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Irish Insider: A step Behind

Chris Khorey | Monday, December 4, 2006

CARY, N.C. – After 26 games, Notre Dame finally met its match. North Carolina dominated the previously unbeaten Irish for most of the game en route to a 2-1 victory and a National Championship Sunday in the Women’s College Cup final at SAS Stadium.

“I’m not disappointed in my team, but I am disappointed for them,” Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said. “I thought we had a good chance to win this one.”

The quicker and stronger Tar Heels outshot the Irish 20-9, controlled possession for most of the game and took a 2-0 lead early in the second half. Notre Dame made a late run, scoring with 10 minutes left in the game, but could not complete the comeback.

The deficit was the first time the Irish seniors had been down 2-0 in their careers.

“I thought we responded to being down okay,” Waldrum said. “But we shouldn’t have gotten down like that in the first place.”

The Irish were denied their second National Championship in three years, while North Carolina won its 18th NCAA title and its first since 2003.

Notre Dame finished its season 25-1-1, while the Tar Heels set a school record for wins with 27 against one loss.

The sellout crowd of over 8,000 was clad mostly in Carolina blue and the Tar Heels even took a pep band on the 25 minute trip down I-40. But Waldrum said the hostile atmosphere had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

“It was loud, but once that whistle blows the crowd doesn’t matter all that much,” he said. “Maybe when you’re right down near the goal and they start yelling you can hear it, but it shouldn’t effect you too much.”

The Tar Heels scored their first goal with 28 minutes left in the first half. Forward Heather O’Reilly made a run down the left side with no Notre Dame defenders in sight. Irish goalkeeper Lauren Karas ventured well out of the box to try to cut O’Reilly off.

Karas went for a slide tackle but whiffed and O’Reilly put the ball easily into the empty net for a 1-0 lead.

The defensive breakdown put the Irish on their heels.

“For the first fifteen minutes or so, I thought we were all right,” Waldrum said. “But that first goal, the way it happened, took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”

The Tar Heels almost added to their lead with 18 minutes left in the half on a shot from just outside the box by forward Whitney Engen, but Karas made a diving save to keep Notre Dame in the game.

North Carolina continued to pressure the Irish net, forcing Karas to make another diving save with one minute left before halftime. Forward Sterling Smith beat Irish defender Kim Lorenzen and got a shot off, but once again Karas made the play to keep the deficit at one.

Notre Dame had a solid chance to score just before the half, when forward Brittany Bock flicked on a free kick with her head but midfielder Amanda Cinalli couldn’t get to it before Tar Heel keeper Anna Rodenbough smothered the ball.

At halftime, North Carolina had outshot the Irish 10-2.

Immediately after the break, the Tar Heels scored again. Forward Casey Nogueira streaked into the box and headed a perfect cross from Engen into the net for a 2-0 lead with 43 minutes left.

Notre Dame made a game of it in the last 10 minutes, scoring with nine minutes left to play. Sophomore forward and Hermann Award winner Kerri Hanks lofted the ball into the box, where Bock emerged from a crowd to head it into the net and cut the lead to one.

“Getting a goal gave us some confidence,” Cinalli said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in another one.”

After the score, the Irish went into an all-out attack mode, sending nearly every player forward and generating several more chances.

“Sometimes you play better when you have nothing to lose,” Waldrum said.

The best Irish opportunity after the goal came with eight minutes left. A flip throw-in by freshman Michele Weissenhofer bounced around in the box, but Rodenbough managed to coral it and end the threat.

Hanks also had one last effort for Notre Dame, earning a free kick just outside the box with one minute remaining, but her shot flew just to the right of the net.

“It was really close,” Cinalli said. “It just barely missed.”

While Waldrum was pleased with the late rally, he wondered aloud after the game why his team didn’t wake up until the game was almost over.

“I like our intensity in the last fifteen minutes,” he said. “But we should have played like that for the entire game.”

Notre Dame 2, Florida State 1

Notre Dame scored twice in less than two minutes late in the first half, then held off a furious Florida State comeback attempt to win a 2-1 thriller Friday to advance to the final against the Tar Heels.

Notre Dame freshman midfielder Courtney Rosen put the Irish up 1-0 with nine minutes left in the first half. Rosen, who had come into the game for Weissenhofer five minutes before, took a pass on the right flank, juked a defender and rocketed a shot past Florida State goalie Ali Mims.

“I heard [Mims] was a little tentative with the ball in the air,” Rosen said. “So I was like, ‘why not?’ and I let it fly.”

The goal was Rosen’s second of her career.

The Irish scored again barely two minutes later, with a corner kick by Hanks landing right on the head of Bock, who knocked the ball toward senior Jill Krivacek. Krivacek and a Seminole defender both went for the ball, which went off the Florida State player and into the net.

Krivacek was credited with the goal.

“I was right there and I had good enough position that whichever of us touched it, it was probably going in the net,” Krivacek said. “But she was the one who headed it, not me.”

The Seminoles (18-4-4) had controlled possession for most of the half, but were unable to generate many chances. Florida State had more corner kicks than Notre Dame in the first half, 5 to 3, but was outshot 9-2.

Waldrum said he was concerned at halftime because the Irish had not been as dominant in the first half as the scoreboard indicated.

“Being up two is probably the most dangerous lead you can have,” he said. “Sometimes you would rather maybe be up by just one, because you don’t want to sit on a two-goal lead, but you don’t want to give up a quick goal either.”

The Seminoles kept the pressure on after the break and cut the lead to one early in the second half. Senior India Trotter blew past Irish freshman defender Haley Ford and beat Karas.

Trotter had started the game at left back, but Seminoles coach Mark Krikorian moved her up front after Florida State fell behind 2-0. It was Trotter’s eighth goal of the year, second on the Seminole team.

“We thought we had some matchups today with her attacking that would work for us, and I guess they did,” Krikorian said.

Soon after the goal, Trotter moved back to defense, a move which “relieved” Waldrum.

“India Trotter is a great athlete, and she was really creating some havoc against us,” he said.

Florida State had a golden chance to tie the game with 23 minutes left. A Seminoles free kick flew into the box and was headed toward the net. Karas missed it, but it hit the cross bar and bounced to the ground, where the Irish keeper knocked it out of bounds.

Florida State got two shots off on the ensuing corner kick, but both were deflected.

“We were under a lot of pressure,” Notre Dame defender Christie Shaner said. “We had to get organized because players were running free.”

Late in the game, Krikorian removed Mims and put a goalie jersey on junior defender Libby Gianeskis in order to get a quicker, more offensive lineup into the game.

“We’ve been working on that for a few months,” Krikorian said. “If we’re in a desperate situation where we need a goal, that’s usually what we go to. There’s no difference to me between losing two to one and three to one.”

The strategy almost paid off, with the Seminoles getting two major scoring chances with less than 15 minutes to play.

The first, with 13 minutes left, came on a through-ball to forward Kelly Rowland. Rowland was one-on-one with Karas, but the Irish keeper smothered the ball before the Florida State senior could get a shot off.

Ten minutes later, the Seminoles had a two-on-one break down the right flank, but Notre Dame freshman defender Amanda Clark, the only Irish player left on that side, managed to clear the ball.

The Irish counter-attacked after the clear and junior forward Susan Pinnick found herself running free behind Gianeskis, who had moved up almost to midfield. Gianeskis recovered just in time to harass Pinnick’s shot, which rolled just wide of the open net.


uHanks, Bock, and Krivacek were named to the All-Tournament team from Notre Dame.