Two second half goals propel defending champs back to finals as Notre Dame's first undefeated season ends in the semifinals
By KEVIN BERCHOU
SAN JOSE, Calif.
A dream season for the Notre Dame women's soccer team ended Friday night thanks to a nightmarish second half performance against North Carolina.
The Fighting Irish squandered a 1-0 halftime lead, allowing the Tar Heels to strike for two goals in a 17 minute span in the second half, before falling 2-1 in the NCAA semifinals.
Things were supposed to be different this time around. The top-ranked, unbeaten Irish were thought to have the talent to knock off the fifth-seeded Tar Heels, who had dominated the soccer world winning 16 of the 19 titles contested.
Injuries that the Irish had been hiding all season finally caught up with them, as they were exposed by a deeper Carolina team.
"I was really proud of the effort, due to a lot of things we fought through all season due to injury," said head coach Randy Waldrum. "Some of those things just caught up with us."
Knee injuries to freshman forward Amy Warner, sophomore midfielder Ashley Dryer and senior defender Kelly Lindsey forced Waldrum to alter not only his personnel, but his system as well.
Though both Warner and Lindsey courageously started the game, Dryer was unable to go and her absence alter the Irish style of play. Dryer, a midfielder, was replaced in the lineup by a forward, allowing for the Irish to play a more wide-open first half.
Early in the first half Warner took a perfectly threaded pass from senior forward Meotis Erikson before patiently waiting to slip a low shot past Carolina goalkeeper Jenni Branam, giving the Irish a 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame was controlling not only the scoreboard but the flow of play as well.
"In the first half we actually had Carolina on their heels," Erikson said. "We were going after them, we were very confident going into this game."
North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance, the architect of Carolina's masterpiece of a program was disgusted by his team's first half play.
"What I was concerned about is how miserably we played in the first half," he said. "I felt we were completely outclassed. The thing I told my team is that this is the worst half of soccer we played all year and if we're only down 1-0 this is a miracle. Let's see if we can play a different second half and jump back in it."
And jump back in it they did. Returning to fundamentals the women in Carolina blue dominated the second half, rising from the dead after sophomore Irish sophomore Aly Lovelace missed a golden opportunity to put the nail in the coffin.
Lovelace juked a Carolina defender and eluded the charging Tar Heel goalkeeper Branam leaving herself a wide-open goal. But Carolina defender Catherine Reddick caught up with the play and knocked Lovelace's shot off the goal line, for a save that saved the game.
"That was a huge play by Reddick," Waldrum said. "If we get that goal it would have been a very different game."
Instead sophomore reserve Kim Patrick headed in a perfectly placed corner kick from junior teammate Jenna Klugel to tie the knot, and squelch any momentum the Irish might have had.
"It [the goal] was a mental mistake," Waldrum said. "It was a case of a player on the near post missing her mark."
To the dismay of the Irish, Tar Heel red shirt freshman Jordan Walker was very much on the mark. With less than eight minutes remaining, Walker boomed a ball that had caromed out to her at the top of the box past Irish goalkeeper Liz Wagner to end Notre Dame's season, and ensure at least one more season of Carolina's blue reign.
"I don't think I've ever kicked a ball that hard in my life," Walker said.
All Sports Stories for Monday, December 4, 2000