Nov. 13, 2010

Courtesy of Notre Dame

-- Senior co-captain Lauren Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo./St. Teresa's Academy) scored twice and junior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) added her milestone 50th career goal as the No. 7/10 Notre Dame women's soccer team rolled to a 3-0 win over New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Championship on a clear and crisp Friday night before 1,394 fans at Alumni Stadium.

With the victory, the Fighting Irish advance to the final-32 of the NCAA tournament for the 17th consecutive season, with Notre Dame playing host to 22nd-ranked USC at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday at Alumni Stadium. The Trojans booked their spot in this year's second round with a 3-1 win over Illinois in Friday's first match on the Notre Dame campus.

Fowlkes, who came into the contest with one goal and four total points this year, doubled her season point output with a pair of second-half goals less than 15 minutes apart that iced Friday's win. Henderson had put the Fighting Irish on the board with a penalty kick conversion in the 21st minute, while a pair of freshmen -- defender Kecia Morway (Lake Villa, Ill. /Lakes Community) and midfielder Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) -- earned the assists on Fowlkes' goals. For Morway, it was her first career point.

Senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss (Redding, Conn./Immaculate) worked the first 84-plus minutes in the Notre Dame net, making two saves. Sophomore Maddie Fox (San Jose, Calif./Leigh) was not tested in the final 5:45, as the Fighting Irish recorded their 11th shutout of the season, and the fourth combined clean sheet for Weiss and Fox.

Kelli Cornell made six saves while going the distance in goal for UNM, which came into the contest ranked second in the nation in both goals-against average (0.39) and save percentage (.913), having allowed only eight goals all season before arriving in South Bend.

However, Notre Dame (16-2-2) ended up with a 20-7 shot advantage over New Mexico, including a 9-2 edge in shots on goal. The Fighting Irish also earned four of the six corner kicks in the match, while each team was whistled for eight fouls on the night.

"This was a solid first-round effort for us tonight," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "After almost two weeks without a match, I know our players were anxious to get out there and battle someone other than themselves. We got off to more of a shaky start than I would have liked, but after the first 10 minutes, I thought we settled in and really controlled the tempo. Our offensive efficiency was a bit better, and that's saying a lot when you're going up against a team as strong defensively as New Mexico is. That's a very good team we just beat and it's a good way for us to start the NCAA tournament."

Making its first-ever NCAA postseason appearance, the Lobos (12-3-5) didn't appear fazed by playing on the larger stage, as they came out and forced Notre Dame into a handful of early goal kicks, despite not actually formulating a solid offensive chance. It took the Fighting Irish a few minutes to get their feet under them, but once the hosts did, the play tilted markedly in Notre Dame's favor and seemed to frustrate the Mountain West Conference regular season champions.

Henderson had the first good opportunity of the night in the 11th minute, racing down the left flank before whipping a cross into the penalty box, where Fowlkes crashed to the back post, but the ball skipped on the damp turf and the veteran ended up mis-hitting her shot high over the bar.

Six minutes later, senior forward/midfielder Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) got loose in the right channel, angling into the area and then ripping a 10-yard shot that clanged hard off the woodwork. Augustin got a second chance from a sharper angle on the right side, but Cornell covered the post well and was able to get down and make the stop.

The constant Notre Dame pressure finally paid off at the 20:24 mark, when Henderson took a pass on the right wing, cut back against the grain into the box and ultimately was hauled down by UNM defender Liz Nare just to the right of the penalty spot. Henderson calmly stepped up and slotted home the charity try for her team-high 15th goal of the season and 50th score of her career, making her the 11th Fighting Irish player to reach that milestone.

Henderson nearly added an assist to her score less than a minute later, drilling a pass from the left side that found its way through the goal mouth to Augustin, whose sliding toe-poke from six yards out just drifted wide of the right post.

Notre Dame continued its attack into the early moments of the second half, as Augustin's point-blank shot on the left side of the six-yard box was deflected away by a Lobo defender near the goal line (46:30), and then her chip over the top to freshman midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) almost led to a score, but Tucker slipped on the turf and didn't get full measure on her shot, which was stopped by Cornell (48:20).

Fowlkes then asserted herself during the ensuing quarter-hour and ended all doubt about Friday's outcome. In the 56th minute, Morway expertly read an attempted New Mexico clearance at the top left edge of the attacking third and quickly slid a pass to Fowlkes, who was stationed with her back to goal near the penalty spot. She took a brief touch to her left, pivoted and cracked a low drive inside the right post as she was falling down for the important insurance score (55:09).

Down by a pair of goals, New Mexico wouldn't go quietly and nearly got one back at the midpoint of the second half. Jennifer Williams found space between two Notre Dame defenders and volleyed a cross off the bar from eight yards out. The rebound came right back to the Lobo striker a little further from goal, but her second attempt was blocked on a great individual play by senior defender Julie Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard). The final UNM shot by Zaneta Wyne then whistled high and wide of the mark, and the danger was averted for Fighting Irish fans.

The final Notre Dame goal was due in part to some solid hustle after it appeared the Lobos had cleared away a Fighting Irish corner kick. The ball bounded out to Laddish on the right flank, and the rookie lofted a cross back into the mixer, where Fowlkes rose high over the masses and headed home her second goal of the night (and third of the season).

Notre Dame now turns its attention to Sunday's NCAA second-round match against USC. The Fighting Irish and Trojans have played only once before, with Notre Dame earning a 2-0 victory on Sept. 1, 2006, at old Alumni Field. Tickets for Sunday's second-round contest are available by going on-line to the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web page, or visiting the Alumni Stadium ticket windows on the day of the match.