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ND women’s soccer: Irish to face Rutgers, Seton Hall

Tim Dougherty | Friday, October 6, 2006

No. 1 Notre Dame welcomes a pair of New Jersey schools to South Bend this weekend with the top spot of both national and Big East rankings on the line. The Irish (11-0-0, 4-0-0 Big East) take on Seton Hall tonight and Rutgers Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field.

And if Rutgers (10-1-1, 4-0-1) gets by DePaul tonight in Chicago, it will enter Sunday’s match undefeated in conference play.

Ranked No. 22 by Soccer Buzz magazine, the Scarlet Knights are used to giving the Irish stiff competition. The Knights fell to the Irish 1-0 in overtime last year in Piscataway when forward Kerri Hanks drilled midfielder Brittany Bock’s pass into the net in the 96th minute. In 2004, the last time Rutgers visited South Bend, it played Notre Dame to a scoreless draw, marking the last time the Irish lost or tied a game at home.

Given the history of the matchup, captain senior defender Kim Lorenzen says the Irish are prepared for a battle.

“Rutgers is always a very well organized team,” Lorenzen said. “They usually have an all around solid [team]. All around the field they’re consistently good and I think our styles of play go together, and it’s always a good game.”

The Knights enter the weekend seventh nationally in goals against average (.356), allowing seven shots per game in a defense that hopes to test the nation’s third best scoring offense that outshot Pittsburgh 31-1 last Sunday. Irish freshman forward Michele Weissenhofer will look to continue breaking down Big East defenses.

Weissenhofer was named conference offensive player of the week and Top Drawer Soccer national player of the week following her three goals and assist last weekend in wins against then-No. 6 West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

But the Irish can’t get caught up in Sunday’s matchup, Lorenzen said, because they still have to take care of business against Seton Hall Friday night. The Irish spend most of the week working on their own games, but Lorenzen said Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum makes it a point at practice to focus on the first foe of each weekend.

“We talk about our own team and improve our style of play,” Lorenzen said. “To improve the way we’re playing the past couple of weeks is usually our main concern. [But] generally during the week we focus us a little bit more on the team we’re playing Friday night.”

Seton Hall enters the weekend 6-5-1 and 2-2-1 in the Big East after beating South Florida and Georgetown and tying Marquette in its last three games. The Pirates also upset then-No. 15 Virginia earlier in the year.

Lorenzen hopes a strong Irish crowd Friday night could help quell any ideas the Pirates have of an upset. Last weekend, Lorenzen said a large and loud student section was a critical part of a 3,000-strong crowd that helped turn the second-half momentum against West Virginia – numbers that carried into Sunday as 2, 700 filed in to watch the Irish beat Pitt.

“I would definitely say having that large of a crowd Friday and Sunday really changes the game,” she said. “When we got down Friday 1-0, having the crowd build the momentum made a big difference knowing you have that support and everyone’s yelling for you.”

This weekend’s noise will begin tonight at 7:30 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. start Sunday.