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ND Women’s Soccer: Youngsters take a big step

Cory Bernard | Monday, September 24, 2012

The “Baby Irish” took another step toward maturity this weekend.

Notre Dame kept its Big East record a perfect 3-0 by defeating Pittsburgh by a score of 2-1 on Friday at Alumni Stadium. At home again Sunday, the Irish shut out Oakland by a score of 3-0.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum has said his team has focused in on winning their first Big East championship since 2009, and the Irish (7-3-1, 3-0 Big East) stayed true to that promise Friday. Freshmen midfielders Cari Roccaro and Glory Williams each found the back of the net against the Panthers (5-7-1, 0-3-1) as Notre Dame dominated possession. Though Waldrum was pleased with the victory, he was not happy his team surrendered a goal with 4:39 remaining in the game. He said the goal came about as a result of mental mistakes rather than physical fatigue.

“We’ve done that about three times this year,” Waldrum said of allowing a late score. “We have given up late goals and it’s typically boiled down to young players making young mistakes. That late goal could have been avoided on Friday by just letting [the ball] go out of bounds.”

Waldrum said the mistakes his team has made this season have yet to hinder the Irish as much as last year.

“I think maybe the difference this year from last year from that standpoint is last year we made those mental mistakes and we weren’t getting the results that we wanted,” he said. “This year, even though we’ve made some mistakes and given up some late goals, we’re getting the wins and that’s the important thing. To be 3-0 in the Big East, it’s really a great performance.”

Notre Dame dominated possession again Sunday against the Golden Grizzlies (3-3-3). Though they were held scoreless in the first half by a stingy Oakland defense, the Irish had a 22-2 advantage in shots, including an 11-0 advantage in shots on goal. Freshman forward Crystal Thomas finally broke through in the 69th minute, scoring off assists from Roccaro and sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy. Roccaro netted the team’s second goal in the 81st minute, and freshman forward Anna Maria Gilbertson finished off the scoring for the Irish with a goal two minutes later.

Waldrum was impressed with Notre Dame’s ability to execute in a game Sunday afternoon after having played Friday night.

“It was a good weekend again,” he said. “I thought last weekend we put a good Sunday game together. Today was a little bit of a slow start, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the performance for a Sunday game. It’s so difficult to play Friday and then turn around and play Sunday, but I thought the kids did well with it. It was nice to see we held them to nothing late.”

Preventing Oakland from making the game interesting at the end marks an important step in the maturation of the young Irish, according to Waldrum.

“It’s been getting better every week,” he said of the play of the freshmen. “You see the addition of Roccaro and what she brings back to the team. Normally she is a center back and here we’ve been playing her upfront. I think she’s got three goals in her four games back. Of course Crystal Thomas continues to impress. She’s such a hard worker and a fighter. And it was nice to see Anna get a goal today. She needs that to build her confidence.”

Notre Dame heads east next weekend to face Providence in Providence, R.I., on Friday before taking on Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., on Sunday.

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu