In a 2008 Sweet Sixteen rematch, the Minnesota women's soccer team was unable to prevent the same outcome as the Gophers suffered a 1-0 season-opening loss to fourth-ranked Notre Dame on Friday night at Alumni Soccer Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
Despite the sweltering heat in South Bend, which reached temperatures as high as 90 degrees on the field, the two teams played each other evenly for the first 78 minutes of action on Friday in an eerily similar match to teams' first meeting in the 2008 NCAA tournament - a game that ended in overtime when the Fighting Irish snapped a scoreless tie on a penalty kick. Friday's game wouldn't require additional time, however, as Notre Dame's Melissa Henderson tallied the Irish's first goal of the season at 78:42. The junior forward came up with ball just inside the box and slipped a shot past the outstretched arms of sophomore goalkeeper Cat Parkhill and inside the far left post for an unassisted goal. The lucky strike would prove to be enough, though, as a stoic Irish defense held off a late push by the Gophers in the game's final minutes.
Henderson's goal was the lone blemish for Parkhill and the Minnesota defense. Last year's Big Ten All-Rookie goalkeeper turned away seven of the eight shots on goal she faced including a diving save to stop Lauren Fowlkes' long-distance shot from the middle third in the first 45-minute stanza. Parkhill also turned away a point-blank shot by Henderson in the opening minutes of the second half while the Minnesota defense cleared the rebound attempt to preserve what was a scoreless tie at the time.
Offensively, Minnesota (0-1-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Ten) matched the Irish in shots with 15 a piece and held a 9-5 advantage on corner kicks, but the Gophers struggled to land their shots on goal. Three times Minnesota was turned away by senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss, who earned the shutout for Notre Dame. The Gophers best offensive opportunity came in the 22nd minute of the first half when senior midfielder Katie Bethke fed junior forward Tamara Strahota with a corner kick only to have Strahota's shot blocked by Notre Dame's Jazmin Hall.
Minnesota had two more attempts to beat Weiss in the final minutes after Henderson's goal, but the senior goalkeeper was able to turn away a pair of shots from Strahota and junior forward Shari Eckstrom to preserve the win for Notre Dame.
Gophers senior midfielder Kylie Kallman and Eckstrom paced Minnesota with four total shots in the losing effort while Strahota led the team with three shots on goal. For the Irish (1-0-0, 0-0-0 Big East), Henderson placed three of her six shots on goal while Rose Augustin tallied three shots on goal in four attempts.
The loss marks the first time Minnesota has dropped a season opener since 2007 when the Gophers lost 2-1 to Central Florida on Aug. 31.
Minnesota returns to action next week with a three-game road trip starting on Friday, Aug. 27 at Vanderbilt.