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ND Women’s Soccer: The Lions’ roar

Bill Brink | Monday, September 24, 2007

After winning a conference match Friday with DePaul, Notre Dame lost its fourth game of the season Sunday to Penn State at Alumni Field.

The Irish hung tough with the Nittany Lions for most of the match, but mental mistakes cost them the match in a 2-1 loss.

Sophomore forward Michele Weissenhofer and sophomore defender Haley Ford missed both games because of injuries.

Penn State 2, Notre Dame 1

The Nittany Lions avenged last season’s loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals thanks to sophomore midfielder Melissa Hayes’ penalty kick to the right of Irish senior goalkeeper Lauren Karas in the 58th minute.

Junior defender Carrie Dew attempted to pass the ball back to Karas but struck it weakly. Karas came out of the box to play the ball and upended sophomore forward Katie Schoepfer, leading to the penalty.

“I think the pass back should have been harder,” Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “[Dew is] as much at fault as Karas.”

Notre Dame scored first in the 21st minute when senior forward Amanda Cinalli fed a cross from the left corner to junior forward Kerri Hanks in the box. Hanks controlled the ball, turned right, dribbled around her defender and put a shot on the ground past Penn State sophomore keeper Alyssa Naeher into the right side of the net.

“I just got a ball in and played it one-touch to Kerri and she made a beautiful touch in the box behind the defender and slotted it past the keeper,” Cinalli said.

The goal was Hanks’ sixth of the season, and Cinalli’s assist leaves her one shy of becoming the 12th Irish player with 30 goals and 30 assists.

Penn State junior forward Ashley Myers tied the game in the 55th minute with a curving left-footed shot that slipped past Karas’ hands.

The Irish kept the ball in their offensive third for the final 20 minutes of the game and put pressure on the Nittany Lions, but were not able to score with their final 17 shots. Their best opportunity came on a Hanks corner kick was redirected in front of the goal and had all but found the upper right corner of the goal before Naeher made a diving save to keep the Irish from tying the game. Cinalli put two quick shots wide of the net. Hanks headed junior defender Elise Weber’s cross high over the net.

The game became more physical near the end. Hanks, visibly frustrated, put her mark to the ground twice when chasing down deep passes. Dew received a yellow card for hitting Naeher as she played a shot. In the final minute, Hanks and Naeher collided while chasing a cross, and both fell to the ground after appearing to bump heads.

Waldrum said Hanks was shaken up but should be OK.

“They’re very athletic as a team,” Waldrum said of Penn State. “But they’re a good team, and they’re the kind of team that can punish you when you make mistakes.”

Despite the loss, Notre Dame played up to the level of its opponents. Most of its passes were crisp and on-target, and the Irish had more patience when creating offensive possessions. Waldrum saw improvement but was still unhappy with their performance.

“I thought today we had periods of being good, but it’s the same things that caught up to us in the second half,” he said. “It’s the same mistakes that we’ve been making.”

Notre Dame 4, DePaul 0

The Irish extended their unbeaten streak at home against Big East opponents to 73 games with their win over the Blue Demons Friday. Hanks opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Cinalli played a cross from the right corner into the middle of the box. Hanks headed the ball off the crossbar and into the center of the net.

“She’s been fantastic,” Waldrum said. “If we had all the other older players on the team living up to that standard, we’d be fine.”

Hanks scored her second goal on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after DePaul senior midfielder Jennifer Dyer fouled senior forward Susan Pinnick in the penalty box. Hanks took the kick and put the ball past Kelsey Hoinkes, DePaul’s freshman goalkeeper, in the upper right-hand corner of the goal.

Five minutes later, DePaul freshman defender Janina Locascio committed an intentional handball in the penalty box. By rule, she received an automatic red card and the Irish got another penalty kick. Hanks put the ball in the same place she had earlier, and as before, Hoinkes had no idea where the ball was going.

Senior defender Ashley Jones scored Notre Dame’s final goal in the 70th minute. Jones and freshman forward Erica Iantorno broke through the defense and created a two-on-one situation against Hoinkes. When Hoinkes committed to Iantorno, Iantorno sent the ball to Jones, who tapped it for the goal.

Waldrum was pleased with his team’s play against DePaul.

“We were better overall defensively,” Waldrum said. “I thought we were good all of Friday.”

Waldrum said freshman Lauren Fowlkes, who usually plays midfield but played center back this weekend, helped strengthen the unit.

“I think we were a little more stable over the weekend with that lineup,” Waldrum said. “It’s probably the best we’ve been defensively since early in the season. It’s one of those things that we’ve got to keep working with it now, because she’s new back there.”

Cinalli was pleased with the team’s play at the beginning of its conference schedule.

“That was a great way to start off our conference play,” she said.