National Champs! Irish women's soccer team returns to big celebration

It's all about the Kids.

Freshman Adriana Leon scored 11 minutes into the 2nd half as Notre Dame beat previously undefeated Stanford 1-0 to capture women's soccer's national championship in Cary, North Carolina Sunday.

Leon got her first glimpse at her game winning goal after the Irish returned home for a big celebration Sunday night at Purcell Pavilion with fans. As highlights of the game played on the jumbrotron, Leon couldn't hold back a remarkable smile as it all sunk in.

For junior Melissa Henderson, who assisted on the goal, its still all a blur.

"It's still sinking in," Henderson admits. "I couldn't sleep on the plane at all, I can't stop smiling. It's slowly but surely sinking in. It's pretty awesome."

It's the 3rd national title for the Irish, who become the lowest seeded team (#4 seed) to ever win it all. The Irish defeated four seeded teams to capture the championship, including two #1 seeds in Stanford and North Carolina.

"Just so proud of this group," head coach Randy Waldrum says. "The run they made throughout, I truly believed all along that we were the best team in the country."

Because of that difficult road, Waldrum says this is the best of the three tittles. For him individually, it's his 2nd--making him the 7th Notre Dame coach in all sports to win multiple national championships.

"It just keeps getting better and better," Waldrum explains. "This just can't get old. We'll take as many of them as we can."

Notre Dame's last four playoff goals all came from freshman.

The last one came with 29 minutes left in the game as Henderson dropped a pass back from the end line to the six. Leon came back from in front of the net, turned and fired the goal by Cardinal goalie Emily Oliver.

Henderson's assist was perhaps an omen the Irish would hang on the rest of the way. Notre Dame has never lost a game in Henderson's three seasons when she scores a point.

The Irish were seeded 4th due to a loss to UConn in the Big East quarterfinals that ended Notre Dame's 77-game conference unbeaten streak.

Notre Dame did not let the low seed bother them, taking out New Mexico and USC in the first two rounds at Alumni Stadium. Then it was off to Chapel Hill where the Irish handed defending national champion North Carolina its worst loss in 30 years. The Irish beat Oklahoma State, also on the road, to reach the College Cup for the 5th straight year.

Freshman Mandy Laddish scored the game's only goal on Friday to lead the Irish to a 1-0 win over Ohio State in the Final Four. The Irish then capped off the journey by handing Stanford its only loss of the season.

Notre Dame previously won national championships in 1995 and 2004.

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