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ND Women’s Soccer: Squad aims for championship

Chris Khorey | Saturday, August 25, 2007

Notre Dame came within one game of a national championship last season. But, with the opening regular season game of the 2007 still a week away, the Irish have already erased the memory of that loss.No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 North Carolina played an exhibition match Sunday in a rematch of the 2006 Women’s College Cup final. The 2-2 draw, played in soggy conditions, featured much of the same intensity and passion as last year’s title game.And although his team did not come away with a win, Irish coach Randy Waldrum was pleased with what he saw.”We’re very happy with the result, especially since it’s the preseason,” Waldrum said. “I thought today we had the better opportunities. We fought for every loose ball. It’s one of the best games we’ve played against Carolina since I’ve been here.”When you play a team like [the Tar Heels], it’s not an exhibition game.”Notre Dame lost eight seniors from last year’s team, which finished 25-1-1 and won the Big East championship. The Irish took big graduation hits in the midfield, where Jen Buczkowski and Jill Krivacek started last season, and along the back line, where Christie Shaner and team captain Kim Lorenzen led an otherwise young defense.Against North Carolina, Waldrum used a rotation of sophomore Courtney Rosen, senior Ashley Jones, junior Rebecca Mendoza and freshman Lauren Fowlkes alongside returning starters sophomore Brittany Bock and senior Amanda Cinalli in the midfield. Senior Susan Pinnick did not play against North Carolina, but is also expected to be part of the rotation.Waldrum said he was pleased with his inexperienced midfielders.”I like our depth. We played a lot of people today, and I think we did pretty well,” he said.He also said he was pleasantly surprised by Rosen, who is coming off a foot injury, and Mendoza, who played only infrequently last year.”She’s shown that after her first two years, she’s ready to come in and play,” Waldrum said of the junior.At defender, sophomores Amanda Clark and Haley Ford return after contributing early and often as freshmen. Junior Carrie Dew, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, did not play in the rain as a precaution, but is expected to start this season as she did her freshman year.Junior Elise Weber and freshman Julie Scheidler got much of the playing time at the remaining defensive spot against North Carolina. Weber is a transfer from Wisconsin. Up front, the Irish return their two leading goal scorers from last season – junior Kerri Hanks, who scored 22 goals, and sophomore Michele Weissenhofer, who found the back of the net 18 times.Weissenhofer is also known for her acrobatic flip throw-ins, which give the Irish an extra offensive weapon.Notre Dame will play a tough non-conference schedule, which includes five ranked teams – No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Santa Clara, No. 9 Stanford, No. 13 Florida, and No. 23 Oklahoma State.Then the Irish will begin their Big East season, where No. 12 Rutgers and No. 16 Connecticut await.Waldrum said he is excited by this year’s team but was reluctant to predict a return to the championship game.”It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We had a great result today, but lots of things can happen over the course of the season.”