Five straight wins. Zero losses or ties in the ACC. Five shutouts on the year. The first hat trick since 2011. The most goals against a ranked opponent since 2010. Everything came together Thursday night for No. 3 Notre Dame's most dominating victory of the season, 5-0 against No. 21 Maryland.
"I thought we were good in all phases of the game tonight," Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. "We had to begin with pressure up front, and we built from that. There wasn't a bad performance."
With the win, the Irish pushed their record to 8-1-0 and remained perfect in the ACC at 4-0-0. Maryland fell to 6-4-0 on the year and 2-2-0 in the ACC. The driving force behind the Irish dominance was sophomore CariRoccaro, who started at forward instead of midfield. Roccaro responded with three goals, the most in program history since Irish offensive legend Melissa Henderson tallied four against DePaul in 2011. The goals were the first Roccaro has scored on the season, after scoring six last fall.
"I had a feeling that I was going to get one tonight," Roccaro said. "I didn't think I was going to get three. The other forwards really helped me. [Junior forward] Lauren Bohaboy got me the ball on the first one and I just walked it in, and her pressure on the second let me just walk it in again."
After a first half hour in which Maryland's defense kept the Irish out of the attacking third, Bohaboy fed a wide-open Roccaro a pinpoint cross for the easy goal in the 32nd minute.
Bohaboy and Roccaro combined again in the 55th minute to trap a poor clearance by the Terrapin defense, which Roccaro then slotted into the bottom right corner of the net to extend the Irish lead to 3-0.
Roccaro's hat trick was completed five minutes later, when junior forward Karin Simonian chipped a ball to the center of the box, where Roccaro collided with Terrapin sophomore goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands eight yards from the goal. The ball squirted loose and into the net, giving Roccaro her first career hat trick.
"Roccaro, Simonian and Bohaboy were fantastic in starting the offense for us," Waldrum said. "The front line set the tone right off the bat today."
Sophomore forwards Crystal Thomas and Anna Maria Gilbertson also scored for the Irish. Thomas's goal came with just six seconds left in the first half, giving Notre Dame a 2-0 lead. Gilbertson ended the night's offensive deluge in the 78th minute on a scorching, curling shot from 20 yards out into the upper left hand corner of the net, shocking the crowd at Alumni Stadium into stunned silence.
Defensively, the Irish had another strong performance, posting their second straight shutout and shutting down Maryland's top two scorers, senior forward Hayley Brock and sophomore midfielder Ashley Spivey. Neither Spivey or Brock managed a single shot.
"Defensively, we played great," Waldrum said. "We held Hayley Brock in check, and she's been giving everyone trouble all season. They kept the standard high, as usual."
Tonight, though, it was all about the offense, Waldrum said.
"We've struggled to create opportunities offensively in a couple big games," Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. "It was nice to score some goals against a really good team."
After having a week to prepare for Maryland, the Irish return to the field Sunday against Pittsburgh, wrapping up their four-game home stand. Waldrum said he knows his team has to remain focused or risk another thriller like its 1-0 victory over Syracuse.
"Keeping them focused is the challenge," Waldrum said. "We're familiar with Pittsburgh. They came out of the Big East with us, so we're used to them. We just need to make sure that the girls don't celebrate this win too much over the next two days, so we don't get caught.
"We need to get as many points as we can, especially at home, in a conference like the ACC. The good thing is that we got a lot of starters rest tonight in the second half."
Pittsburgh has struggled so far, falling to 4-6-1 and 0-5-0 in the ACC after a loss to North Carolina on Thursday. However, Roccaro said she believes the Irish will be retain their focus for the Panthers.
"We just need to rest up and rehydrate," she said. "We all know we have to focus on Pittsburgh. All we need is the win."
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