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ND Women’s Soccer: Plane crash

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It’s over.

Notre Dame’s quest to defend its national championship ended Friday in Portland, Ore., as the top-seeded Pilots topped the Irish 3-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 4,892 at Merlo Field.

“As some time goes by, we’ll look at and feel like it was a really successful season,” Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “And we’ll probably be a little happier with it a few weeks from now than we are right now. It’s tough because I still think that we were good enough to win again.”

The Pilots used two early goals to snap Notre Dame’s 13-game winning streak that began after the Irish lost 4-1 to Marquette in Milwaukee on Sept. 30.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes, we were all over them,” Waldrum said. “We had a couple great chances to score. … The thing that really deflated us is the first time they got down, they scored, and it was a long-range shot that [Irish goalkeeper] Erika [Bohn] typically handles pretty comfortably.”

Freshman Portland midfielder Megan Rapinoe converted on the Pilots’ first sustained offensive attack with a 19-yard blast to the top shelf at 13:59. It was her first of two goals on the night and gave Portland a lead it would not relinquish.

“It was just struck hard,” Waldrum said. “It was like it came out of a cannon when it came off her foot.”

Less than five minutes later, the Pilots took a 2-0 lead when Rapinoe found Lindsey Huie on a cross and Huie converted a 15-yard shot from the middle of the box.

“You started off playing well, and then you’re two in the hole, and you end up scrambling,” Waldrum said.

By the 18:30 mark, Portland had two shots on goal and two goals.

“I was just disappointed that we didn’t come out and put together the kind of first half we needed to start,” Waldrum said. “And I think if we had been a little bit sharper at the beginning, we would have had a good shot.”

Notre Dame responded to the second Pilot goal with a score of its own six minutes later. Brittany Bock took a feed from Christie Shaner and Katie Thorlakson and delivered her 12th goal of the season from 15 yards out to cut Portland’s lead to 2-1.

“I thought Brittany Bock came on and did a really good job for us,” Waldrum said. “I think Brit handled [the pressure] very well.”

For the senior Thorlakson, the assist gave her 71 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in her final season with the Irish and tied her with second-semester freshman Kerri Hanks for the team lead in points. It was the 53rd goal on which she earned a point, a total that leads the nation.

Thorlakson and Portland’s Christine Sinclair were favorites for the national player of the year award entering the game, and the Irish managed to shut down the Pilots’ redshirt senior forward. Sinclair entered the game tied for the single-season goals record of 37, but failed to score a goal or have an assist – managing just one shot on the night.

“We did a great job on her; she really wasn’t a factor,” Waldrum said. “And I think if you told me before the game we were going to be able to shut her out, I would have liked our chances.”

But Portland’s offense did not rely solely on Sinclair.

“The one that really caused us a problem was Rapinoe,” Waldrum said. “She really was very quick and athletic.

Rapinoe, who tallied a goal and an assist in the first 45 minutes, scored her second goal of the night nine minutes into the second half. She received a long pass from Stephanie Lopez and chipped the ball over the reach of Bohn and into the net, giving Portland a decisive 3-1 lead.

Waldrum said the Irish back line, which had held its previous 13 opponents to just three goals, had a difficult night, much like it did two months earlier at Marquette, when the Irish lost 4-1.

“I think we’re as good [a team as Portland], but not on the night,” Waldrum said. “They were the better team on the night.”

Portland faces top-ranked Penn State Friday in the College Cup in College Station, Texas.