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ND Women’s Soccer: Bring on Valpo

Bobby Griffin | Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Notre Dame’s defense of its national championship will begin Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against Valparaiso, the Irish learned Monday when the 2005 NCAA Tournament bracket was announced. The Irish have home field advantage until the quarterfinals, when they will travel to Portland should both top seeds advance.

It is a difficult draw for the No. 5 Irish, as Portland is the No. 2 team in the country. Despite the tough arrangement, Notre Dame defender Christie Shaner is not worried about the brackets.

“It’s a difficult draw, but its part of the game,” Shaner said. “We knew going into the tournament that something like that could happen. We may be at a little disadvantage not playing at our home field … but they [have pressure on them too].”

But before the possible quarterfinal matchup between two of the top five teams in the country, Notre Dame has some work to do.

The Irish will play Mid-Continent Conference champion Valparaiso Friday night with the winner moving on to play the winner of Michigan State and Bowling Green Sunday.

“Obviously we have to take one game at a time, because we have [Valparaiso] and if we don’t take care of that game, we don’t have a Sunday game,” Shaner said.

Should Notre Dame survive this weekend, the Irish will move on to play whoever comes out of the bracket that includes Duke, Central Connecticut State and Fairfield. Notre Dame would have home-field advantage in that game as well.

“A lot of girls were looking further into the schedule … but obviously we can’t look that far ahead,” Shaner said.

Notre Dame is on a 10-game winning streak heading into the tournament. The Irish have just come off a weekend where they won the Big East tournament, and feel they are picking up their game at the right time.

“I think our team has [begun to peak],” Shaner said. “We had some losses early on in the season but because of those we’ve only gotten better.

“With each game you see everyone stepping up the level … it’s playoff time.”

Notre Dame has the added pressure of last season’s NCAA title hanging over its head. With a 19-2 record, and having outscored their opponents 46-1 during the 10-game winning streak, the Irish clearly have the strength on both sides of the ball to repeat as champions.

But Shaner said there is a lot that goes into winning a championship – such as peaking at the right time, good team chemistry and even a little bit of luck.

“I think winning last year was a great thing, but you need a lot of things to go right when it comes to NCAA time,” Shaner said.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum could not be reached for comment Monday night.