Today top seed West Virginia and 2007 NCAA champion USC will face off in the NCAA final to determine the 2016 Div1 national champion. The match airs live on ESPNU & WatchESPN app at 5 pm CT. Either Nikki Izzo-Brown (WVU) or Keidane McAlpine (USC) will become just the 14th coach to win a women’s Div1 title (full list below).
Most soccer fans know that North Carolina & its founding soccer coach Anson Dorrance own the lion’s share of national titles, with 21 earned since the first NCAA-sponsored women’s soccer championship was held in 1982. But few know that there’s only one other coach with multiple NCAA Div1 woso titles to his credit – and that’s Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum, who led Notre Dame to eight College Cups, five championship games and two titles (2004 and 2010). Keeper Notes spoke with Waldrum this week about his memories of those title runs.
The first national title for the Fighting Irish came in their third trip to the Final Four, after falling to North Carolina twice (2-0 in the 1999 championship and 2-1 in the 2000 semifinals). The 2004 College Cup was the first in the history of the tournament to not include the Tar Heels, so Notre Dame faced new competition.
Waldrum’s squad defeated Santa Clara 1-0 on a late goal from Candace Chapman in the semifinal to advance to the championship match against a UCLA team coached by current USWNT head coach Jill Ellis.
In a game “with not many chances for either team,” Waldrum remembers that in the second half UCLA “hit a long ball over our backs and our Icelandic centerback Gundrun Gunnarsdottir turned to chase it and tried to play it back to Erika Bohn, our goalkeeper, and didn’t realize Erika was coming out, so she scored the own goal.”
With time running out, Waldrum says he was thinking, “It can’t end this way. If we’re going to lose, let the other team beat us!”
With 15 minutes left in the match, Notre Dame benefited from what Waldrum calls a “questionable penalty,” and Katie Thorlakson stepped up to the spot to convert the equalizer.
At this point Waldrum briefly considered bringing in Notre Dame’s third-string keeper, anticipating that the game could go to a penalty shootout, since that keeper had the best PK statistics in practice. But a few minutes later, Notre Dame’s Melissa Tancredi committed a foul in the box and UCLA got a potentially game-winning penalty kick. Keeper Erika Bohn faced her first PK of the season and came up big with the save, and Waldrum knew he wouldn’t be changing keepers after that.
The game remained tied through the end of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, so the 2004 final became the first Div1 NCAA women’s soccer championship decided by penalties. Bohn made two saves to give Notre Dame a 4-3 edge and its second national title (first for Waldrum; Chris Petrucelli led the team to the 1995 championship).
Canadian Katie Thorlakson was the leading scorer for the tournament, with four goals and six assists, as well as Most Outstanding Offensive Player for the College Cup. Keeper Erika Bohn earned the honor of Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
Meanwhile, Waldrum says he still teases Gunnarsdottir about that own goal: “That was the only goal you scored in your four-year [Notre Dame] career, you just put it in the wrong net.”
It took three more trips to the final before Notre Dame claimed another championship. They fell to North Carolina 2-1 in the 2006 title game (thanks to goals from Heather O’Reilly and Casey Nogueira) and again in 2008 (both goals by Casey Nogueira).
So it seems fitting that the Fighting Irish’s 2010 title round included a historic defeat of the Tar Heels on their own turf. In the round of 16, Notre Dame topped Carolina 4-1 — the worst home defeat for the Tar Heels since 1980 and the first time in the NCAA era (1982-present) that the team allowed four goals in one game.
Current Dash forward Melissa Henderson had a goal and assist for Notre Dame, and a number of NWSL players were part of the Tar Heels squad for the game – Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai, Amber Brooks, Meghan Klingenberg and Meg Morris.
Notre Dame never looked back after that momentous win, topping Oklahoma 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Ohio State 1-0 in the semifinals. They advanced to the final to face #1 national seed Stanford, but Waldrum says he wasn’t worried. “I felt like we had a good game plan to beat them, and felt good about what we had put in place.”
The morning of the final, Waldrum remembers that the Notre Dame faculty rep traveling with the team said, “You don’t seem nervous about this.”
“I’m not. I think this team is going to shock the country. I think we’re fully capable of winning,” Waldrum replied.
On a very chilly gameday, Melissa Henderson assisted freshman Adriana Leon’s second-half goal against a Cardinal squad featuring many names familiar to WoSo fans – Christen Press, Cami Levin, Teresa Noyola, Mariah Nogueira, Rachel Quon and Courtney Verloo.
With about 25 minutes left to play, Waldrum’s assistants suggested substituting in a defender for an attacking player, but he felt that Notre Dame had control of the game and didn’t need to sit back and defend. Final score: Notre Dame 1, Stanford 0.
“It was an amazing run that we went on. Truly, we got hot after the conference tournament. We just weren’t going to be denied.”
Melissa Henderson earned Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors, and was also the leading scorer for the tournament, with 3 goals and 4 assists. Henderson was also a finalist for the 2010 MAC Hermann Trophy award. Notre Dame defender Jessica Schuveiller was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
|NCAA women’s soccer Div1 titles all-time|
|UNC||Anson Dorrance||82, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90||21|
|91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 00|
|03, 06, 08, 09, 12|
|Notre Dame||Randy Waldrum||04, 10||2|
|George Mason||Hank Leung||85||1|
|Notre Dame||Chris Petrucelli||95||1|
|Santa Clara||Jerry Smith||01||1|
|Florida State||Ali Krikorian||14||1|
|Penn State||Erica Walsh||15||1|