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ND Women’s Soccer

Cavs top ND on final-minute score

| Monday, October 6, 2014

With just 22 seconds left in regulation and the momentum starting to swing in No. 14 Notre Dame’s favor, No. 4 Virginia rallied for one more offensive opportunity, and junior forward Brittany Ratcliffe pounced on it, giving the Cavaliers the 2-1 victory Sunday.

The loss dropped the Irish (7-4-1, 2-2-0 ACC) to 3-4 at Alumni Stadium on the season, already their most losses at home since 2002.

“We play a tough schedule at home,” Irish coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “Virginia is one of the best teams that we’ve seen this year, so it gave us a great taste of what a Final Four game would be like. I think we learned some good lessons.”

Before the game-winning goal, the Cavaliers (11-1-0, 3-1-0) had dominated time of possession for most of the game and had several near-chances on goal.

In the first half alone, Virginia took six corner kicks and 11 shots and forced sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little to make five saves.

Despite the pressure, the Irish defense held strong, shutting out the Cavaliers through the first 45 minutes. On offense, however, the Irish failed to generate many chances, producing one shot-on-goal and three shots in total.

“We need to get tougher,” Romagnolo said. “[If we do that] it means we’re not giving up so much time off the ball. It means we’re playing tighter. It means we’re winning more 50-50 battles, which means that we have more possession. We usually do that to most teams and I think it was the first time someone has done that to us.”

The second half began in a similar way, with Virginia dominating possession but the Irish defensive live holding on. Then, in the 53rd minute, junior Cari Roccaro attempted a pass across the middle in the defensive third, which Virginia senior midfielder Morgan Brian intercepted.

Brian, who has played with the U.S. senior women’s national team, blew by the remaining defenders and beat Little to score the unassisted goal and give Virginia the 1-0 lead.

“Kaela played tremendously,” Romagnolo said. “We need to do a better job in front of her. [We need to start] just limiting our opponent’s chances. … We allowed way too many shots.”

Little shrugged off the goal and set a season-high in saves on the day, with eight stops on 18 shots. In addition to the Cavalier attack, Little also had to battle swirling gusts of wind that affected play throughout the game.

For the next thirty minutes of play, the Irish were still unable to generate any sustained offensive attack.

“[We] didn’t have the ball too much today,” Romagnolo said. “We had to do a lot of defending. … Overall, we’re a very good possession team. We usually press a team well but not today.”

Only two Notre Dame players managed to get off a shot through the first 83 minutes of play — junior midfielder Glory Williams and senior forward Karin Simonian. Simonian led the team with four shots, two of which were on goal.

“She’s very skillful,” Romagnolo said. “She makes a lot happen for us. [She’s] a great passer and she gets to the goal very well.”

It was Roccaro, however, who gave the Irish a chance to force overtime late in the game. In the 84th minute, from 30 yards out, the junior collected a loose ball on the right and uncorked a shot that beat Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Stearns to the left, tying the game up.

“It was a great goal,” Romagnolo said. “We put her at the attacking midfielder position, and I guess she found a hole, and she took the space and made the finish.”

With the game seemingly headed for overtime, Virginia made one last push down the left side of the field. Junior forward Makenzy Doniak made a run into the penalty area and took a shot just outside the six-yard box. Little made a diving stop and deflected the ball out in front of the goal but Ratcliffe collected the rebound and banged it home to secure the win.

The Irish aim to get back on track this Thursday on the road at Pittsburgh. Notre Dame will face off against the Panthers at 7 p.m., at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg