Oct. 4, 2009

Courtesy of Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Despite a season-high 25 shots, including eight on goal, and with a stout defense that allowed just three total shots after halftime (none on frame), No. 10/8 Notre Dame wound up finishing in a 0-0 double-overtime tie at Pittsburgh in BIG EAST Conference action on an overcast Sunday afternoon at a muddy Founders Field in Indianola, Pa.

The scoreless draw is just the eighth in the 22-year history of the Fighting Irish women's soccer program, and the first since Aug. 31, 2007, when Notre Dame posted similar shot totals (and ultimately a similar result) against Michigan in its season opener at old Alumni Field. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish moved their NCAA-record unbeaten streak against conference opponents to 57 games (54-0-3).

Junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) got the starting nod in the Notre Dame net, making a career-high four saves to record her first career solo shutout. The Fighting Irish outshot Pittsburgh, 25-7 in the contest (15-2 after halftime), including the 8-4 edge in shots on goal (6-0 after halftime). The Panthers earned a slim 5-4 advantage in corner kicks, while Notre Dame was whistled for 15 fouls to nine for Pittsburgh.

"We should have been able to gain a better result from today's game, based on the chances we created," Fighting Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "Sure, getting a point on the road in conference play is fine, but our finishing was not up to par today and that's what we'll continue to focus on as we move forward."

After an early acclimation period for both teams, Notre Dame (8-3-1, 4-0-1 BIG EAST) got the first good look of the day at 12:41, as junior forward Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) worked down the left flank, then served a ball across the box, where junior midfielder Amanda Clark (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) tried a lunging right toe poke toward the back post that was tipped away with a diving full-extension save by Pittsburgh goalkeeper Alison Finch.

Less than two minutes later, Fowlkes again found room in the left channel, this time collecting a ball at the top left of the penalty area and winding up for a 20-yard right-footed shot that curled just wide of the upper right 90.

Clark got a second chance 25 minutes into the first half, as she settled a right-side free kick by Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) with a chest trap in the box, but her one-timer from 12 yards out skipped wide of the right post.

Pittsburgh (6-2-4, 1-0-4) got its best look of the first half with 15:29 to go in the period after being fouled 22 yards out on the left flank. Laura Berbert took the ensuing free kick, but it sailed directly into the waiting arms of Weiss.

Fowlkes and Augustin nearly connected on a score in the final three minutes of the half, as Augustin's long throw-in from the right side found its way to Fowlkes near the top of the area on the right side. The Fighting Irish attacker turned quickly and fired one shot that was blocked back to her, before her second try was deflected across the box. Junior midfielder Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale) tracked the ball down, but her rushed left-footed volley twisted off frame.

Play remained in the middle third of the field for the early portion of the second half. Notre Dame broke the stalemate with a pair of good chances, the first with 25 minutes left coming when Augustin sprang junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) down the right channel. Henderson knifed back against the grain at the edge of the box and slipped a cross to the far left side, where sophomore midfielder Molly Campbell (Mission Hills, Kan./St. Teresa's Academy) cracked a 12-yard blast that Finch did extremely well to parry over the crossbar.

Moments later, Campbell herself dodged traffic down the right flank and cut back inside, but her left-footed shot from 20 yards away drifted high and wide of the left post.

Henderson created two more chances, first with 17 minutes left when she hit an overlapping Fowlkes on the right side, and she in turn crossed to Augustin on the left side of the penalty area, but Augustin didn't get all of her 15-yard shot and Finch gobbled up the loose ball.

The game's most disputed play came with at the 75-minute mark, when Henderson got free behind the Pittsburgh defense and raced into the right side of the box, only to have her legs taken out by the trailing Panther defender for an apparent penalty kick. However, as a dazed Henderson lay prone on the field, referee Tom George refused to call the penalty, setting loose a rare tirade from Waldrum that ultimately resulted in a similarly-rare yellow card issued to the Notre Dame head coach (who still has received less than a half-dozen bookings in his 11 seasons with the Fighting Irish).

"We'll have to take a look at that play again (on film), but it seemed pretty clear to everyone that Melissa was taken down in the box," Waldrum said. "But we'll let the film say all that should be said about that."

Notre Dame created two more opportunities in the final five minutes of regulation. With 4:45 left, Augustin played a through-ball to Henderson on the left flank, with the second-year Fighting Irish attacker getting off a right-footed shot that sailed high. Then in the 87th minute, Fowlkes sent a ball up the right channel for junior forward Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas/Martin), who drove toward the end line, then crossed the ball to the far left side of the box, where Augustin tried to beat Finch with a 12-yard chip over the onrushing goalkeeper. However, Finch smothered the shot and the teams were headed to overtime.

Campbell got off a 20-yard shot early in the first extra period, but that try whistled high. Pittsburgh came back and earned three of its five corner kicks in a two-minute span midway through the first OT, but none of those attempts from the flag amounted to anything. Late in the second overtime, Henderson had a look at goal, but her hurried shot from distance was gathered in by Finch, leaving matters unsettled on the afternoon.

Notre Dame will be back on the road next weekend for a two-game swing through New Jersey, beginning Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. (ET) at No. 13 Rutgers, and continuing Sunday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. (ET) at Seton Hall.

-- ND --

POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame's most recent tie was a 1-1 deadlock at #12 West Virginia on Nov. 11, 2007, in the title game of the BIG EAST Championship (WVU took the conference title, 5-3 on penalty kicks, but the result is recorded as a tie) ... two of the three draws for the Fighting Irish during their NCAA-record 57-game unbeaten streak against BIG EAST teams were scoreless ties, with the other coming at Connecticut on Oct. 13, 2006 ... Notre Dame also continues a 24-game road unbeaten streak (21-0-3) against conference opponents, with both BIG EAST runs starting with a 4-0 win at South Florida on Oct. 2, 2005 ... the Fighting Irish played back-to-back overtime games for the first time in the Waldrum era, and the first time since Oct. 16-23, 1998, when they played three consecutive OT contests (1-1 at #4 Connecticut, 2-3 at Seton Hall, 1-0 2OT at #21 Michigan); the only other time in its history that Notre Dame has played consecutive OT games was in its 1995 national championship season, when the Fighting Irish had three straight overtime games (Sept. 29-Oct. 6) and four out of five (also Oct. 13) ... Notre Dame now is 9-0-1 all-time against Pittsburgh, having posted seven shutouts in 10 games against the Panthers, including six of the past seven meetings ... the Fighting Irish had a season-high 25 shots, one more than their total at Cincinnati on Sept. 25 ... Weiss notched her first career solo shutout after collecting 13 shared clean sheets (two this year) in her first two-plus seasons at Notre Dame ... Weiss also had a career-high four saves, one more than her total in a 2-1 overtime loss to #16 Oklahoma State on Sept. 16, 2007 ... in addition to Waldrum's yellow card late in regulation, Notre Dame assistant coach Ken Nuber was booked at the end of the game ... among those in attendance at Sunday's contest was former Fighting Irish midfielder Randi Scheller ('04), who is from Kutztown, Pa. -- she's the latest in a line of program alums who have seen Notre Dame play on the road this season, including LaKeysia Beene (`00) and Carrie Dew (`09) at Santa Clara, and Erika Bohn (`06) at Cincinnati.