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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish begin Big East title hunt

Fran Tolan | Friday, November 2, 2007

After defeating Rutgers last Sunday, Notre Dame will again face the Scarlet Knights in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

The Irish earned a first-round bye, but will begin tournament play on Sunday at Alumni Field.

The Scarlet Knights will have to maintain a high level of play to have any chance against the Irish, who finished the regular season unbeaten in conference play. Notre Dame is looking to win its 10th Big East championship during its 13 years in the conference.

After beginning the season 3-4-1, the Irish put together a 10-game win streak during which they outscored opponents 34-5.

“I give credit to these [players] because it would have been easy to fold up the ship early after starting out how we did,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum.

In Notre Dame’s most recent game, it defeated Rutgers 3-1 in New Jersey. In that contest, the Scarlet Knights became the first team to hold a lead over the Irish during their win streak.

“Rutgers showed that they’re capable of putting us on the ropes,” Waldrum said. “We had to battle back last week against them.”

In addition to trying to win the conference tournament, the Irish will set out to improve their standing for the NCAA Tournament. With wins over strong opponents, the Irish have a chance to become one of the top eight seeds, which would guarantee them home games against lower-ranked opponents for the first several rounds.

“Some years when you haven’t really lost too many games, you kind of want to cruise [through the Big East tournament],” Waldrum said. “This year, we would love to play the best teams there are because we’re hoping to get a top-eight seed.”

The Irish offense, which topped the Big East in scoring at 2.7 goals per game, is led by junior forward Kerri Hanks. After scoring a goal and notching four assists in wins over Seton Hall and Rutgers, Hanks was named the Big East offensive player of the week. Against the Scarlet Knights, Hanks became the third Division I player ever to reach 50 career goals and 50 assists prior to her senior season.

Senior goalie Lauren Karas will mind the net behind a defense that has surrendered an average of just .50 goals per game.

Rutgers defeated St. John’s in New York in a shootout Thursday. The Scarlet Knights posted a record of 9-8-3 in the regular season and finished fifth in the Big East National Division.

The Irish will host the Scarlet Knights at 1 p.m. Sunday at Alumni Field.