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ND Women’s Soccer: Blank slate

Chris Khorey | Friday, September 29, 2006

An unstoppable force will meet an immovable object tonight at Alumni Field.

At 7:30, No. 6 West Virginia (8-0-2, 2-0-1 Big East) will bring its 3.4 goals per game average to No. 1 Notre Dame (9-0-0, 2-0-0 Big East), who hasn’t been scored on in five contests.

“They’re one of the best teams in our conference and they’re off to a good start,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “It’s going to a go a long way toward determining how the conference turns out this year.”

Led by junior forward Kim Bonilla, the Mountaineers have scored four or more goals six times this season. Their attacking style will be a change for the Irish, who have seen teams pack their own boxes and play conservatively all year.

“Ever since [a 3-1 win over] Santa Clara [Sept. 3], teams have been playing defensively against us,” Waldrum said. “I don’t know if it’s scouting or if we’re doing something to put them on their heels.”

For their part, the Irish have held their last five opponents – Louisville, Michigan, DePaul, SMU and TCU – without a goal. While Waldrum chalked up the first few shutouts to luck and timely saves, he said Tuesday that he’s impressed with the back wall’s progress.

“Our back four has really solidified,” he said. “We’ve got five or six that play well back there. I feel much better about our defense than I did earlier this season.”

Waldrum attributed part of the defensive improvement to the health of senior captain Kim Lorenzen, who missed most of fall practice with an injury. Another significant asset is the return of sophomore Carrie Dew, who missed the first few games of the season while competing with Team USA at the U-20 World Championships in Russia.

“Having Carrie Dew back has been huge, with her experience and composure back there,” he said. “Also Kim Lorenzen [is] back in her groove now.”

Notre Dame will also host Pittsburgh Sunday at 1 p.m. Waldrum said his team cannot overlook the Panthers (6-2-2, 1-1-1 Big East), despite the big game on Friday.

“This is one of those teams that can creep up on you if you’re not ready,” said Waldrum of Pittsburgh. “They’re a team that’s good enough to beat you if you overlook them. We can’t put too much on West Virginia because we have to turn around Pitt two days later.”

And while he said the West Virginia game presents the greater challenge, Waldrum wants his team to remember that both games count equally in the Big East standings and at the end of the season.

“At the end of the day, we want to run the table in the conference,” he said. “We want as many wins as we can get.”

Notes:

u With so many people on campus for Saturday’s football game against Purdue, Waldrum said he’s hoping for a “big turnout” at Alumni Field this weekend.

u This weekend’s games will have an effect on each team’s record, but not their relative positions in the conference standings. The Irish play in the Big East National Division, while both the Mountaineers and Panthers play in the American Division.