CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Emma Higgins spent the 2011 girls' high school soccer season watching and waiting for her opportunity to don a Notre Dame jersey. With her offensive output this season, it's clear that the Lady Irish were waiting for her, too.
Higgins scored a hat trick as the Class A/AA fifth-ranked Lady Irish claimed a 3-0 victory over Cleveland at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex.
The freshman has scored four of the team's six goals so far this season, possibly solving a need at a position where Notre Dame struggled at times last season -- goal production.
"I was a little shocked," she said afterward. "I was shocked that I made shots, and also by how well the team played. It was the best we've played all season."
She scored on feeds from Blair Barker, Jessica Leath and Hannah Dearing -- the last two coming in the final 13 minutes of play.
"Emma works hard. She's a good player," Notre Dame coach Jim Schermerhorn said. "She's still learning how to link up with the midfielders, but she's a quick learner and I see no problem in her ability to figure that out."
Notre Dame (2-1-1) hadn't played in 10 days, and the rust showed a little bit in the early going. But Higgins' goal in the 24th minute seemed to jumpstart the team.
"I didn't think we looked good in warmups, but as the game went on, we started to pick up the tempo," Schermerhorn said. "We held the ball well and possessed well.
"We just have to work on getting better chances, but overall I thought we looked pretty good."
Cleveland (2-2-2) also improved as the match went on and created a few opportunities in the final minutes. Lady Raiders goalkeeper Jenna Scoggins finished with eight saves.
"Notre Dame is a good team," Cleveland coach Andy Byrd said. "We usually get better after playing good teams, and we're still sorting things out now, but it wasn't a good night."