ball and so composed with it, just that ability to help us keep it,” Waldrum said. “We really struggled, I thought, in a lot of our games this year to really keep the ball and get into our passing game. To add another player who knows how to do that is key for the way we play.”

The 2-0 start to the conference slate is exactly how the Irish were looking to begin the season. As two of the power teams in the conference, the matchup between Louisville and Notre Dame always has added significance. This year, Notre Dame is also placing more emphasis on the conference lineup.

“What we talked about after we got out of the nonconference schedule is that it’s time now to really make that [conference] run,” Waldrum said. “We want to get back and we want to win the Big East. That’s a goal of ours. In years past we’ve not put as much emphasis on the Big East. We’ve always put it on the NCAA and the Final Four.”

Notre Dame’s Big East schedule continues this weekend with another Friday home game against Pittsburgh in Alumni Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu