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ND Women’s Soccer: Big East battle

Mike Gotimer | Monday, October 11, 2010

No. 5 Notre Dame made sure its senior class would wrap up its regular season home careers with a Garden State sweep this weekend over Seton Hall and Rutgers.

The Irish kicked off the weekend on Friday with a 2-1 win over Seton Hall. Senior midfielder Rose Augustin and junior forward Melissa Henderson led the Irish as each player registered a goal and an assist.

The Irish attacked early and often in the match, firing off 32 shots compared to the Pirates’ four with a 15-2 edge in shots on goal.

Notre Dame’s aggressive attack led to an early 1-0 lead when Augustin scored just 1:21 into the game, which proved to be the lone goal of the first half.

The Irish opened up a 2-0 lead in the second half after Henderson’s team-high 11th goal of the season hit the back of the net in the 58th minute. She also registered a career-high 11 shots.

Seton Hall answered back just over two minutes later with a goal from sophomore forward Stephanie Soma that pulled the Pirates within a score, but they could not get the equalizer that would have earned them a point.

On Sunday, the Irish hosted the Scarlet Knights on senior day and celebrated one of the most successful classes in program history, which has compiled a 79-11-3 record and made three trips to the College Cup semifinals. The seniors left Alumni Stadium victorious once again as they combined for two goals and two assists in the nationally televised 3-2 win.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum was proud of his seniors and said they have made a lasting impact on the program.

“They’re one of the winningest senior classes ever, which says a lot about their careers here,” Waldrum said. “It seems like every year we lose a great group of seniors, and the six girls we have [here] have played very well in their time here.”

The Irish got on the board first in the 13th minute when freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker led Augustin with a beautiful pass into the box that she put in the back of the net for her eighth goal of the year.

Rutgers, however, responded less than two minutes later when a cross hit off senior defender Julie Scheidler’s leg for an own goal that tied the score at one. Neither team seemed to find an offensive rhythm after the Irish miscue, and the game remained tied at the half, but it gave Rutgers new life in a critical conference matchup.

“In hindsight, they scored that goal so quick that I think that got them even more motivated in the first half,” Waldrum said.

Notre Dame, however, looked like a different team in the second half, registering three shots in the first nine minutes.

The Irish broke through in the 65th minute when Augustin hit a streaking Henderson, who drew Rutgers goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins out of the goal before punching in the go-ahead tally, her 12th on the year. Just two minutes later, Augustin found fellow senior Erica Iantorno in the box, who fired home her third goal of the season to give the Irish a 3-1 lead.

The Scarlet Knights didn’t give up after falling behind by two scores, as junior forward Karla Schacher scored in the box in the 77th minute to pull Rutgers within one. The Scarlet Knights had a chance to tie in the final minute of action, but senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss covered up a weakly hit shot to seal the Irish win.

Waldrum was pleased with his team’s effort in the second half.

“I think more than anything we really talked about getting more competitive at halftime,” Waldrum said. “The whole first half we were playing against a team that was really desperate, and hosting the Big East tournament this year, they were desperate for a win today. They came out really competitive and we came out lethargic and flat, so at halftime we stressed coming out and matching that intensity.”

With the two wins this weekend, Notre Dame extended its Big East unbeaten streak to 73 games, registering a 70-0-3 record in those contests.