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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish face PSU and DePaul

Bill Brink | Friday, September 21, 2007

Based on preseason expectations and its play so far this season, Notre Dame has underperformed.

Heading into Friday’s Big East opener at home against DePaul and Sunday’s game against No. 17 Penn State, the Irish are 2-3-1 and have allowed 13 goals. Last season, the team allowed just 11 goals in 27 games.

Head coach Randy Waldrum said the team lost focus on both ends of the field.

“When we go back, and we watch the video this week, it’s more of the little things that coaches talk about that sound like clichés,” Waldrum said. “It’s more like just having that focus all the way through.”

Senior midfielder and captain Amanda Cinalli echoed Waldrum’s feelings.

“Collectively, we just need to stay more composed around the goal,” she said. “We are creating those opportunities, and we had plenty of them. It’s good that we’re getting in our offensive end and getting those chances, but we just need to be more composed around the goal and finish those, whether it’s with power or finesse.”

The Irish converted plenty of scoring chances in their last two games against the Blue Demons, whom they beat twice, 6-0 and 5-0, in 2005. DePaul is 2-5-1 and tied Northern Illinois 1-1 at home in their last game. Going into Friday’s game, Notre Dame has not lost to a Big East opponent at home in 72 games.

Notre Dame defeated Penn State 4-1 last season in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Nittany Lions are 4-2-1 entering Sunday’s game and recently beat Bucknell 5-1 on the road.

Although he is aware of the weapons both teams possess, Waldrum said he will not create a team-specific game plan.

“I think right now we’ve got to get ourselves playing our way first before we can really try to game plan for anybody else,” he said. “As a coaching staff we’ll have some reminders for how we want to deal with certain players on the team, but right now I think the focus has been on us.”

Waldrum said that failure to pay close attention has cost the team so far.

“Seeing the ball, you get relaxed, and you think, ‘Well this is coming to me,’ and for a moment you don’t really concentrate on the flight of the ball,” he said.

Waldrum also said scoring opportunities were squandered when the offense hurried.

“We had a couple chances where players in and around the box could have settled and controlled the ball and then taken the shot,” Waldrum said. “Instead of doing that, they rushed it and tried to hit it first time.”

The Irish face the same affliction on defense. Bad passes in the defensive third and lack of concentration by the keepers have cost the team goals. Of the 13 goals scored against the Irish, Waldrum said the coaching staff counted eight that could be attributed to a miscue by Notre Dame. Despite the mistakes, Waldrum said the talent is in place to succeed.

“All the players have the ability to do it,” Waldrum said. “It’s just being engaged and focused and the little things.”

The Irish are still plagued by inconsistency at keeper. Senior Lauren Karas and freshman Nikki Weiss split time against Princeton last Friday, but Weiss played the entire Oklahoma State game Sunday.

“We’ve thrown it back up in the air again, and we’re going to see at the end of the week,” Waldrum said. “That part still unfortunately has not got solved for us completely.”

Karas has allowed four goals and 2.24 goals per game, while Weiss has let in five goals and 1.42 goals per game.

Regardless of the team’s question marks, Waldrum remains confident.

“I’m still convinced we’re going to be a good team,” he said. “I believe in it.”