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ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: Team locks horns with No. 5 Broncos

Ken Fowler | Friday, September 9, 2005

In what is likely to be the team’s toughest game of the regular season – and one of the best matchups of national powerhouses this year – No. 1 Notre Dame challenges No. 5 Santa Clara in the SCU adidas Classic tonight.

The Broncos enter the game with a 2-0-1 record after beating Virginia Tech Sunday, and come off a season in which they reached the College Cup semifinals – a game they lost to the Irish.

Santa Clara traveled to South Bend early last season to play in the Inn at Saint Mary’s Notre Dame Classic. This year, the roles are reversed. The Broncos play host to the tournament they call “El Classico,” and the Irish play the role of the highly-ranked visiting foe.

Notre Dame emerged victorious from both contests last season. The Irish won the first game by a score of 5-2, though the game was much closer than the line indicates.

After the two teams battled closely for the first 80 minutes, Irish forward Katie Thorlakson scored two of her three goals and added one of her two assists in the final 10 minutes. In a dazzling stretch of just three minutes, 39 seconds, she netted five points and took the game’s outcome out of question.

Their second meeting would have no such offensive outburst. Candace Chapman scored the national semifinal’s only goal on a give-and-go with Thorlakson at 72:02.

The Irish then defeated UCLA 1-1 (4-3 on penalty kicks) to capture the national title.

The Broncos beat Arizona 2-0 to start the season, but tied No. 21 Wake Forest 0-0 after two overtimes a week ago.

The Irish have won all four of their opening games in convincing fashion. The team opened the season with an 11-0 win over New Hampshire, then followed that performance with a 6-1 victory over Vermont.

Last weekend, Notre Dame defeated No. 13 Florida (4-1) and No. 24 Maryland (6-0) to capture the 2005 Inn at Saint Mary’s Notre Dame Classic title.

That dominance may help the Irish stay fresh against better opponents. Head coach Randy Waldrum was able to remove almost every starter for the final 25 minutes against Maryland.

“We’ve really got the kids to buy into this idea that each player may have to give up some playing time for the benefit of the team in the long run – to keep us healthy,” he said.

Notre Dame must capitalize on that by continuing its devastating ball control and excellent offensive communication if the team is to keep dominating.

So far, it has worked. Irish second-semester freshman Kerri Hanks attempted 27 shots and scored 10 goals in her first four games, and Thorlakson has 17 points (5G-7A).

However, they will be facing preseason All-American goalie Julie Ryder and a Broncos defense that has allowed just one goal in 300 minutes of play this year.

Hanks said that although the team realizes the enormity of this early-season match-up, the Irish wouldn’t look past other opponents in the run-up to the contest.

“There’s no way we can look ahead,” she said. “[Before a game], we can’t even look ahead to the next weekend.”

The Irish counter in goal with Erika Bohn, herself a solid veteran with a national title under her belt.

She will have to contend with offensive standouts Tina Estrada, Tiffany Roberts and Brittany Klein. Estrada led the Broncos with 21 points and 67 shots last year.

The game begins at 7 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time and will be broadcast live on Comcast Sports Net West, with delayed broadcasts on local affiliates.