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ND Women’s Soccer: Closing time

Chris Khorey | Friday, November 3, 2006

After blowing through the first two parts of the season, No. 1 Notre Dame has a chance to successfully end part three this weekend in Storrs, Conn.

Notre Dame (18-0-1) will take on Marquette tonight in the Big East semifinal. Tonight’s victor will play Sunday against the winner between the other semifinal match between No. 8 West Virginia and No. 20 Rutgers.

While Irish coach Randy Waldrum stressed the prestige of a conference championship, he downplayed this weekend’s games in the grand scheme of Notre Dame’s goal to win a national championship.

“It’s another step along the road,” he said. “It’s important and the kids want to win, but our goal of the Final Four and a national title is still ahead of us.”

The Irish advanced to the semifinal round with a 3-0 win over St. John’s last Sunday in South Bend, while the Golden Eagles got to this game by virtue of a 1-0 decision over Villanova at home the same day.

Marquette (11-5-4) comes into Friday’s contest allowing just .71 goals per game, a defensive effort that will have to continue if the Eagles are to shut down the potent Irish attack. Notre Dame is averaging over three goals per game behind leading scorers Kerri Hanks and Michele Weissenhofer.

Waldrum said he is confident his team will be able to score.

“Most of the teams we’re going to play from here on out will be good defensive squads,” he said. “We just have to create chances and take advantage of those chances.”

The Irish and Golden Eagles have not met this year, a fact Waldrum says makes preparing for the game easier.

“Sometimes when you catch a team twice you get a little unfocused,” he said. “It’s nice to play someone new.”

Notre Dame and Marquette split two games last year, with the Golden Eagles winning 4-1 in the regular season and the Irish taking a 3-0 decision in the Big East semifinals.

Marquette has most of its contributors back from last year, including 2005 leading scorer Christy Zwolski, who is second on the team this year with seven goals and five assists.

Notre Dame will be without sophomore defender Carrie Dew, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 24 against Cincinnati and is out for the season. Waldrum said Dew will be replaced in the Irish back wall by freshman Haley Ford, who played in Dew’s place while the sophomore was competing in Russia with the U-20 national team.

Waldrum also said he might experiment with moving senior Christie Shaner from her outside back position into Dew’s usual spot in the middle.

“You can’t replace a player like Carrie Dew,” Waldrum said. “She’s so versatile. It’s an opportunity for the next player to come in and play well.”

Waldrum said that the Irish spent the week preparing for Marquette because he did not want his players looking ahead to Sunday’s final. Notre Dame played both the Scarlet Knights (14-2-3) and the Mountaineers (14-2-3) during the regular season.

“If we win [tonight], we’ll watch the second game and see if they’re doing anything different than when we played them.”

The Irish defeated West Virginia 3-1 Sept. 29 and Rutgers 2-0 Oct 8. Both games were at Alumni Field.