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Womens Soccer: Now it counts

Andy Troeger | Friday, November 7, 2003

Two years ago, the Irish won their seventh consecutive Big East Championship in Piscataway, N.J., by defeating Boston College in the semifinals and then West Virginia in the championship game.

Joined by Villanova, those same teams return to Piscataway this weekend as the Irish again match up with the Eagles in Big East semifinal action Friday, while West Virginia will take on Villanova in the other bracket.

The Irish would love nothing better than to regain the championship, whether or not they follow the same form as in 2001. By not even qualifying for the Big East Tournament in 2002, the Irish are hungry to regain the championship in a tournament in which they have never lost.

“I think that was one of the goals all along this season,” said Irish coach Randy Waldrum of regaining the Big East Championship. “Not even making it last year after winning so much, we’ve wanted this since the beginning of the season.”

The Irish, ranked No. 3 by the NSCAA and No. 4 by Soccer America this week after falling to Michigan in their regular season finale, hardly have an easy task awaiting them if they want to win their eighth Big East title. Boston College (No. 22 NSCAA/No. 18 SA) comes in at 14-2-2 and as the second seed from the Northeast Division.

In the other game, West Virginia (No. 10 NSCAA/No. 7 SA) comes in having been ranked in the top 10 most of the year and having amassed a record of 15-3-1.

Villanova, fresh off an upset of Northeast Division Champion Connecticut, is 14-5-1 on the year and took the Irish to overtime at Alumni Field last month.

Boston College advanced by beating Rutgers 2-1 in the quarterfinals and is led by sophomore Katie McGregor and senior Sarah Rahko. The Eagles started the season 8-0 and have currently hit their stride, winning five consecutive games.

“We’ve played them before, although not this season,” Waldrum said. “They’re pretty similar though personnel-wise. They are good defensively and don’t give up many goals. They’re a team that will give you a difficult game and is capable of beating you.”

While the Irish and Eagles have not played this season, they are familiar with each other. The Irish defeated Boston College 3-0 in that semifinal two years ago, and then beat the Eagles 1-0 last year on a golden goal from Amanda Guertin in overtime. Guertin, Amy Warner and Melissa Tancredi all scored in the 3-0 win two seasons ago.

This time around, however, the Irish will have to go without Warner, who suffered a severely sprained ankle in the game against Miami and is listed as week-to-week. Junior Mary Boland also remains questionable for this weekend’s game, which means the Irish could be without their two leading scorers.

The Irish did get a boost against Miami from the return of defender Tancredi, who is still slowed somewhat by an ankle injury.

The Irish depth up front will come into play, as sophomore Maggie Manning and freshman Lizzie Reed are very capable of stepping in alongside Guertin and sophomore Katie Thorlakson as the Irish forwards.

“I don’t think we’ll change things too much,” Waldrum said. “Amy and Mary give us the opportunity to press more, so we won’t do that quite as often, but we’ll have the same mindset. Lizzie and Maggie can give us some of the same pressing mindset, but we lose a little without Amy’s pace and athleticism.”

Notes

-If the Irish get past Boston College, they will face a team seeking revenge. Notre Dame beat then No. 5 West Virginia 2-0 and Villanova 1-0 on the same weekend in early October.

-Three of the four teams remaining in the tournament come from the Mid-Atlantic Division, with Boston College being the lone representative from the Northeast side.