WOMEN’S SOCCER: Lady Tops tumble to No. 3 Irish

Beth Wilberding

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Before a crowd of 1,000 fans, Western’s women’s soccer team walked onto Notre Dame’s Alumni Field ready to face the best team it had ever played.

In the Lady Toppers’ two-year history, the team had never played a team that was ranked in the top five. Saturday night, the team got its chance with the third-ranked Irish.

However, Notre Dame prevailed as it beat Western 5-0. The Irish scored three goals in the first five minutes of the second half. That spurt doomed Western.

“If you give up three goals in five minutes, you can’t win,” coach Jason Neidell said. “We were 2-0 for 85 minutes.”

The Fighting Irish are undefeated this season.

Notre Dame scored its first goal 15 minutes into the game when Annie Schefter beat Western goalkeeper Becky Kasper from 30 yards out off an assist from Amanda Guertin.

Their next goal came four minutes later when Amy Warner headed the ball into the net for her fifth goal of the season.

For the remainder of the first half, the Lady Toppers were able to hold the Irish scoreless, though Notre Dame dominated the ball for the game. Kasper had four saves in the first half.

The Irish came out strong after intermission. Katie Thorlakson scored her first two goals of the season off assists from Maggie Manning and Warner. The Irish scored their final goal of the night off a penalty kick from Schefter.

Notre Dame held the Lady Toppers to just three shots for the night, with only one shot on the goal. The Irish had 21 shots for the match. Notre Dame has outscored opponents 27-3 this season.

Despite the loss, Neidell was proud of how his team played.

“Jenny Dalby played fantastic tonight, maintaining the third or fourth best forward in the country,” Neidell said. “Andrea Doogs, Christi Banas and Jocelyn Roach were steady in the midfield.”

Players believe playing Notre Dame will help them when conference play begins.

“We saw how fast the speed of play can be at this level,” Roach said. “If we can play like we did tonight against Denver, we can hang with them.”

Western assistant coach David Neidell graduated from Notre Dame and was excited for the chance to play at his alma mater.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “We’re a better team (Sunday) than we were (Saturday).”

Jason Neidell said the team has improved because of the game.

“I really liked what I saw defensively,” Neidell said. “I liked the attacks we were able to put together.”

The one setback of the night was the number of goals the Lady Toppers gave up in the second half.

After playing one of the best teams in the country, Western is looking to improve on what it learned Saturday.

The Lady Toppers (2-3) will host High Point at 7 p.m. Friday.

“Losing to Notre Dame was not a setback for us,” Neidell said. “You only get a couple of opportunities in your life to play the best of the best. (Saturday), we played the best of the best.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]