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Going for perfection

Dan Tapetillo | Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Irish are on the verge of finishing the regular season undefeated for the fourth time in program’s history.

The only challenge left for No. 2 Notre Dame (16-0-1, 9-0-1 BIG EAST) will come from Michigan, a difficult competitor for the Irish.

“They are known for their work ethic and are very organized defensively. But we are not going to try and change anything,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “The last two weeks we played really well, and if we can play with that same level of intensity and offensive creativity, we will do well.”

The Irish are looking to capitalize on their strengths to defeat the Wolverines, the team that upset the Irish 3-2 in their final regular season game last year.

“Our situation right now was identical to last season, but I’m hoping our team has matured from last year in dealing with the pressure of having an undefeated season,” Waldrum said. “We are not playing for revenge, but it won’t take a lot to motivate us.”

Waldrum cited Jill Krivacek and Molly Iarocci as inspired players who have come to play crucial roles on the team. They are just a few of the players the team has counted on to carry the Irish to a near flawless season.

However, despite the novelty of an undefeated season, it is not a motivating factor as postseason play draws closer.

“We are hoping to win to help our seeding in the NCAA Tournament and not to have an undefeated season,” Waldrum said. “It leaves you empty if you have an undefeated season and lose in the first round. This is why we as a coaching staff have not used this as a motivating tool.”

What is proving to inspire the team is the Big East Tournament and the opportunity to reclaim a title the Irish have failed to capture the past couple seasons.

“They are excited about it,” Waldrum said. “But not having won it the past couple of seasons, I am beginning to see the excitement in the kids.”

Some of the excitement can be attributed to the team’s honor of being No. 1 seed in the tournament.

But what has helped the team to becoming a contender for not only the Big East title, but the NCAA Championship this season, has been the emergence of senior Candace Chapman.

Chapman missed last season due to an ACL injury and her status for this year was unknown.

Surprisingly, she managed to return not only as a consistent player, but as a legitimate force throughout the season.

“She is that ace in the hole,” Waldrum said. “She has so many tools like her speed and ability to strike a ball with both feet. But when you get her around the goal, she will find a way to score.”

Chapman scored two goals for the Irish in their 3-1 victory over Seton Hall Sunday.

“It was nice to see her score a couple of goals on Sunday,” Waldrum said. “I am hoping she is that one person that people didn’t expect to help, but will actually be the one to help us win everything this year.”