TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a way, it seemed appropriate that No. 19/10 Notre Dame and No. 3 Florida State met on Halloween night, because the ending was all too horrific for the Fighting Irish.
For the third time in the past three weeks, Notre Dame went to double overtime, and for the third time, the Fighting Irish were denied a reward for their hard work, this time dropping a 2-1 decision at FSU on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regular season finale for both teams before a crowd of 1,123 fans at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, Fla.
Sophomore forward Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, Calif./Davis) put Notre Dame on the board with a brilliant unassisted goal in the 28th minute, but Florida State rallied behind a pair of goals by Marta Bakowska-Mathews, the first with 2:35 left in regulation to force the added time, and then the match-winner with 5:36 remaining in the second overtime period.
It was another difficult ending for the Fighting Irish, who wound up outshooting the Seminoles, 17-16, while the teams each recorded seven shots on goal (not including one Notre Dame shot that hit the crossbar). FSU had the edge on corner kicks (9-5) and fouls (11-3).
Freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) took the hard-luck loss in the Notre Dame net, making five saves. Seminole goalkeeper Kelsey Wys turned aside six shots for the hosts.
In addition to being their third double-overtime loss in 21 days, the Fighting Irish also suffered their fifth one-goal loss of the season, including their last four ACC defeats, all of which saw the winning goal come in the final four minutes of regulation or in overtime. What’s more, four of those one-goal setbacks this year have come at the hands of top-10 opponents (No. 4/2 UCLA, No. 1 Virginia, No. 10/12 Virginia Tech and No. 3 FSU), including the last three on the road against conference foes.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating because we really played an outstanding game tonight,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “I’m very proud of our effort and we probably deserved a better fate, but it isn’t about what you deserve, it’s about what you get. Right now, what we’ve got are some great performances for about 80-85 minutes. Those aren’t enough to win games and we’re not creating enough at the offensive end so that we have that cushion when teams make these late rushes at us.
“We’ve played some very good soccer the last couple of weeks since we got back from Virginia and this was another positive in that regard,” he added. “Our midfield play between Morgan (Andrews), Mandy (Laddish) and Cari (Roccaro) was really strong tonight, (center backs) Katie (Naughton) and Sammy (Scofield) were solid on defense and I thought Kaela (Little) did a great job handling a lot of the long throw-ins and high crosses they threw at her. In the end, we just have to keep fighting and battling and we’ll begin to get some results.”
The opening 20 minutes of play saw Florida State (15-1-3, 10-1-2 ACC) have the majority of possession, with the Seminoles earning three corner kicks and also lobbing a variety of crosses and long throw-ins by Ireland National Team player Megan Campbell into the attacking third. However, Notre Dame’s defense stood firm and the Fighting Irish began to assert themselves in the center of the park.
Shortly after the first-half TV timeout, FSU had a golden opportunity when Campbell connected with Kassey Kallman off a corner kick. However, Kallman’s header from 10 yards on the right side of the box deflected off her own teammate, Kirsten Crowley, near the top of the six-yard area, and the Fighting Irish cleared away the danger.
That play proved pivotal moments later, when Notre Dame (11-6-1, 7-5-1) grabbed the lead. Junior defender Taylor Schneider (Southlake, Texas/Carroll Senior) found room on the right flank and looked to fire a service into the box, but the cross was blocked. The ball skipped near the top right corner of the penalty area, where Gilbertson raced to collect it. She then made two nifty possession moves to create space away from a pair of Seminole defenders before moving laterally along the top of the area and curling a left-footed shot high into the far upper left corner of the net past a leaping Wys (27:08) for her fourth goal of the season.
A minute later, Gilbertson had another look, this time running on to a lead pass from Laddish in the right channel. Gilbertson angled toward the goal, but her bid to beat Wys on the short (right) side just grazed the outside of the net.
Schneider was a factor in two other good scoring chances for Notre Dame later in the first half near the 40th minute. First, she tried her own low curling shot from the top right of the box towards the far left post, and while Wys was screened slightly, the shot was off-target. Seconds later, Schneider charged to the deep right corner before whipping a cross back towards the top of the box, where Andrews tried a flying volley but the shot sailed wide left.
Meanwhile, the hosts relied heavily on Campbell’s theatrics, both with her long throw-ins and set pieces to try and draw level before halftime. However, each time the FSU defender tried to fire another dangerous service into the heart of the penalty area, Little rose to the challenge, confidently going up in traffic to pull down the ball and relieve the pressure.
Notre Dame stayed on the front foot in the first 10 minutes of the second half and had a handful of prime opportunities. In the 46th minute, Gilbertson benefitted from some patient possession work in the offensive third, coming in from the right side to drive a sharp daisy-cutter towards the far left post, but Wys dove to her right to push the shot wide of the mark.
In the 51st minute, Schneider made an overlapping run on the right flank before squaring off a pass to Gilbertson at the corner of the box. The second-year striker took a touch with purpose, then tried to chip Wys, who was sneaking off her line, but the shot landed on the roof of the net.
Notre Dame came inches shy of doubling its lead in the 52nd minute, when Andrews tracked down a ball in the left channel and uncorked a rising 25-yard shot that beat Wys, but clanged hard off the crossbar near the upper right corner before being cleared away by the Seminoles’ defense.
The ebbs and flows of the match then swung back to Florida State, beginning with a free kick chance just outside the top right of the box in the 55th minute. Campbell put a solid strike on the curling left-footed shot with traffic coming into the goalmouth, but Little tracked it all the way and disregarded the commotion in front to make a sure-handed grab near the left post.
Campbell had a handful of long throw-ins during the ensuing 15 minutes, while Berglind Thorvaldsdottir twice tried to catch Little away from the right post, but her header off a Campbell throw in the 57th minute went wide and her re-direct off a right-side cross by Jamia Fields in the 68th minute did likewise.
Notre Dame regrouped after the second-half TV timeout and reasserted itself with a flurry of activity in the attacking third. The best look came in the 76th minute when Andrews won a free kick 30 yards out in the left channel, but her serve was cleared out and her reload went directly to Wys.
One minute later, Andrews also picked out Gilbertson with a long cross-field pass and the Fighting Irish forward outmuscled her mark to gain possession in the deep right corner near the end line. She then pulled back a terrific cross towards the top of the box for sophomore Glory Williams (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands), but her left-footed drive whistled over the bar.
Florida State began to send added numbers forward in the final quarter-hour of regulation, even going so far as to send Wys up near the midfield stripe on some of Campbell’s long throw-ins. Yet, each time the Seminoles challenged, Notre Dame was there to defend, and FSU’s 29-match home winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
That all changed in the 88th minute, as Carson Pickett pushed up into the attacking third, sliding a pass ahead to Michaela Hahn, whose shot from the top of the box was blocked by a retreating Fighting Irish defender. However, the ball dropped right to the feet of Bakowska-Mathews, standing a few feet to Hahn’s right, and Bakowska-Mathews alertly fired a shot that tucked into the upper right corner of the goal before Little could react.
Notre Dame had two final chances in regulation, first when Andrews rifled a shot from just outside the top of the box that handcuffed Wys, who could only paddle the ball down and then saw it cleared for a corner kick. On that ensuing service, the teasing cross came into the heart of the six-yard box, but no Fighting Irish player could get a boot to the ball and overtime came calling.
The first extra period didn’t result in much offense at either end, with neither team registering a shot in the frame and each side earning one corner kick in those 10 minutes.
In the second overtime, FSU leaned heavily on the Notre Dame defense and nearly won it in the 103rd minute, when Campbell’s corner kick was sent to the top of the area, then headed back in front, where Crowley had space near the edge of the six-yard box, but her header went directly to Little.
That proved to be only a temporary respite for the visitors. Off a Wys clearance to the left sideline, Campbell appeared to be hemmed in by two Fighting Irish defenders just beyond the midfield stripe. However, she wriggled out of danger and raced along the touch line before driving a low left-footed cross into the box. Bakowska-Mathews was on a run down the middle of the area and met the ball with a well-timed diving header from eight yards out for the decisive goal.
“It’s a very fine line that we’re walking and we’ve come very close to banking some extremely important wins, but close doesn’t cut it any more,” Waldrum said. “No one feels sorry for us, and we certainly don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We all realize it’s the playoffs now, and another mistake or lack of focus like tonight could mean we’re done, either in the ACC tournament or the NCAAs.”
Notre Dame makes its first appearance in the ACC Championship on Sunday when the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish travels to Blacksburg, Va., for a 1 p.m. (ET) quarterfinal match against fourth-seeded (and No. 5-ranked) Virginia Tech. The teams squared off on that same pitch back on Oct. 13, when the Hokies squeezing out a 1-0 win on Ellie Zoepfl’s goal with 3:45 left in regulation.
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