ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: Stayin’ alive
Ken Fowler | Friday, November 18, 2005
Notre Dame doesn’t want to do what Duke did.
Five days after Yale stunned the overconfident No. 10 Blue Devils with a last-second goal to advance to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, the defending national champion Irish will host the Bulldogs in a battle of two of the hottest teams in the country tonight at Alumni Field, which will kick off 40 minutes after the conclusion of the men’s game.
“I think any team coming off a momentous win, like scoring in the last second of a game, they are on a huge upswing,” senior Irish midfielder Annie Schefter said. “I think that Yale is a team that a lot of people are underestimating. And I think they are looking forward to proving everyone wrong.”
The Bulldogs are one of just three unseeded teams left in the tournament, and Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he expects a tough game from a well-coached squad.
“Rudy Meredith is a great coach,” Waldrum said of Yale’s 11th-year skipper. “They’ll be very organized. They’ll be very prepared.”
Waldrum said he expects Yale’s confidence from its game against Duke to carry over into tonight’s match, especially because the Bulldogs are used to playing as underdogs.
“I think they’re just kind of on a roll … in the tournament, and [they] did some things that they were probably the only ones that expected to do that,” he said. “I think we’ve got to be really ready to play on Friday.”
While Duke may have overlooked the Bulldogs and focused on a potential matchup with the Irish a bit too early, Notre Dame’s players said they have concentrated only on Yale throughout the week.
“Our focus is just taking it one game at a time,” senior forward Katie Thorlakson said. “This week is Yale, Last week was – I don’t even remember who it was it’s so far away.”
Freshman standout Kerri Hanks said the whole team feels a sense of responsibility each game during the tournament to win for the seniors.
“We go out, and I’m like, ‘This could be the last game that I’m going to play with the seniors, so this is their championship game,'” Hanks said. “So we just take it game by game and hopefully we can continue and make it to the Final Four.”
Waldrum said he sees that attitude in all the underclassmen.
“All the players will tell you they want to win again for their senior group,” he said.
Thorlakson said she understands the gravity of playing in do-or-die games as a senior.
“Every night before game day now, I can hardly sleep because it could be my last game,” she said. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t want it to be my last game.’ So I don’t think that feeling is going to go away.”
But she knows she will only have a negative feeling if her career ends on a loss. So for now, Thorlakson said she wants to do all she can to win.
“I wouldn’t say I was confident, I’m just trying to go out there and play as hard as I can,” she said.
Waldrum said Thorlakson and Notre Dame’s other forwards will have to continue their relentless attack if the Irish hope to beat Yale.
“I think you’ve got to go at it with that same approach – I don’t think you start to get conservative at this point,” Waldrum said. “And the way we’ve been playing defensively, if we keep that part going, I just feel confident with our group that we’re going to get our chances … We’ve got to convert those opportunities, but we’ll go all out again.”
Hanks said the forwards are ready to execute Waldrum’s game plan to help the Irish to a victory.
“It’s going to be a good game, and all that we can expect is to believe in what we know how to do and just have faith in our coach in giving us what to play and how to play,” she said. “We’re not overconfident … but we are confident. There’s no way we should be not confident coming into this game. We’ve done well this whole season, so we should do well now.”
In Thorlakson and Notre Dame’s seven other seniors, Hanks’ hope is magnified.
Thorlakson said her main goal is to end her career with a win.
“I hope we can take it to the national championship and it won’t be my last game until I hold the trophy up,” she said.
But the Irish must win tonight to have dreams about a national championship.
“I don’t think we can be looking past anything beyond this,” Waldrum said. “And that’s kind of the approach we’ve taken – every game is the national championship.”
Free busses for students attending tonight’s game will be running to and from Alumni Field, library circle, the Grotto and McKenna Hall from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
u Four Notre Dame players were named Missouri Athletic Club Herman Trophy semifinalists Thursday.
The award, given annually to the top soccer player in the nation, began in 2001 after the Missouri Athletic Club and Herman Trophy merged their player-of-the-year presentation.
Notre Dame’s four finalists are senior forward Katie Thorlakson, senior defender Candace Chapman, junior midfielder Jen Buczkowski and freshman forward Kerri Hanks.
Thorlakson and Hanks are the nation’s leading scoring tandem, totaling 134 points in 23 games – 67 points apiece. The duo broke its preseason goal of 130 points Sunday during Notre Dame’s second-round victory over Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
Hanks said she was focused on the team’s upcoming game against Yale rather than personal individual achievements.
“Between me and Katie, we haven’t even said anything about reaching 130 points,” Hanks said. “I guess we’re just looking at Friday’s game hoping maybe we can get some more.”
Last season, Thorlakson was one of 15 semifinalists but did not make the final cut of three. Despite leading the Irish to the national championship and taking home three player-of-the-year awards from soccer publications, the forward was not included in the final ballot.
Each NCAA Division I coach gets a ballot, and Thorlakson is one of the favorites heading into the vote.