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WOMENS SOCCER: Irish are cautiously optimistic

Andy Troeger | Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Randy Waldrum knew he would find out something about his team when the Irish traveled to the Santa Clara Tournament this past weekend in California. After tying Stanford 0-0 and beating the host Broncos 2-1, he knew he liked what he found.

“As a coaching staff we’re ecstatic,” Waldrum said. “Both the teams we played are very good teams and will be there at the end of the season, at least in the final 16.”

Despite only tying Stanford, the Irish played solid soccer in both contests, dominating play despite being on the road in difficult, hot conditions.

“We had a lot of good opportunities But we just didn’t put them away,” senior forward Amy Warner said. “You have to credit them defensively, they are extremely organized.”

The Irish received many strong performances, including especially good outings from Katie Thorlakson and Christie Shaner. Thorlakson, who scored the game winner against Santa Clara, was named offensive MVP of the tournament, while Shaner was defensive MVP.

“Christie Shaner had a great weekend for us,” Waldrum said. “It was good for her confidence and good for the older players to have more confidence in her. Thorlakson was extremely good for us. It was nice to see her have that kind of weekend.”

The win and tie keep Notre Dame ranked No. 2 in the NSCAA poll behind perennial title competitor North Carolina. Since the top teams get to play NCAA Tournament games at home, the Irish realized the importance these wins could have on their eventual NCAA Tournament positioning. The Irish play their next eight games at home, including important contests against Big East foes West Virginia, Connecticut and Villanova.

“The older kids know the importance of the national rankings and seedings,” Waldrum said. “We have to continue to fight for a top four seed. We went out there feeling like we were expecting to win, without being overconfident.”

In addition to Thorlakson and Shaner, Warner and Mary Boland have now made the All-Tournament Team at all three tournaments in which the Irish have competed. Boland scored the first goal against the Broncos, and assisted on Thorlakson’s game winner. She now leads the team with seven goals on the year, with Warner being second with five.

“We count on Amy being solid,” Waldrum said. “She has such an impact because teams are so concerned with her and it frees up other players. She’s really important for us whether she scores or not.”

The Irish are already back to work, preparing for their next game against North Texas. At 7-0-1, the Irish are back in a familiar position near the top of the polls. Despite the positive feelings created by the solid early showings, the Irish know they have a number of challenges ahead.

“As a coach we worry about all the games,” Waldrum said. “We have to keep them focused and not look ahead. We’re creating chances and the defense keeps getting better.

“We’ve got that Notre Dame feel again, and we expect to win.”