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ND Women’s Soccer: Southern Discomfort

Kelsey Manning | Monday, August 29, 2011

The defending national champions return from a disappointing weekend in North Carolina with their first pair of consecutive losses since September 2009, one a hard-fought overtime battle with No. 3 North Carolina and the other a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils.

Though Friday night’s game against North Carolina ended in a 2-1 loss for the No. 1 Irish, it was not for a lack of opportunities. The Irish controlled play for the majority of the game, statistically besting North Carolina with an 11-9 edge in total shots, 8-4 in shots on goal and 5-2 in corner kicks. Persistent on the attack, the Irish offense pressured the Tar Heel goalkeeper to record a career-high seven saves.

“I was really pleased with the way we played Friday night,” Waldrum said. “I thought it was unlucky we didn’t get the win, but at least we walked away with a tie. Overall I was disappointed with losing, but pleased with our play.”

Though the Tar Heels took the lead in the 20th minute, the Irish maintained their composure. The squad almost evened the score with quick passing from sophomore forward Adriana Leon to senior defender Jessica Schuveiller to senior forward Melissa Henderson, who snuck the ball past the goalie. Unfortunately an offside call negated the score.

Soon after, sophomore midfielder Rebecca Twining fired from point-blank range, but the Tar Heel keeper managed to slap it away at the last second. Finally Notre Dame’s efforts paid off, as junior defender Jazmin Hall scored her first collegiate goal in the 71st minute, firing high into the corner of the net to send the game into overtime.

But the tides turned in the extra period, with North Carolina recording the only two shots of overtime and converting on the second with just five minutes left to play.

If Friday night’s loss had a disappointing finish though, Sunday’s 3-1 loss to No. 21 Duke was lacking from beginning to end, according to Waldrum.

“[Sunday] was a complete 180 [from Friday]. We absolutely did not show up, period,” Waldrum said. “I don’t necessarily have an explanation for it. Our stars and leaders just didn’t show up. We deserve to win but we didn’t walk in to play from the whistle. We’ve got some work to do now. But like I said, it’s good to play these games earlier on in the year, so now we know that we have a lot to work on.”

One of the coach’s biggest concerns with the team’s play against Duke was the shortage of scoring opportunities. The Blue Devils held a 15-11 edge over the Irish in total shots, and a significant 9-2 advantage in shots on goal. In fact, Notre Dame’s only goal was scored in inadvertent fashion, with a clearance by Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell bouncing off the face of senior midfielder Brynn Gerstle and rolling back into the empty goal.

“We did not create enough scoring chances, especially against Duke,” Waldrum said. “It’s about being efficient, and we just didn’t create enough chances. Our attacking players just have to do better at that. That’s their job. I mean Melissa Henderson only had one shot on goal today. We can’t have that.”

Though the unusual goal gave Notre Dame the 1-0 lead at halftime, Duke charged back with a second half run, netting three goals in less than 12 minutes. Not only suffering from a lack of offense, the Irish were less than effective all over the field. according to their coach.

“These kids are dynamite players, but we just didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities. We had a couple of mistakes on Friday night and [North Carolina] capitalized on those and punished us for them. They were solvable. But today they were all over the field.”

The last time the Irish lost two consecutive games was nearly two years ago, a pair of 2-0 defeats to Santa Clara and then-No. 3 Stanford Sept. 12 and 13, 2009. Nevertheless, Waldrum remains optimistic for the remainder of the year.

“It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of the season. We lost to two good teams,” Waldrum said. “But somewhere along the line we’re going to have to beat good teams. But I believe in the team and think this is the right kind of year.”

The Irish will return home for the Notre Dame adidas Invitational, where they will take on Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, followed by Indiana at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.