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ND Women’s Soccer Commentary: Seniors’ season coming to end

Tim Dougherty | Monday, December 25, 2006

Brittany Bock was shivering.

The Notre Dame sophomore forward sat in the tiny press tent on a frigid November evening answering reporters’ questions about her two goals in a 3-0 Irish win over Colorado in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was flattering, but these weren’t the people she wanted to talk to.

Then the people she was waiting to see – one of them, anyway – poked his head into the tent.

“Grandpa!” Bock exclaimed, throwing her arms around the man in the big blue coat and bringing the formalities of the post-game press conference to an abrupt end.

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Katie Griffin was crying.

The Buffaloes senior had just played her final game, falling 3-0 to the nation’s No. 1 team on the road. She too was freezing, but she wasn’t worried about that. Her season – the best in Colorado history – and career were over.

She tried to put a positive spin on it.

“If you had to lose to somebody you might as well go out to the No. 1 team in the nation,” Griffin said. “We worked our butts off. You win some, you lose some, but overall I thought we all played good as a team.”

Her face told a different story, and as she hugged equally emotional freshman teammate Nikki Marshall, it was like Griffin was handing over the future of a program on the rise.

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Women’s soccer isn’t a revenue sport. It doesn’t draw huge crowds or even rate a section of the marching band. But to the players and those who support them, it means everything.

Right now, the Irish program is the best in the nation. It is 23-0-1 this season and will host the national quarterfinals next Friday against Penn State in the last home game of the seniors’ career. And while most Notre Dame students will be home celebrating Thanksgiving, the Irish know they can count on their most die-hard fans – their families – to be in attendance.

There will be no victory lap for the women’s soccer seniors like the football seniors got Saturday. They will just high five and hug and say goodbye to Alumni Field next Friday as they (most likely) start to focus on a national semifinal game.

At times, Randy Waldrum’s squad resembles a Little League team. It’s a close-knit group with heavily involved parents and grandparents always waiting outside the gate for the players after the game – and who sometimes venture inside the press tent. The team even goes out to Chili’s together after victories.

And while Waldrum is constantly pushing for bigger crowds and more student fans – and he occasionally gets them, like last Friday’s contingent that earned complaints from the Colorado coaching staff for its rowdiness – this Irish squad is playing for itself and its teammates.

Many are world class athletes who have represented their country in competition and many were on the team that won the national championship just two years ago, but none of that matters now.

What matters to the Notre Dame players – especially to the seniors – is not to be the ones with tears in their eyes, realizing the season (and for some of them, their soccer careers) is over.

They want to be the ones who get to keep playing soccer with their best friends, making their families proud, until they can hoist that national championship trophy.

And even then, even with the ESPN cameras rolling and their dormmates back home glued to the TV, the most important thing will be finding their parents and grandparents and giving them a hug.

And then finding out where the nearest Chili’s is.

The views expressed in this

column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.

Contact Chris Khorey at ckhorey@nd.edu