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Irish Survive Lightning, Stop Panthers

Nov 9, 2012, 9:50 PM EST

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Considering I had woken up to frost on more than one occasion this week, Friday’s weather seemed unseasonably warm. Even as I arrived for Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the temperature was in the 50s.

The weather was warm, but just minutes before kick off, the sky opened up and the rain came down over Alumni Stadium. Then, barely seven minutes into the game – a flash of lightning.

Seconds later, the referee blew his whistle. There was no call for “Usher 800″ (sorry for revisiting those bad memories of 2011), but it was time to evacuate the stadium.

Yes, lightning in November. Fans headed for the Joyce Center (some caught a glimpse of the volleyball team’s five-set win over Cincinnati), while we sat in the press box for close to thirty minutes, before the Irish and Panthers received the signal to return to the pitch.

After a short warm-up, play resumed, but neither squad could get much going offensively.

In the 28th minute, Katie Naughton was called for a yellow card, an infraction that turned out to be costly, as Helen Steinhauser connected on a penalty kick to give UW-Milwaukee a 1-0 advantage.

But just before the half, it was redemption time for the freshman from Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Naughton scored on a header from six yards out, off a corner kick by Brittany Von Rueden. Her third goal of the season knotted the score at one, boosting the spirits of the “Baby Irish” before they left to the locker room.

In the 53rd minute, Lauren Bohaboy provided what proved to be the deciding goal, finishing a deflection in the box from eight yards out.

The Panthers would not go down quietly, however.

It’s a good thing the Irish had the tallest player on their roster between the pipes this evening. With just minutes remaining, UWM looked to tie the game, sending a shot sailing towards the Notre Dame goal. The ball bounced in front of 6’0″ freshman keeper Elyse Hight, who had to get up on her toes to make the save and preserve the lead.

Crystal Thomas added a late insurance goal – her ninth of the year – to seal a 3-1 victory.

It was the last home appearance of 2012 for the Irish, who after the final whistle, received a warm ovation from the fans who stuck through the delay to see them improve to 45-3-0 all-time in NCAA postseason home matches.

Head coach Randy Waldrum‘s team will play the winner of the Wake Forest-Georgia Southern game in the second round at a TBD location on Nov. 16. Stay tuned to UND.com for a full recap of tonight’s tournament-opening victory.

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