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ND SOCCER:Defending NCAA Champs take on international opponents

Dan Tapetillo | Friday, April 22, 2005

The defending NCAA champion women’s soccer team is set to take on the Mexican Women’s National Team in the first of a doubleheader tonight at 6 p.m. at Alumni field. The matchup will be followed by the Notre Dame men’s soccer team against the Mexican Under-17 team at approximately 7:45 p.m.In the women’s match, the Mexican National Team and 2004 Olympic Games quarterfinalist is led by former Irish defender Monica Gonzalez and includes recently signed midfielder Becca Mendoza.This contest will be the fifth time the two teams have met in the spring, dating back to their first encounter in 2001. The Irish topped Mexico in the first three matchups, but suffered a 3-2 loss last season.Tonight, Notre Dame is expecting another close contest. “Every year we’ve played them it has been close,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “The view we have [of the past for matches and last season’s loss] is that we recognize and respect how good Mexico has become. Both teams played really well last year, but we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”Waldrum also attributed the different style of play in international soccer to American soccer as a challenge for the Irish.”They’re [Mexico] more skillful and technical and don’t rely so much on their athleticism like we do,” Waldrum said. “Their ball handling is so much better and you could get caught chasing throughout the game if you’re not careful.”A potential individual threat includes UCLA forward Iris Mora, who last faced the Irish during the national championship game.Mora is the player who drew the penalty kick against the Irish during the second half of the NCAA final game. Erika Bohn made the memorable save on the kick and prevented a potential 2-0 deficit in the half.”Offensively she’ll be one of their key players,” Waldrum said.However, the Irish are also looking to this game as an opportunity for several rising players to gain experience. It will also mark one of the first times the public can see freshman forwards Susan Pinnick and Kerri Hanks play for the team.Both freshman did not play for the team last fall because Pinnick sustained a season ending neck injury before the start of the season last fall and Hanks elected to play for the Under-19 team.”We’re going to start Pinnick because she has had a good spring season and we’re also looking to give Hanks time,” Waldrum said. “We are hopeful the public can see those two players and the rest of the group is in check [from last season]. But we are still adjusting to losing Tancredi and Gunna [starting defensive players to graduation].”Despite the obstacles the Irish currently face, they are still looking for an exciting matchup between two highly skilled teams.”We’ve presold 1,700 tickets so it is going to be a really good crowd. It will be a playoff atmosphere and the intensity is going to be fantastic,” Waldrum said. “So it’ll be a great opportunity for the fans to see something unique with an international flavor.”The men’s team will feature Greg Dalby, who recently shone in international play for the United States, representing the country on the Under-20 squad.