ND Women’s Soccer: Prime Time
Bill Brink | Friday, November 16, 2007
Notre Dame is 12-1 in its last 13 games, while Loyola-Chicago is 12-3-1 since Sept. 21.
Something has to give tonight when the Ramblers face the Irish on Alumni Field at 7:30 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame (15-4-2) and Loyola have played four times, most recently in 2003 when the Irish beat the Ramblers 5-0, also in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame has outscored Loyola 37-0 in the four-game series.
The Irish have now made their 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament and have played first-round games at home for the past 14 seasons.
The conference championship games ended in penalty kicks for both teams. Loyola (14-8-1) will make its third NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Horizon League title with a 3-2 PK victory over Milwaukee after playing to a 2-2 draw through regulation and the two overtime periods.
The Irish fell 5-3 in penalty kicks to West Virginia after a 1-1 tie through 110 minutes in the Big East championship game.
Irish coach Randy Waldrum said with both teams as hot as they are, the game may come down to chance.
“It could be decided on things like free kicks,” Waldrum said. “Corner kicks, free kicks, throw-ins – Those dead ball situations can become extremely important in tight games.”
And then there are intangibles.
“The other things [are] which team is going to come with the most heart and intensity,” Waldrum said. “Just that competitive fire and that edge … you have.”
The winner of tonight’s match will face either Illinois or Louisville – who play here tonight at 5 – on Alumni Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
But the Irish aren’t looking past Loyola.
In the past four games, the Ramblers have allowed only two goals. Waldrum said that, when facing such a tough defense, his team needs to control the ball and take advantage of any and all scoring opportunities – even those that may not appear to be the most promising.
“We need to take advantage of half chances that present themselves,” Waldrum said. “We’ve got to take the opportunity to shoot the ball. Sometimes we want to keep moving the ball around until we get a perfect shot, and we miss opportunities.”
Ramblers freshman keeper Colleen Dougherty has a record of 12-4-1 with seven shutouts since cracking the starting lineup. She has allowed 1.02 goals per game and has a .784 save percentage in 20 appearances.
Dougherty and the Loyola defense will face an Irish offense that averages 2.46 goals on 17.6 shots per game. Junior forward Kerri Hanks leads the Irish with 13 goals and 15 assists, and forward Brittany Bock has 12 goals of her own. Hanks has scored a point in 12 consecutive games.
Loyola forward Cynthia Morote-Ariza leads the Ramblers with 17 goals and 43 points, both single-season school records. Ariza, the Horizon League player of the year, presents a challenge for the Irish defense.
“She is the real deal. She’s having a great year,” Waldrum said. “She’s a clever, kind of a creative type player. She’s very good on the ball. She’s clearly someone we’re going to have to pay close attention to.”
Notre Dame has won two NCAA championships, one in 1995 and the other in 2004. The Irish are 32-3-0 in NCAA Tournament games played on Alumni Field.
u Senior Amanda Cinalli, Hanks, Bock and Elise Weber made the initial ballot for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top player. The National Soccer Coaches Association will select 15 semifinalists.
u Sophomore defender Haley Ford was able to practice this week after suffering a hamstring injury earlier this season. Waldrum was unsure of how much, if any, playing time she could see this weekend.