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Golden goal clinches win

Deirdre Krasula | Monday, November 24, 2008

One mistake was all anybody needed – fortunately for the Irish, Minnesota tripped up.

In the sixth minute of overtime senior Kerri Hanks was dragged down from behind in the box. Given the chance to win the game, Hanks buried the penalty kick to knock off Minnesota 1-0 Friday night and secure a spot in the elite eight of the NCAA tournament.

That goal wasn’t the only chance Notre Dame had at a win, out shooting the Gophers 26-11 (11-2 on net). But even with that spread, the Irish just couldn’t get the early lead. Set in a 3-5-2 formation, Minnesota managed to keep the Irish away from its goal, allowing shots that were mainly directed at goalkeeper Lindsey Dare. The snow and ice covered field kept the Irish from spreading the Gopher’s formation and finding holes. With at least eight players obstructing the Irish offense, Notre Dame had to send players on runs into the box. Hanks sent Rose Augustin into the box half way through the first half, but the Minnesota’s defense cleared her shot. The ball rebounded back to Augustin, who’s second shot narrowly missed the net – one of many close calls for the Irish.

“I thought we were just a couple of times a pass away or just a step away from getting that look that we really needed to get the earlier goal,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said.

And a large part of that was in the Gopher’s Big Ten style of play – a far more physical game than the Irish had seen all season until taking on Michigan State last week.

“I think sometimes it can take you out a little bit, the Big Ten, that conference is kind of known for that, more of a physical style of play and not so much a finesse and a skill set,” Waldrum said. “So I think you saw a Minnesota team that’s played in that conference and that’s what they’re used to doing … I think our kids can get physical with anybody if they want to, I think they can handle it well.”

The second half brought the Irish a chance to adjust their style of play. Just two minutes into the second half, Hanks and Augustin paired up again. Augustin drilled a shot at Dare, forcing the rebound back to Hanks. Hanks curled a shot just over the Gopher’s crossbar, and the score remained tied at zero. Despite failing to post a score, the Irish remained relentless in their offensive game.

“I thought we really started to dominate the game in the second half, I thought we were the better team in both halves, but I think they had some good opportunities in some of the play in the first half, but I thought the second half we really came out with a purpose,” Waldrum said.

Waldrum also noted the field, which had been cleared of the snow that had fallen earlier Friday and Thursday, acted as an equalizer for the two teams. The Irish even feared that the field conditions might end their tournament run.

“We were just worried all along that they’d catch us on a counter, some kind of a counter, that we’d be attacking and turn a ball over in a bad spot or somebody would slip and fall on the field and miss something and so you’re hoping that you don’t give a mistake,” Waldrum said. “I never felt like they were gunna score one in the run of play, but I felt like these are the kind of games that a mistake can happen.”

But even an icy field couldn’t break the Irish concentration, and yet again they found a way to win.

Notre Dame remained calm even as the final seconds of regulation time ticked off the clock. And in the five minutes before the start of overtime, Waldrum said the players did most of the talking, confident they could step off the field with a win.

When Hanks stepped up to take her penalty kick, Waldrum wasn’t even looking – mainly out of superstition. Like she had 12 times previously this season, Hanks had the keeper going in the opposite direction of her shot, but this time, it came with a spot in the quarterfinals.