Road to the College Cup: Irish women's soccer advance to Elite Eight with 2-0 win over TCU
SOUTH BEND — Maddie Mercado recalled the heartbreak she and her Notre Dame women's soccer teammates felt when they were bounced from last year's NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16.
In a similar spot on Sunday, Mercado did not let it happen again.
The No. 1-seeded Irish already led No. 5 TCU 1-0 in the second half of Sunday's Third Round NCAA Tournament game at Alumni Stadium when Mercado rocketed a shot from outside the 16-yard box into the back of the net in the 61st minute. It gave her team a commanding two-goal lead and one step closer to a national championship with 2-0 victory.
"Back in January we said remember that feeling this whole year," Mercado said. "Our play is to show for that."
Olivia Wingate gave Notre Dame its lead in the 20th minute and Mercado sealed its first Elite Eight trip since the 2012 season. The Irish will host No. 2 North Carolina next Saturday.
"I think our players put in so much work in this weekend to be able to turn that around after Friday's game and still have that intensity and pressure against a really good team," head coach Nate Norman said. "They really stretched us, but really proud of the intensity they gave."
The Irish have been as dominant as any team this NCAA Tournament, outscoring its opponents (Omaha, Santa Clara, TCU) 11-0 through three games.
"We had simple goals this year and that is we want to win a national championship," Norman said. "We just got to take it one step at a time and this was part of the process."
This one, however, didn't come as easy to the Irish. In its past two games Notre Dame had been able to coast through by holding commanding leads. But on Sunday, the Irish had to search for Mercado's insurance goal against a team that hadn't given up more than one in a game since Oct 20.
"I think any game you would like to be comfortably in front, but as you get deeper you play better teams," Norman said. "That (TCU) was going to be a tough team to ever feel super comfortable with because they are a really good team."
The Horned Frogs' 10 shots were more than Notre Dame faced in its other two tournament games combined, though only one ended up being on target, but was saved by Irish goaltender Mackenzie Wood.
Both of those marks could be tested next weekend against a Tar Heels team that has also scored 11 goals on their road to the national quarterfinals.
"We all have a little chip on our shoulder," Mercado said. "Going into that game we are excited because we wanted to see them in ACC play, but figured we would in the tournament. They are a very talented team. So are we, and we are excited to get after them."
NCAA Women's Soccer Elite Eight
- No. 3 Arkansas (13-3-5) at No. 1 Florida State (16-2-3), 5 p.m. Saturday
- No. 2 North Carolina (18-4-1) at No. 1 Notre Dame (17-2-3), 6 p.m. Saturday
- No. 2 Duke (15-4-3) at No. 1 Alabama (22-2-1), 8 p.m. Friday
- No. 3 Virginia (16-3-3) at No. 1 UCLA (19-2-1), 9 p.m. EST Friday
at Cary, N.C.
- Semifinals: Dec. 2, TBA.
- Final: Dec. 5, 6 p.m.