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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish dominate possession against Panthers

Brian Hartnett | Monday, September 30, 2013

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

No. 5 Notre Dame hasn’t exactly struggled to stop opponents this season, but the Irish also proved this adage to be true in a 3-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday at Alumni Stadium, as the team dominated possession and created many offensive opportunities.

The Irish (9-1-0, 5-0-0 ACC) had a 32-3 advantage in shots and a 13-1 margin in shots on goal.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he expected the possession advantage against the Panthers (4-7-1, 0-6-0) but was impressed with the quality of his team’s opportunities.

“I really felt like this was a game where we would [control possession] because we knew from the scouting reports that they like to bunker in and have a little more of a defensive mentality,” he said. “The thing I was most worried about was that we wouldn’t create good chances, and today I thought we created a lot of good chances. We were a little bit unlucky not to walk out with five or six goals today.”

The Irish started creating opportunities early, as sophomore defender Katie Naughton scored a goal that was negated by an offside penalty in the game’s 13th minute. Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy made up for the called-off goal just a few minutes later, when she scored off a rebound from two yards out in the 19th minute.

Although Notre Dame posted 16 shots in the first half, it held only a 1-0 lead at halftime.

Sophomore forward Cari Roccaro extended the lead just 49 seconds into the second frame when she took a throw-in from senior defender Rebecca Twining and launched a shot from 20 yards out past Pittsburgh redshirt junior goalkeeper Nicole D’Agostino.

Waldrum said it was important for the Irish to get many opportunities against D’Agostino, who finished the game with 10 saves.

“Any time you play against a good goalkeeper, you’ve got to take good shots,” he said. “Any good goalkeeper is going to get scored on if the kind of chances you create are quality chances. A keeper like that will do well against you when you’re not really close or taking half-chances that aren’t really good looks.”

Notre Dame wasn’t done there, as senior midfielder Mandy Laddish scored her first goal of the season in the 64th minute. Laddish took a pass from Roccaro, beat her defender and drove home a shot from the top of the box.

The Irish continued to attack the goal toward the end of the second half, as junior forward Karin Simonian hit two shots off the crossbar.

Notre Dame’s attacking style limited Pittsburgh’s offensive opportunities. The Panthers didn’t take their first shot until the 58th minute and didn’t take a shot on goal until the 82nd minute.

“I think the way we play out of the back, it forces teams to chase a lot,” Waldrum said. “We’re shooting to get about 400 passes per game in our possession, and I think we’ve been closer to 500 this year. If we keep the ball moving quickly enough and stretch the field enough, the idea behind that is that it makes teams chase you, and I think we did a real good job of that today.”

With the victory, Notre Dame earned its sixth consecutive victory and fourth straight shutout. The Irish have outscored opponents 18-1 since losing to UCLA on Sept. 1.

“I think we have gotten better every week,” Waldrum said. “The goal is to get to the NCAA [tournament] and then get to the final four. I’ll be more concerned with how we’re playing a month from now than I am with where we are right now, but I do think we’ve certainly improved from August to now. If we can keep that growth going, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Notre Dame will look to extend its winning streak when it hosts No. 9 Wake Forest on Thursday at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]