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Irish ready for regular season

Bill Brink | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Notre Dame has only played two exhibition games this year, but the Irish already look ready for regular-season play.

After tying preseason No. 1 North Carolina 2-2 in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Championship game and a matchup of the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Virginia 3-1 on Aug. 23 in Fort Wayne. Forward and senior captain Amanda Cinalli scored two goals and freshman midfielder Lauren Fowlkes added a third tally.

“I think it’s going to give us a lot of optimism about the season, and I think now seeing the freshmen over a little bit of time helps us feel better about that,” head coach Randy Waldrum said of Notre Dame’s preseason success.

Just as in the North Carolina game, Notre Dame started quickly against the Cavaliers. Two minutes in, Cinalli headed the ball past Virginia keeper Celeste Miles, redirecting a free kick from junior forward Kerri Hanks. Virginia answered five minutes before halftime when Jess Rostedt maneuvered through the Irish defense by herself for an unassisted goal.

Two minutes later, sophomore forward Michele Weissenhofer reached Fowlkes near the goal with one of her signature flip-throws from the sidelines. Fowlkes was able to head the ball in to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead.

The game was quiet until the end of the second half, when Cinalli put back the rebound of a Weissenhofer shot, making the score 3-1.

In both games, all three Irish keepers split playing time. Senior Lauren Karas, sophomore Kelsey Lysander and freshman Nikki Weiss each saw about 30 minutes in goal.

“It’s probably the deepest we’ve been with goalkeepers since I’ve been here,” Waldrum said. “Even if we had a clear-cut favorite, we would have played all three in both games, just because you need to see them in those kinds of games. Rarely are you going to get to play a good team like Carolina and Virginia and have it not count, so you can take some chances.”

Waldrum said a decision has not yet been made as to who will be the starting keeper against Michigan on Friday.

“The good side is they haven’t really separated themselves,” he said. “We’ve got to try to make some decisions this week and see which ones we think are going to be starting for us. It may be a few more weeks into the season before we have a clear-cut number one.”

Junior defender Carrie Drew, who missed the 2006 postseason after suffering an ACL injury in the last regular-season game, saw her first live action against Virginia. Drew played for about 45 minutes over the course of the game.

“She had gotten released from the doctors about a week before preseason,” Waldrum said. “We felt like giving her that extra week to the Virginia game, that is why we played her in Virginia but not in Carolina. She’s healthy, but it was more just the timing of getting her released.”

Waldrum said that the play of the Irish during the preseason answered some questions, particularly after losing midfielders Jen Buczkowski and Jill Krivacek and defenders Christie Shaner and Kim Lorenzen to graduation. He was pleased with the play of the freshmen in the relatively high-pressure preseason games.

In those games, the Irish outscored their opponents 5-3, outshot them 30-14 and put 13 shots on goal while allowing nine. Their win over the Cavaliers marks the third time in a row that Notre Dame has defeated Virginia in the preseason.