NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Throughout its storied women’s soccer history, Notre Dame has been virtually unbeatable at home in the NCAA Championship. Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) made sure history wasn’t going to change on Friday.
Playing in her first career NCAA postseason match, Andrews scored a pair of goals late in the first half to help propel No. 23/19 Notre Dame past No. RV/25 Iowa, 4-1 in an NCAA Championship first-round contest on a chilly Friday night before a crowd of 1,154 fans at Alumni Stadium.
With the victory, the Fighting Irish improves to 46-3 all-time at home in NCAA tournament play (7-0 at Alumni Stadium) and advances to the second round of the NCAA Championship on Nov. 22, where they will face Western Michigan, a 1-0 winner at No. 8/6 (and second-seeded) Marquette on Friday night. Notre Dame and WMU will play at a time and place to be determined following the completion of this weekend’s first-round matches.
Senior defender/tri-captain Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) added a goal and an assist, while a pair of sophomore defenders connected on the final Fighting Irish goal — tri-captain Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) heading in a corner kick from Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) — as Notre Dame posted its highest goal output and largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament match since 2010, when it earned a similar 4-1 win at North Carolina in the third round.
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) didn’t seen much action in the Notre Dame net on Friday, but did make one save to record the victory in her NCAA postseason debut. Her Iowa counterpart, Hannah Clark, kept the margin from being even greater with nine saves.
The Fighting Irish (12-7-1) outshot the Hawkeyes, 32-4 during the match, including a 13-2 edge in total shots. The hosts also held a commanding 12-3 margin on corner kicks, while fouls were virtually even (11-9 against Iowa) and Notre Dame received both yellow cards that were assessed in the match.
The 32 shots were the most in an NCAA tournament contest for Notre Dame since 2008 (32 in a 5-2 first-round win over Toledo at old Alumni Field). What’s more, the +28 shot margin was the widest in favor of the Fighting Irish in NCAA postseason action since the 2005 tournament opener, when Notre Dame outshot Valparaiso, 33-4, in a 6-0 win at old Alumni Field.
“That was a very pleasing effort for our first NCAA tournament game,” Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “I thought we stayed composed and focused on the game plan for the full 90 minutes and it showed with a great performance against an Iowa team that came in here playing really well after making it all the way to the Big Ten championship game and beating Penn State twice and Michigan in the process.
“We knew they were going to play a defensive style and try to beat us on the counter,” he added. “It was important for us to remain patient and keep pressuring them and eventually the goals would come, and they did. I thought our midfield played very well tonight, especially Morgan (Andrews), Mandy (Laddish) and Glory (Williams). The backline also held things down nicely and made some contributions at the offensive end, too, so it was a good all-around team win for us.”
Things didn’t start off particularly well for the Fighting Irish, as Von Rueden found herself tangled up with Iowa’s Cloe Lacasse at the top left corner of the box in the fifth minute. Lacasse went sprawling just a couple of steps inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Iowa’s Melanie Pickert then stepped up and drove home the penalty kick to give the Hawkeyes, who were making their NCAA Championship debut, a 1-0 lead just 4:03 into the contest.
In spite of the early goal, Notre Dame clearly held the run of play throughout the evening and methodically began to chip away at defensive-minded Iowa, which didn’t look to bunker in as much as they adopted a defensive posture and then looked for the counterattack with Lacasse up top.
It took a little more than a half hour, but the Fighting Irish finally got the equalizer. Junior forward Lauren Bohaboy (Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita) did much of the heavy lifting with a strong run to the end line along the right edge of the box. Marked tightly by two Iowa defenders, Bohaboy tried to turn back away from the line and creating a passing angle, but as the ball skittered back towards the top of the box, Bohaboy was held up by an ill-timed jersey tug from Hawkeye back Caitlin Brown, and the center official (after a flag wave from his assistant on the far side of the pitch) whistled for the penalty kick.
Andrews then was called upon to take Notre Dame’s first spot try of the season and the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year made no mistake, opening her NCAA Championship scoring account with a confident strike to bring the score level at 1-1 at the 37:08 mark.
That score seemed to energize the Fighting Irish even further, as the hosts continued to press the attack. That pressure paid off brilliantly with 1:07 left in the first half, as sophomore midfielder Glory Williams (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands) found Tucker on a timely overlapping run down the left flank. Tucker carried all the way to the end line before pulling a cross back to the goalmouth between the spot and the six-yard box. Andrews dug the ball out of traffic and hammered a low shot past a diving Clark for her second career two-goal match, and the first by a Notre Dame player in the NCAA tournament since Tucker’s brace at Oklahoma State in the 2010 quarterfinals (coincidentally, Tucker also was a freshman that night).
“All the credit in the world goes to Lauren and Liz on those goals,” Andrews said. “Lauren did all the hard work to earn the PK and then was willing to let me step up and take it. Then, on the second one, Liz made a great run and her cross was in a perfect spot. I just tried to put a good strike on it and we got the goal.”
Now holding the upper hand on the scoreboard as well as in the possession game, the Fighting Irish set about removing all doubt from Friday’s verdict. That resolution came a bit more in the 53rd minute, courtesy of a sensational one-person effort by Tucker, who played all night like a woman possessed after she was cleared to play by the NCAA following an erroneously-issued yellow card (the first of two, which led to an equally incorrect red card) in Notre Dame’s ACC quarterfinal loss at Virginia Tech on Nov. 3.
On Friday, Tucker started her goal-scoring jaunt by collecting a ball on the left flank 45 yards from the target. She then weaved through a host of Iowa defenders, some of whom played off her, expecting a pass, others just mis-timing their challenges. Eventually, Tucker found herself with time and space near the top left-center of the box and drilled a low shot that eluded Clark and tucked neatly inside the far right post (52:44) for Tucker’s first goal since a two-goal night at then-No. 1 Virginia on Oct. 10.
Naughton and Von Rueden then combined for the coup de grace in the 87th minute on the last of Notre Dame’s 12 corner kicks. Von Rueden took the service and swung a tempting ball to the heart of the penalty area. Naughton went high above the crowd and snapped a header into the center of the net for her second goal of the year, while also marking the second time this season the pair has teamed up for a corner kick goal (they did likewise on Aug. 25 in a home win over Northwestern).
“This was a positive first step for us, and really it’s been building up from the way we’ve looked in training the last couple of weeks,” Waldrum said. “Now we’ll have a couple of days to get rested and start looking ahead to a strong Western Michigan team next Friday.”