It was a gorgeous day at Chapell Hill, North Carolina for the NCAA
Women's Soccer National Championship game. It was the first time ever
that the North Carolina Tar Heels were not in the Finals. The Tar Heels were
eliminated on Friday night by the #4 ranked Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame. Here
in South Bend the Loyal Dog Pound was huddled around a TV in St. Ed's dorm
waiting for the kickoff. The Irish came out in their Kelly Green uniforms and
you sorta of got the feeling destiny would play a role.
As was expected the Portland Pilots came out fast but the Irish defense
held tough. Kate Sobrero turned into Shannon MacMillan's shadow for the whole
game. Both teams played absolutely superbly. Senior Forward Michelle McCarthy, played an incredible game. She was all over the field playing
offense and defense. The game turn into a midfield struggle with the Irish trying to play their control and finense game and the Pilots playing their long ball attack. It was all a National Championship game should be. The two best teams going head to head for the Title.
Portland had a chance in the 13th minute when Shannon MacMillan dropped
the ball off to Justi Baumgardt, who shot high and wide to the right.
Over the next ten minutes, Portland had a couple free kicks midway deep
in their offensive end, but no dangerous shots were created.
Notre Dame's first good chance came midway through the first half, but
Monica Gerardo's header on goal was easily saved by Portland keeper Erin
Fahey. Off Fahey's kick, Portland moved right up the field, with Justi
Baumgardt launching a shot just over the crossbar. In the 31st minute,
Cindy Daws put a header on goal after a Holly Manthei corner kick, but
Fahey grabbed it. Two minutes later, Shannon MacMillan broke in alone on
goal, but had to turn her body completely around to shoot. She couldn't
put much on the shot, and Jen Renola smothered it. Notre Dame had a
couple corner kicks placed well by Holly Manthei but did not convert. On
the other end, in the 44th minute, Notre Dame could have made a costly
mistake. Ashley Scharff misplayed a ball which rolled behind her into
the corner. However, no Portland player was nearby and Jen Renola was
over quickly to get the ball. Monica Gerardo had a final shot in the
last minute but it sailed wide left.
In the second half the Irish both teams came out with even more intensity. Holly Manthei made some key attacks for the Irish. Both goalies played superbly. Even early on in the second half you knew that this game was going to be 1-0 but for which team was the question. At the 52nd minute, Holly Manthei played a good ball ahead to Amy VanLaecke, but Erin Fahey beat her to the ball. Notre Dame had a great chance in the 59th minute when Shannon Boxx played the ball ahead for Holly Manthei. Manthei broke in all alone and hammered a shot but Erin Fahey made a great kick-save to prevent Notre Dame from taking the lead. A couple minutes later, Michelle McCarthy sent a blast and Erin Fahey made an awesome diving save. Notre Dame had another close chance when the Irish broke away and Shannon Boxx rocketed a shot off the crossbar in the 70th minute. Moments later, Holly Manthei drove to the corner drawing two defenders then placed a beautifil cross that Erin Fahey missed saving but the cross went harmlessly across to the other side of the field because no Notre Dame players were in close enough to touch it.
Portland then had a few opportunities. Shannon MacMillan headed down a
Maria Schierman cross on goal but Jen Renola picked it up on the hop. A few minutes later, Jenna Johnson had a clear shot on goal but her attempt sailed wide right. Monica Gerardo got off a shot on the other end, saved by Erin Fahey. With about 5 minutes left, Portland had a sequence of 3 corner kicks. Several key saves were made including one by Kate Sobrero, who once again stayed at her assigned post and headed a ball out of the goal. Notre Dame had a
couple minutes of possesion upfield, but this time Portland defenders stopped all the through-balls. After regulation time, the teams were deadlocked 0-0, each team having taken 11 shots.
In the first overtime, Portland had its best opportunity of the day when Freshman Forward Kim Engesser broke free in the Notre Dame eighteen. You could see the intensity, the focus and the composure in Jen Renola's eyes as she made a spectacular dive knocking the ball out wide of the net. A minute later, Wynne McIntosh launched a shot over the crossbar. The Irish launched a counter attack but did not create any real scoring opportunity.
Four minutes into the second overtime, Holly Manthei made a nice run down
the middle of the field, but her shot from the right of the goal sliced
around the right side. A few minutes later, Cindy Daws brought the ball up field and made a pass which Senior Rosella Guerrero stepped over and let it go to Julie Maund, who blasted a shot directly into Erin Fahey, who made the save. Kate Fisher had another shot for ND in the 113th minute, but Fahey punched this one away. Portland had another chance in the 115th minute as Justi Baumgardt vaulted the tackle of a Notre Dame defender. Her shot, however, sailed over the crossbar. After the second overtime, both teams were still tied 0-0.
Notre Dame had taken 18 shots and Portland 14. Jen Renola made 5 saves and Erin Fahey had 7.
In the first minute of the first sudden-death overtime period, a Portland
player took a shot which went high over the goal. Two minutes after
that, Shannon MacMillan beat the Notre Dame defenders, but her shot went
high over the goal as well. In the sixth minute, Michelle McCarthy was dancing the ball up the field and was fouled in the middle of the field a few yards above the eighteen. Notre Dame quickly set up the ball several yards above the penalty area, and Cindy Daws lofted the free kick towards the far post. It appeared that Erin Fahey would make the save but she let it go thinking it was going wide. However the ball, hit off the inside part of the goal post and went in at the 125:31 point in the game. The Goal allowed the Fightin Irish to claim their first Women's Soccer National Championship. The team went nuts and
you couldn't help but think of the Tradition these Women and their coaches are setting. They will be the Gippers and Rockne's of Women's Soccer at Notre Dame. It was just the eighth season for Women's Soccer at Notre Dame. Pertrucelli should be commended for winning the National Championship in just his sixth season considering the dominance that North Carolina has. The Team is AWESOME. All of them played out of their minds and PLAYED LIKE CHAMPIONS.