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ND Women’s Soccer: Roccaro’s goal beats Syracuse

Brian Hartnett | Monday, October 29, 2012

For the second straight game, No. 24 Notre Dame struggled to score until the end of the game. But, for the second straight game, the Irish only needed one goal to win, as they defeated Syracuse 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Big East conference championship on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.

Freshman forward Cari Roccaro provided the late-game heroics for Notre Dame (13-4-2) on Sunday, as she scored the game’s lone goal in the 78th minute.

Roccaro took a long pass from junior captain and midfielder Mandy Laddish, beating Syracuse junior goalkeeper Brittany Anghel to the ball at the top of the box. She then fired into an empty net from 15 yards out to put the Irish on the board.

“One of the things we talked about all week is that their goalkeeper plays off her line really high and we felt like, if we pressured her enough, we could turn the ball over which is pretty much what happened,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “[Roccaro] is so composed with the ball that, once she cut it past the first defender, she had a huge gap to run in between and, with the goalkeeper being out of position, she had the open net to hit it in.”

Notre Dame struggled to take advantage of several offensive opportunities in a physical first half. Anghel made a diving save to stop Roccaro’s header in the game’s opening minute, and Irish junior forward Elizabeth Tucker’s header smashed off the crossbar in the ninth minute.

Waldrum emphasized the need for the Irish to convert opportunities, especially as the team advances further into postseason play.

“Right now, we don’t have that player who can score 20 goals a year for us,” Waldrum said. “So, we’ve got to be efficient with the chances that we get, and we have to be more composed when we get around the goal. I think it’s just that we’re young up front and we just have to continue to work at it and improve with those players up front.”

Notre Dame’s struggles on the offensive end continued into the second half, as freshman defender Brittany Von Rueden’s corner kick knocked off the left crossbar in the 56th minute. After Syracuse senior midfielder Alyscha Mottershead missed an attempt in the 66th minute, the Irish offense pushed the ball in its half of the field before Roccaro found the net with 12:47 remaining in the game.

On the other end of the field, the Notre Dame defense recorded its third consecutive shutout, limiting the Orange (9-7-2) to two shots on goal and seven shots overall. Freshman goalkeeper Elyse Hight made two saves to record her third consecutive solo shutout.

Waldrum said Von Rueden and freshman defender Katie Naughton played major roles in shutting down Syracuse’s offense.

“The two freshmen we have playing [on defense] have gotten more and more experience,” Waldrum said. “I think Brittany continues to get better each week, and I think Katie can arguably be one of the best center backs we’ve had in 10 years, which is saying a lot. With [Von Rueden and Naughton], we’ve got two center backs that are a really difficult tandem to get past.”

Waldrum said his team’s physical style of play helped it survive a challenge from a tough Syracuse squad.

“As much as we want to keep the ball and be a possession-oriented team, we’ve got enough balance in that physical play,” Waldrum said. “I think it was two teams fighting to get to the next weekend.”

With the victory, Notre Dame, the No. 2 seed in the Big East National Division, will play No. 12 Marquette, the top seed in the conference’s American Division, in the semifinal round of the Big East Conference Championship. The Golden Eagles (14-2-2), who beat Connecticut 4-1 Sunday, are undefeated in conference play and unbeaten in their last 12 matches.

The Irish will take the next step toward their goal of a Big East championship when they play Marquette on Friday at 4 p.m. at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]