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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish hang on to win in first round of NCAAs

By Cory Bernard | Monday, November 12, 2012

From the way Irish coach Randy Waldrum reacted to his team’s performance Friday, one would think Notre Dame lost.

The Irish (14-5-2, 8-1-1 Big East) defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee 3-1 in their first-round NCAA championship match at Alumni Stadium, thanks to goals from freshman defender Katie Naughton, sophomore forward Lauren Bohaboy and freshman forward Crystal Thomas. Naughton’s goal came in the 44th minute and evened the game just before halftime, while Bohaboy’s score came at the beginning of the second half, putting the Irish ahead for good.

Although the victory seemed impressive on paper, Waldrum said his team won without playing its best soccer.

“Honestly, and I hate to say it, I wasn’t very pleased tonight,” Waldrum said. “I didn’t think the performance was very good, I didn’t think we were very sharp in any aspect.”

Statistically, Notre Dame dominated the Panthers (8-9-1, 5-2-0 Horizon). The Irish attempted all of the game’s four corner kicks, held an 18-3 shots advantage and controlled possession throughout. However, Waldrum said his team played uncharacteristically poorly on both offense and defense.

“I thought we’d been so good defensively and I thought we were lackadaisical with that,” he said. “You know, you saw I made a change there in the back with [sophomore defender] Sammy [Scofield]. We had to put [freshman midfielder Cari] Roccaro back there to solidify that in the last few.

“So even though we were dominant statistically, and they really didn’t create much at all, I still didn’t think we created enough offensively.”

After barely seven minutes had elapsed in the first half, severe weather necessitated a stoppage in action. After approximately 30 minutes, the two teams returned to the field. Waldrum said the unexpected delay did not contribute to his team’s struggles.

“We weren’t good from the beginning,” he said. “In the first seven minutes we looked flat. Even though it was only seven minutes of action, we weren’t efficient in that seven minutes, so I think it was a slow start. I think it was just a lackluster performance the whole day.”

Though never perfect, Notre Dame’s play did improve significantly in the second half after abandoning a new alignment and returning to a more traditional shape.

“We talked about a couple things [during halftime],” Waldrum said. “One is we had kind of changed the shape, in the first half, of our team and were hoping to get more movement and more mobility offensively out of it. It was great during the week, but when we got into the game things just set in and we didn’t have that mobility, so we had to kind of go back the second half to the way we’ve always played with more three-out-and-out up front.”

In addition to changing Notre Dame’s schemes, Waldrum motivated his players to improve their effort.

“It just was kind of a kick-in-the-rear-end kind of a discussion in the halftime to say, ‘It’s just got to be better or you’re going to be done,'” he said.

Freshman defender Brittany Von Rueden, who assisted on Naughton’s goal with a perfect corner kick, said the players also talked amongst themselves at halftime.

“Our first half wasn’t our best performance, definitely, but we had a good team talk before the coaches came in [the locker room at halftime] and we pulled it together,” she said. “We decided we need to pick it up right now otherwise we’re going home, and we weren’t ready for that.”

Unseeded Notre Dame will play No. 3 Wake Forest on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Championship in Gainesville, Fla.

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu