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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish claim last-second win on Senior Night

| Friday, November 1, 2019

In a wintry mix at Alumni on Stadium Thursday night, the Irish (10-6-2, 4-4-2 ACC) claimed a dramatic 3-2 victory over Wake Forest (6-8-4, 1-6-3 ACC) in double overtime with just twenty-six seconds remaining. Virginia Tech’s 1-0 win over Pitt meant only a win would earn the Irish the eighth and final spot in the ACC tournament, and anything less than three points would also have likely given the Irish — currently ranked 37th in RPI — zero breathing room on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. On Notre Dame’s senior night, however, grad student defender Shannon Hendricks — one of four for the Irish who played the entire 110 minutes in the brutal conditions — who forced the late own goal that earned the Irish a date in Chapel Hill with No. 3 North Carolina and a virtually certain spot in the bracket come Selection Sunday. After the crucial result, Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman praised his team for stepping up amidst adversity and injury in difficult conditions.

Ryan Vigilante | The Observer

Irish junior forward Sammi Fisher dribbles the ball during Notre Dame’s 4-0 victory over Northwestern on Aug. 25 at Alumni Stadium.

“This team … we’ve had so many injuries and illnesses and different players have stepped up and come in the game,” he said. “Honestly … giving up that goal late in regulation … but still to come back in overtime and win it, just that perseverance and resilience and getting through that adversity. I’m just, I’m so proud.” 

The Irish’s resilience was particularly impressive given the absence of both sophomore midfielder Luisa Delgado and junior forward Eva Hurm due to injury, two of the usual stars in the Irish front three. 

“So many other players have stepped up,” Norman said. “We have players playing out of position, we have, you know, a center back playing up top [in freshman Bea Franklin] and scoring the second goal and … we have Shannon [Hendricks], who’s an outside back, playing center mid … and she’s scoring the winning goal. … I mean, there’s just so many, so many different people that have stepped up and just done what they need to do. [Junior] Kate O’Connor comes in at the end of the game the last 10-12 minutes and, you know, takes off six layers and comes in and does fantastic. They did really, really well tonight, and they fought and they battled and [I am] proud to be able to coach them.” 

Given the weather, the first half was predictably sloppy, as both teams struggled to find any sort of rhythm offensively. An eventful final eight minutes of the half, however, sprung to life when Demon Deacon redshirt sophomore Hulda Arnarsdottir capitalized when the Irish defense switched off at the wrong time. 

Arnarsdottir, a capped Icelandic youth international, received a pass centrally from Wake Forest junior forward Ryanne Brown with her back to goal. Despite being just outside the box, Arnarsdottir, Wake Forest’s leading scorer, found time to turn and produce the Demon Deacons’ only shot on target of the entire half. Arnarsdottir succeeded in catching senior goalkeeper Brooke Littman off her line, as the shot was to the center of the goal drifted over Littman’s fingertips but floated just below the crossbar. 

Notre Dame would quickly answer, though, with their only shot on target for the first half with just over two minutes to go through their own lead scorer, junior Sammi Fisher. Fisher controlled a Wake Forest clearance and did the rest, unleashing a blast from thirty yards that admittedly should have been saved by Wake Forest’s redshirt freshman keeper Mia Raben, but went in for Fisher’s sixth of year, nonetheless. 

“That was a big goal for us,” Norman said. “Obviously, giving up that goal midway through the first half was a little bit of a shot at us because I actually thought we had started the game pretty well, and it’s kinda one of the first times I feel like they really came down and got a meaningful possession in our half. … But Sammi’s goal before halftime to get us a level was a really big goal … Sammi has been just a warrior for us all season and … she even came back on injured at the end of that game to help us … carve out that winning goal as well.” 

With both teams needing a win to achieve their playoff aspirations, the action would pick up in the second half as the rain intensified. Franklin and junior Jenna Weinbrenner both had efforts saved off the line in a frantic sequence in the 56th minute, but it looked like Wake Forest had gone ahead for a second time just five minutes later. Demon Deacon junior defender, Hannah Betfort hit a rocket from distance that appeared to slightly deflect off Littman’s fingertips before hitting the underside of the bar and going in, but after a lengthy review, the head referee adjudged that a sliver of the ball had not crossed the line. 

As the rain turned to snow midway through the second half, defender-turned-number-nine Franklin scored a clutch goal for the Irish in the 75th minute. After being slipped in by Hendricks, Franklin made no mistake and expertly smashed the ball past Raben with her left foot. 

Wake Forest, ranked 47th in RPI heading into the contest, relentlessly pursued an equalizer to keeper to keep their hopes of sneaking into the NCAA tournament alive, and the pressure finally told with just eight seconds left in regulation. The Demon Deacons earned a controversial free kick just inside the Irish half that was deflected out for a corner, before Ryanne Browne again popped up in a critical moment and headed the ball past Littman directly off defender Alberly’s delivery. After the conclusion of the second half, Coach Norman provoked the referee to issue a yellow card to the entire Irish coaching staff for his angry protestations against the free kick, but he admitted his team should have been able to see that game out in regulation. 

“You can’t give them chances to just set the ball down and get everyone set and then …  if you do … we have to do a better job … of defending those corners and we got to be able to kill off fifteen seconds there at the end, and just make sure that, you know, they don’t get a chance,” he said. “But … give them credit. It was a great ball that she served in and … a great header and [if you] play against good teams, they can score good goals and we gotta roll up our sleeves and go again.”

Chances came at a premium during the hard-fought overtime periods, but the Irish made the critical breakthrough in the 110th and final minute in the whirling snow. A late cross flicked on by Franklin fell to the feet of Hendricks, whose low drive was initially saved by Raben, but Wake Forest defender Vicky Krug had no chance to prevent the save from immediately deflecting off her right shoulder into the net and ending the Demon Deacons’ season with the golden goal rule in effect. Hendricks’ effort capped off a gritty performance that Norman believed encapsulated the spirit of his squad’s entire senior class as a whole. 

“Shannon, a fifth-year senior who I think embodies … everything this program is — she just is willing to do anything [and] everything for this program,” he said. “I mean, she’s playing with injuries … [and] she stood by this team. These seniors, I think, collectively have been through a lot too. … They’ve been through a coaching change. … We’ve had so many injuries and they’ve just kept the team together and kept pushing on and kept things positive, and we’ve lost games that maybe we feel like we shouldn’t have lost and they’ve kept going.” 

The Irish now face a quick turnaround to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill this Sunday in the first round of the ACC tournament. Norman said he was excited to get another crack at the Tar Heels, who the Irish lost to on the road 3-0 in late September, and is confident his team will be more prepared this time around. 

“I just think we’re more hardened,” he said. “I think defensively, we’ve gotten a little bit better and … we’ve become sharper … in those [key] moments and, you know, we’re going to need to play well in that game for sure. … I’m excited to play the game, and I’m excited to go after them.” 

Kickoff in Chapel Hill is currently scheduled for 7 p.m., and the quarterfinal match-up will be televised live courtesy of the ACC Network. 

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