Oct. 1, 2007
Greetings Cardinal Faithful!
The Big East season is now fully upon us, and we knew this past week we would face some stiff competition with games at home against traditional national power Notre Dame and on the road against a tough DePaul team.
Friday night was a perfect atmosphere for soccer, with over 2000 fans in attendance to watch the Cards take on Notre Dame under the lights at Cardinal Park. With Notre Dame's powerful attack minded play we knew we would have to defend well throughout the match to give ourselves a chance. Unfortunately, we came out with too defensive a mindset, giving Notre Dame a little too much respect by allowing the space and time to play. They took advantage 25 minutes into the game when a runner broke in behind the Louisville defense on the right side of the 18 yard box. The attacker fired a low shot from 15 yards out, and though Goalkeeper Joanna Haig was able to make a fantastic reaction save down to her right the rebound fell to a Notre Dame player following in who was able to finish and put the Irish ahead 1-0.
We went into halftime trailing 1-0, knowing that changes needed to be made. We were determined to come out the second half and put them under pressure by trying to play more attacking soccer. We played with much more spirit and tenacity, and our pressure nearly led to an equalizing goal. On one occasion the Notre Dame goalkeeper misjudged a long ball into the box and it bounced over her head, but just as Senior defender Erica Robinson was about to shoot two Notre Dame defenders recovered in behind the goalkeeper and did enough to block Robinson's attempt. We had another chance when Freshman Emily Prokopik hit a shot from the left side of the box that the goalkeeper for Notre Dame once again was unable to hang on to. The ball fell to the feet of Junior Mallory Lampson, but the Notre Dame goalkeeper came through the back of Lampson's legs to smother the ball. There were shouts for a penalty kick call from the stands, but the referee did not give us the call.
In the end the game was a bittersweet 1-0 loss. Certainly we know that we should have come out more aggressive from the start, but at the same time our players showed great character and resilience in the second half to fight our way back into the game and nearly find an equalizer. Our back line was tremendous on the day, as well, holding a talented Notre Dame attack to few real good scoring opportunities. If they continue to perform like this then I like our chances the rest of the year because as the old adage says: defense wins championships.
In our second match of the weekend we traveled up to Chicago to take on the DePaul Blue Demons. They were coming off a great overtime victory at Cincinnati on Friday night, and we knew we were in for another tough Big East battle.
As soon as the opening whistle blew we came after them, earning a corner and a shot on goal in the first two minutes of the game despite playing into a heavy wind in the first half. However, while we controlled the run of play in the first half and outshot them 8-2 we were unable to penetrate the DePaul defense and generate quality goal scoring opportunities, and we went into the half with nothing on the scoreboard to show for our quality play.
Our goal in the second half was to run at the DePaul defense to force their backline to open up and provide seams for us to get in behind. Our players responded in the same way they did against Notre Dame, coming out with a renewed vigor to their play, and it took only twelve minutes to find the goal we had been searching for. Laura Walker received the ball in our half on the left touchline, picked her head up, and found Shannon Smyth who had popped off of the DePaul backline just on the other side of the center circle. Smyth turned with the ball and ran at the defensive line, but seeing that they kept dropping off to prevent a ball in behind she decided to pull up thirty yards out and have a strike on goal. Shannon struck a low dipping ball to the far left corner that was too fierce for the DePaul goalkeeper to catch up to, giving us a much deserved 1-0 lead.
We continued to push forward in hopes of getting another goal, but as the game wore on and we remained in control we began to relax a bit too much and it could have cost us the game. The last few minutes of the game DePaul knew that they only needed one chance to tie the game, and they were determined to fight for that chance until the final whistle. Fortunately we were able to prevail through the remaining 15 minutes and were able to earn our second Big East victory of the season.
A spilt on the weekend leaves us at 7-2-1 on the season, sitting in second place in the National Division of the Big East behind only Notre Dame. This week will be another difficult challenge as we travel to Morgantown to take on another Big East power in West Virginia then head up the road to Pittsburgh for a tough matchup with Pitt on Sunday. Hopefully we will continue to find the results we need and keep the success going throughout the Big East season!
All the best!