Notre Dame suffers first loss at South Carolina
Greg McKenna | Friday, September 13, 2019
In a battle of unbeatens, Notre Dame (6-1-0) suffered its first defeat of the 2019 season against No. 7 South Carolina (6-0-0) after a close and exciting encounter in the Palmetto state.
The Irish were looking to end their three-game road trip with the program’s first road win versus top-10 opposition since 2008, when Notre Dame prevailed against then-top-ranked Virginia en route to an appearance in the national title game. Both sides were willing to be on the front-foot and created chances early.
In the 12th minute, a very poor back-pass by the Irish went straight to senior Gamecock Elexa Bahr. Bahr sent a horizontal ball to sophomore midfielder Claire Griffths, who worked her way into the Irish penalty area with some impressive footwork before having her blocked shot trickle mere inches from Irish sophomore goalkeeper Mattie Interian’s left post.
The Irish would almost break the deadlock themselves just two minutes later. Junior midfielder Sammi Fisher split two defenders near the byline and earn the Irish a corner. Forward Eva Hurm, the junior from New Jersey who received national attention for her “olimpico” against Northwestern, hit another one of her trademark balls to the back post, where Irish grad student defender Autumn Smithers volleyed it back across the face of goal. Fellow defender Jade Gosar seemed certain to score, but the sophomore could not connect cleanly as the Gamecocks charged down her effort and got the ball clear.
The first half would be stopped in the 27th minute due to lighting, and after a half-hour delay, South Carolina eventually found themselves a goal just after the 40 minute mark thanks to a penalty given for an Irish handball. A headed clearance by the Irish following a South Carolina free kick to Gamecock midfielder Jylissa Harris, who impressively brought the ball down and promptly released fellow sophomore Riley Tanner down the Irish right. As Gosar approached to challenge, Tanner’s tame cross deflected off the Colorado native’s left arm. Though the arm was very close to her side, referee Mark Kadlecik gave the Gamecocks a pivotal break. Gamecock junior defender Anna Patten would make no mistake from the spot for the second time this year. The Englishwoman sent Interian the wrong way before rifling the ball into the Irish keeper’s side-netting, causing Notre Dame to concede for the first time in over 360 minutes of action.
After the interval, the game became increasingly stretched as the Irish actively searched for an equalizer, and the Gamecocks took advantage of the space to double their advantage with just less than 10 minutes to play. In a manner similar to the first goal, South Carolina junior Lauren Chang picked up a clearance by the Irish and found sophomore substitute Bianca Galassini with the Irish back-line out of position. The Frankfort, Illinois, native’s attempted lay-off inside the area was cut off by Irish midfielder Maddie Mercado, but the freshman’s clearance ricocheted off Galassini, then Internian before falling perfectly in the path of Gamecock forward Luciano Zullo. The junior substitute slid the ball into an empty net to give South Carolina a crucial insurance goal.
The Irish received some late hope courtesy of senior Alexis Martel-Lamothe, who became the ninth different goalscorer for the Irish this year. Sophomore midfielder Luisa Delgado earned a corner late-on, and a poor clearance by the Gamecocks fell to the senior from Ontario, who blasted a low drive by acclaimed South Carolina goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski to half the deficit with just under two minutes to play. It was the first time Krzeczowski had failed to keep the ball out of her goal for 515 minutes, but a couple wayward passes prevented the Irish from challenging her again in the final 90 seconds.
Notre Dame will play Iowa at home Sunday before hitting the road again Friday to face No. 20 Clemson in their first conference clash of the year. Kickoff times for both contests are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.