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Team sees success despite weak finish

Andy Troeger | Wednesday, November 19, 2003

On Sunday afternoon, Irish coach Randy Waldrum was forced to do what he and many other coaches feel might be the toughest part of his job in talking to his team after a loss to Michigan ended their season. It was a tough loss to digest for an Irish program that was looking to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2000.”The hardest thing to do as a coach is to walk in the locker room after a loss [in the NCAA Tournament],” said Waldrum. “It’s final. Only one coach gets to leave happy. Whether it happened now or later in the tournament, the hurt really isn’t any different. You have to find the words to ease the pain.”Despite the late losses in the NCAA and Big East Tournaments, it would be hard to call the overall season anything less than a success. The team won 20 games for the first time since 2000 and won 18 of their first 19 while earning the No. 2 ranking in the country for most of the season. They set a new standard for defense, shutting out all nine Big East opponents during the regular season and 10 foes in a row at one point, a team record.”It may be hard to look back at the season being a success now,” Waldrum said. “I think later on, we’ll see what we accomplished. The bar is set so high that anything short of the Final Four is a disappointment. There’s nothing wrong with that. Still, winning 20 games is pretty successful.”The feat was especially impressive considering the struggles of the team a year ago. The Irish this season had to fuse together a group of returning veterans with a large group of talented freshmen. Waldrum was especially pleased with the way this year’s team came together.”With where we came from with last year, we’ve made huge strides,” said Waldrum. “The team chemistry has never been better, and we really took care of some leadership issues this year and did well with a lot of things in the program other than just playing.”The Irish and Waldrum will lose four seniors.Amanda Guertin will leave the Irish having been one of the most clutch goal scorers in Irish history, while Vanessa Pruzinsky will leave the mark of being one of only three students in Notre Dame history to achieve a cumulative 4.0 GPA by majoring in Chemical Engineering, not to mention her status as one of Notre Dame’s best all-time defenders. Kim Carpenter will leave the legacy of a walk-on player who not only got to fulfill her dream of playing for the Irish, but made the most of it by playing a key role in her last two seasons and by becoming a team leader from her midfield position. Finally, Amy Warner’s stellar play made her one of only six players in Big East history to earn All-Big East designation all four years, while also becoming a Hermann Trophy semifinalist as a senior. Warner and Pruzinsky were also rare two-year captains for the last two Irish teams.With the exception of those four players, the Irish return the rest of a team that is sure to be near top of the polls starting next season. Add a recruiting class and the women’s soccer team undoubtedly will start next season with the same high expectations that every year brings.