ND Women’s Soccer: The division bell
Chris Khorey | Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Every August, Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum mentally divides the season into four parts – non-conference play, Big East games, the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament.
Eight games into the season, the No. 1 Irish are undefeated and have successfully completed phase one Notre Dame played its first Big East game Friday – a 5-0 win over DePaul – before finishing its non-conference slate with a 2-0 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor Sunday.
“We always kind of break the season down into segments and try to take care of winning different segments of the season,” Waldrum said. “The conference is the second segment of the season.”
Waldrum said conference games have special importance because not only do they affect the team’s standing nationally, but also within the Big East.
“We need to get wins in-conference to keep our seeding for the NCAAs high enough, but also to keep our seeding high enough in the conference to make the conference tournament,” he said.
The conference season also gives the Irish a chance to set short-term goals on the way to their long-term goal of a national title.
“Our goal every year is to win the Big East championship,” Waldrum said.
Notre Dame accomplished that goal last year, beating Connecticut in the Big East final in Milwaukee, Wisc.
In 2004, the Irish fell to the Huskies in the title game but then ran the table the rest of the way to win the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame will face Cincinnati and Louisville Friday and Sunday in their first full weekend of conference play.
The Irish will travel to play the Bearcats, who are 4-3-1 overall this year and lost their only conference game last Friday to Louisville 4-1.
Despite the loss, Cincinnati has already equaled its overall win total from last year.
“[Cincinatti is] playing much better this year than in the past,” Waldrum said.
Louisville will come to Alumni Field for Notre Dame’s first home game in three weeks.
“It’ll be nice to have a home game,” Waldrum said. “It seems like we’ve been on the road forever.”
The Cardinals are 6-0 this year – including Friday’s win over the Bearcats – and are in a four-way tie along with the Irish for the lead in the Big East’s National Division.
The other two teams tied for first are Rutgers and Villanova. The Wildcats are 8-0, as is Notre Dame, and are considered the strongest challenger to the Irish for the division title.
The Scarlet Knights are 5-1 and beat Seton Hall 3-2 Friday for their first conference win.
Georgetown joins the Pirates, Bearcats and Blue Demons at 0-1 after the first conference games of the year.
In the American Division, West Virginia, St. John’s, South Florida and Connecticut all won their first game, while Pittsburgh, Providence, Marquette and Syracuse stumbled in their openers.
u After a “lethargic” performance Sunday against Michigan, Waldrum said the team will have a light week of practice before Cincinnati and Louisville.
“We’re going to give them a couple days off next week to get their legs under them,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty tough stretch of early season games, so I think we’re going to give them a couple days off.”