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Notre Dame faces No. 4 Santa Clara and No. 13 Stanford at adidas Classic

Matt Mooney | Friday, September 3, 2004

So much for getting their feet wet.With only two games under its collective belt, Notre Dame will face perhaps its biggest challenge of the regular season when the Adidas Classic begins at Alumni Field today. Santa Clara, ranked No. 4 in both the Soccer America and Soccer Buzz polls, will headline the teams visiting South Bend, followed by Stanford (No. 13, No. 19) and Southern Methodist. The No. 2 Irish (2-0-0) will face the two toughest visitors when they host Stanford (1-0-0) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and cap off the weekend with a 1:30 p.m. match against growing rival Santa Clara (0-0-1).Coach Randy Waldrum admits the two games this weekend could have vital importance to the Irish season. “[Stanford and Santa Clara] are going to be complete teams and it’s going to be a challenge for us,” he said. “They expose your weaknesses. These are the kind of teams that can test your players and test your system.”Despite the steep caliber of competition, Waldrum likes the idea of testing his team so early in the season. “Whether you win the early games or lose the early games, they’re played more for finding out the areas we need to improve before the end of the season gets here,” he said. “It’s a great way for us to measure where we are.”Notre Dame met a similarly difficult challenge last year traveling to California to face off against the same two teams in SCU’s Adidas Classic. Stanford, behind star goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, kept the Irish out of the net, but Irish netminder Erika Bohn was equal to the task, resulting in a 0-0 stalemate. Both goalkeepers return this year for a rematch.Meanwhile, Santa Clara gave the Irish all they could handle before eventually falling to Notre Dame by a narrow 2-1 margin.”Santa Clara has got one of the top programs of the country year in and year out,” Waldrum said. “It’s turned into a good rivalry with us over the last few years.”This year, the Irish hope to add more offensive firepower to the mix, and their leading candidate is Big East Player of the Week Katie Thorlakson. The Irish forward surged out of the gate this season, having a hand (or a foot) in eight of the 10 Irish goals scored in the first two games. She totaled seven points (two goals, three assists) in the first half of a 7-2 blowout of Baylor to tie a school record and then assisted on all three goals scored against Eastern Illinois.”[I’m] just looking to create chances and hopefully our team will finish a lot better [with our] goal scoring,” Thorlakson said. “Mentally I’m pretty strong so I just try and go out and perform.”As pleased as Waldrum is with Thorlakson’s statistical success, he is even happier that one of his stars is finally gaining some national recognition.”I’m so happy that the Big East finally recognized her. Last year she had a great year for us and she was so underappreciated by people outside of our program,” he said. “It was a travesty for her not to be on the all-Big East Team last year. I really look for her to break through and finally get the recognition she deserves.”