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Women’s soccer: Team struggles in front of both nets

Fran Tolan | Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After giving up a combined nine goals to Stanford and Santa Clara last week, Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said he would be shocked if his defense did not perform better at the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic this past weekend. And if you looked at box scores from the tournament, it would seem that the back line showed marked improvement. The Irish surrendered just six shots each to Princeton and Oklahoma State, while going 1-1 on the weekend. But, of those 12 shots, four found the back of the net. In comparison, the Irish tallied 35 shots in the two contests and managed to score just five times. Notre Dame had its way with both the Tigers and the Cowgirls from one penalty box to the other but did not execute well near either net.The Irish lost 7-1 to Santa Clara last Friday and gave up most of the goals while trying to dig themselves out of an early hole.”What fans need to understand about Santa Clara is we could have easily kept it close,” Waldrum said. “But we fell behind quickly and had to keep gambling to try to tie it up.”This weekend, the Irish continued their habit of faltering early in games. They surrendered the first goal in each of their two contests. But neither first-half deficit kept the Irish from dominating or opened up the floodgates like the one in the Santa Clara game did. Notre Dame still had ample opportunities to win, and the team took advantage of enough chances against Princeton to do just that. After falling behind 1-0 in the 22nd minute, the Irish stormed back to win 4-2.But against No. 16 Oklahoma State, Notre Dame’s luck ran out. The squad mustered nine shots in the first half but headed into the break trailing 1-0. When Irish junior forward Kerri Hanks finally sent one into the back of the net with about 22 minutes left in regulation, the team looked relieved, knowing it should have tied the score long before that. “We clearly dominated,” Waldrum said. “We should have scored five in the second half.”And, even though they couldn’t strike again before the clock ran out, the Irish appeared to carry their second-half momentum into overtime. That is, until one of the weekend’s numerous defensive miscues did them in. Just 79 seconds into the extra period, Oklahoma State senior midfielder Sasa Jackson ended the contest after the Irish defense failed to clear the ball from inside the penalty box.”In that situation, you just have to get the ball out,” Waldrum said.The attackers could have bailed their defense out earlier by converting one or two more golden opportunities. And the back line could have given the offense a few more chances by playing smart soccer.But the bottom line is that neither group played well where it counts the most – around the net.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.Contact Fran Tolan at ftolan@nd.edu