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Weissenhofer breaks out just in time

Bill Brink | Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To describe forward Michele Weissenhofer’s postseason success, Irish coach Randy Waldrum had to turn to baseball.

“With forwards, it’s probably like a home-run hitter or a slugger,” Waldrum said. “If you get in a little bit of a slump, it starts to weigh on you and as a forward, I think she was getting really down on herself because you’re not scoring a lot of goals on a regular basis.”

Weissenhofer picked a great time to break out of her slump.

The sophomore scored a goal during Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament and had two more in the 3-2 win over North Carolina Saturday.

Weissenhofer had 53 points last season – 18 goals, 17 assists – which were second on the team to forward Kerri Hanks, who had 66 points. Heading into the Illinois game, she had scored only four. An ankle injury hampered her this season.

“As you’ve probably seen this season I haven’t been much of a goal scorer, so I was very excited to get a goal,” she said after the Illinois game. “It was great to get the goal and get the win.”

Waldrum felt that the goal may have ignited her to her previous form.

“Maybe the goal against Illinois in the second round was a big thing for her, to finally score a goal,” Waldrum said Tuesday.

Waldrum said that having Weissenhofer fully healthy and back on her game “made all the difference in the world.”

“She looked to me like the Weissenhofer we had last year,” he said. “She actually looked faster than some of North Carolina, she was strong and confident.”

Weissenhofer is a physical presence in the attacking third and asserts herself well against defenders. Her quickness enables her to reach through-balls others may not. Against North Carolina, for instance, she outran a defender while chasing a ball that had been passed to the Tar Heels keeper. The keeper misplayed the ball, and Weissenhofer put herself in position to steal the ball and score.

“The defender was trying to block me off from the goalie getting it,” Weissenhofer said Tuesday. “I pressured the goalie and I kind of got around her. The goalie didn’t think I was going to get there. The ball hit the goalie’s shoulder, and I just game along the side of her, took it off my chest, and shot it.”

Weissenhofer, like her teammates, was surprised at the turn of events.

“We were just like so excited, like, ‘that really just happened,'” she said. “Everything happened so quick, it was crazy.”

Weissenhofer gives Notre Dame an added weapon most teams don’t possess. From the sidelines in the attacking third, Weissenhofer’s acrobatic somersault throw-in can reach the center of the penalty kick box. She did just that early in the North Carolina game, and forward Brittany Bock redirected the throw for the first goal of the game.

“I just kind of really try and get it in the PK spot, six-yard box, so someone can hit it,” Weissenhofer said.

The atmosphere of Saturday’s game gave Weissenhofer and the Irish an idea of what the national championship might be like, she said.

“We got a taste of what it would feel like to win the national championship – just a small taste,” she said.

Taste or not, Weissenhofer believed in her team and its chances in the coming weeks.