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ND Women’s Soccer: Young team falls to UNC

Matthew Robison | Monday, September 3, 2012

After defeating No. 24 Santa Clara 2-1 Friday night in Alumni Stadium, the Irish fell to No. 19 North Carolina 1-0 on a late goal in Sunday’s adidas Invitational final.

After an evenly-played first half in which neither team could break through for a goal, the Tar Heels took over in the second half and finally put one in the back of the net in the 85th minute. North Carolina (2-1-1) freshman forward Summer Green streaked down the left flank and turned the corner into the penalty area. She connected with senior midfielder Maria Lubrano who was cutting down the middle, and Lubrano buried the shot.

“[Green is] special,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “That’s why she is a national team kid. She showed her ability there. I thought obviously, though, that we were really poor at that moment. She got turned around the corner there and we didn’t win that initial ball. And then she turned it inside. I thought we did a poor job picking up [Lubrano] coming across.”

Notre Dame (3-2) attempted a few late-minute tries but could not muster enough to score the equalizer.

Waldrum attributed the loss to poor play on the offensive end. But he said he was proud of his defense’s efforts under pressure and pleased with the play of freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight, who made seven saves.

“I thought our back four and … Elyse played really well for us, considering we absorbed so much in the second half,” Waldrum said. “They really took it to us in the second half. I thought we were really poor in midfield and I thought we were really poor up front.”

This year’s squad is one the youngest Notre Dame has ever had, and there will be some growing pains.

“We started seven freshmen today,” Waldrum said. “It’s a really, really young team.”

Despite all their youth, the Irish played well in the first period. The second period made the difference.

“I’m disappointed because I thought the first half we were in there and competitive, and I thought we had some chances,” Waldrum said. “I thought we would come out even better in the second half. We’re real big on our possession, and we had over 150-something passes and I think they had 130 or 140. So the possession point in the first half was pretty even. We came out in the second half and just threw it all away. It was just youth and inexperience. We’ll learn from it and get better.”

North Carolina is a young team this year, just like the Irish. But they capitalized on one of their chances, Notre Dame did not and that decided the game.

“I thought, of all the games we’ve seen of theirs this year so far, both on video tape and then watching them Friday, I thought this was their best half of soccer they’ve played – this second half too,” Waldrum said. “So you’ve got to give credit where credit is due as well.”

In the game against Santa Clara, the Irish did capitalize on their chances. With 18:25 remaining in the second half, sophomore defender Sammy Scofield headed in a cross from junior midfielder and tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker to break a 1-1 tie. Freshman forward Crystal Thomas scored the first Irish goal on a penalty kick before Santa Clara tied the game early in the second half.

Considering the lapse they displayed Sunday in midfield, Waldrum said he is looking forward to the return of freshman Cari Roccaro and junior tri-captain Mandy Laddish to boost that line. The two are in Japan right now playing for the U.S national team in the Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“I really felt they dominated us most of this game in midfield,” Waldrum said. “I thought that’s where they took over the game. Those two kids coming back for us in midfield will be a big plus.”

Scofield, Hight and freshman midfielder Glory Williams were all named to the All-Tournament team for their efforts in the two games.

This season will be a time of learning, Waldrum said. Every week is an opportunity to get better and every game is a chance to show improvement.

“I think we’ll get a little more settled with [the freshmen],” Waldrum said. “Now I think it’s just getting them to understand and execute a little better.”

Next up for Notre Dame is the team’s annual West Coast road trip. The Irish will travel to No. 20 Portland on Friday night, then will conclude their western swing at Washington on Sunday.

Contact Matthew Robison at [email protected]