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Bohn elevates her game

Matt Mooney | Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Irish goalkeeper Erika Bohn picked a good time to have one of her best games of the year. In Sunday’s national championship game against UCLA, the junior made four saves and stonewalled three Bruin penalty kick shots, two in overtime, to secure Notre Dame’s second national championship.

No UCLA player scored on Bohn during regulation or overtime, and the only blemish on her game was a miscommunication with defender Gudrun Gunnarsdottir that resulted in an own-goal.

Bohn was named the most outstanding defensive player after allowing only two goals during the entire tournament, one of which was the own-goal.

However, the award did not come easily. With just over 30 minutes left to go in the second half, the senior Gunnarsdottir ran towards the Notre Dame goal to chase down the ball kicked into the Irish end. She kicked the ball towards the net for Bohn to scoop up, but didn’t see Bohn running towards her to get the ball herself. Bohn tried to kick the ball away but could not stop it from rolling behind her and into the goal.

“After the own-goal, I was thinking that it couldn’t end like this because we’ve had such a great season,” forward Candace Chapman said on Sunday.

Now down a goal with time working against his team, Irish coach Randy Waldrum knew that he had to put his trust back in his goalkeeper, and exchanged a defender for more offensive support.

“We also changed tactically at that point,” he said. “We went to three backs and went to a fourth midfield player, and I thought that created a lot more opportunities for us.”

While the move did create more opportunities for Notre Dame (three shots, three corner kicks and one penalty kick), it also left Bohn more vulnerable to the UCLA attack. After Katie Thorlakson converted the Irish penalty kick to tie the game at one, Bruin defender Kendal Billingsley snuck behind the short-handed Irish defense to draw a penalty kick of her own.

This was Bohn’s shot at redemption following the own-goal, and she came through. In one of the game’s most dramatic moments, Bohn dove to her left to deflect the ball away and preserve the 1-1 tie. It was the first penalty kick she had faced all year.

“We have been practicing PKs towards the end of the season,” Bohn said. “I have a little secret going with my goalkeeper coach (Dawn Greathouse) and I stuck with my mind. So I went with my gut the whole time.”

“Erika came up huge to save that,” Waldrum said. “The last 15 or 20 minutes was a rollercoaster psychologically and I think that just showed a lot of maturity and growth on our kids mentally.”

But UCLA did not let up. With just over five minutes to go in regulation, the Bruins put together a solid minute of intense offensive pressure against the Irish, including two corner kicks. Bohn got some help from her teammates when Chapman, standing on the goal line during one of the corner kicks, deflected away a ball headed for the net.

“I’m always supposed to stick on that corner,” Chapman said, “so thank God I did.”

After a scoreless 20 minutes of overtime play, the game went to penalty kicks to decide the national champion. Both Notre Dame and UCLA converted 3 of 5 first round kicks to advance to sudden death.

Fittingly, it was Bohn who clinched the victory when she again dove to her left to save the UCLA penalty kick in sudden death.