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ND Women’s Soccer: Undefeated streak ends with loss in title game

Chris Khorey | Friday, May 18, 2007

For most squads, a season that included just one loss and a trip to the National Championship game would be considered a success.

But for Notre Dame, which finished the year 25-1-1 after falling to North Carolina in the title game, that one loss still stings.

“We didn’t show the country how good we were,” senior defender Kim Lorenzen said. “We didn’t play how we had played in the tournament up to that point.”

After finishing the regular season 20-0-1 and winning the Big East tournament, the Irish tore through the NCAA tourney, outscoring their first five opponents – Oakland, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado, Penn State and Florida State – 17-2.

“The run through the tournament was probably the best soccer we played all year,” Lorenzen said.

But then Notre Dame ran into the Tar Heels juggernaut.

North Carolina has won 18 National Championships in the 25-year history of the Women’s College Cup, and the confidence of the 2006 squad was evident as it took a 2-0 lead over the shell-shocked Irish and held on for a 2-1 victory.

“For about seventy minutes, they clearly were the better team,” Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said.

The Irish made a comeback late, getting a goal from sophomore Brittany Bock and threatening to score several other times, but couldn’t equalize.

“We showed the pride we have in our program and made a game of it,” Waldrum said. “Maybe if we had ten more minutes in the game, we could have pulled back even.”

Waldrum said both the Tar Heels’ mystique and style of play frustrated his team – even the seniors, who had never faced North Carolina.

“They put you on your heels and they put so much pressure on the ball,” Waldrum said. “We don’t see that a lot.”

Waldrum said he has worked to get the Tar Heels on Notre Dame’s schedule in the future, to try to get experience against the nation’s top program. Next season, the Irish will play North Carolina in an exhibition game, and after that the Tar Heels will appear on Notre Dame’s regular season schedule.

The Irish began the 2006 campaign with 13 straight victories, including a 3-1 win over then-No. 1 Santa Clara Sept. 3. Notre Dame held the nation’s top spot in at least one poll for the entire season until the North Carolina game.

The only blemish for the Irish in the regular season was a scoreless tie at Connecticut Oct. 13. The Huskies, generally a Big East power, struggled in 2006 and were just 7-7-1 when they played Notre Dame.

But Waldrum said his team should have treated them like any other Connecticut squad.

“UConn is always a tough team to play,” he said. “I felt like we weren’t nearly as sharp for that kind of a game as we needed to be. I still felt we were the better team on the night, but we just couldn’t find the goal.”

The Irish responded to the setback with 12 more victories in a row, including tearing through the Big East tournament and topping Rutgers 4-2 in the conference championship game, before falling to North Carolina in the national title game.

Sophomore Kerri Hanks led the Irish offensively all year, scoring 22 goals and tallying 22 assists, while freshman Michele Weissenhofer scored 18 goals and added 17 assists of her own.