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ND Women’s Soccer: An Olympic Feet

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, October 3, 2008

Two Olympians, two gold medals in Beijing, and a little extra incentive to play well this weekend.

Kate (Sobrero) Markgraf (1998) and Shannon Boxx (1999), who once graced the Irish pitch, will be in the stands this weekend cheering on their fellow Irish soccer players as Notre Dame takes on South Florida tonight and Marquette Sunday.

“I think it’s exciting for them because I think they’ll want to do well and show well in from of the alumni,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “Cause we always talk a lot about the history of our program and living up the standards that were set by the alumni that came before … they’ll want to showcase what we’re doing this year in front of that group, it’ll be really important to them.”

But with a No. 1 ranking on their back, the Irish are used to high expectations and being seen as the team to beat.

South Florida steps onto Notre Dame’s campus for the first time. The two teams only played each other once before, in 2005 in Tampa, and the Irish won 4-0. But Waldrum said he knows the Bulls present a threat, primarily in their defense.

“I think they’re going to be a really good team defensively, so I think it’s gonna be a tough game for us cause I think they may be one of the more disciplined teams than we’ve seen all year,” he said.

South Florida enters the contest having won its last three matchups. The three wins were all shutouts, thanks in large part to Bulls goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi, who has given up only six goals all season and is the current Big East Goalkeeper of the Week.

With Lofton-Malachi at the spine of the Bulls, the Irish will look to dissect South Florida’s defense.

“We’ve been working a little bit on how to break it down, and spent quite a bit of time trying to get balls in the wide areas of the field and getting in behind them a little bit,” Waldrum said. “They tend to drop off a little deeper than most teams do so we’re hopeful that we can play in front of them some and get time with the ball with a little space to run at them.”

And after looking to break down the Bulls defense, Notre Dame gets one day of rest before taking on Marquette Sunday. But the Irish boast a strong depth start that should keep their legs fresh.

“If you look at most teams their Sunday performance is not nearly as good as their Friday night, there’s just not enough rest time,” Waldrum said. “I think that’s where our depth has really helped us, we’ve been able to start different players Friday than we do on Sunday, and I think that depth has really helped keep us fresh, and given us the chance to have a little bit more energy and intensity on a Sunday game.”

Besides having the advantage of a strong bench, the Irish will have to adjust their style of play for the Marquette defense, one that attacks the ball early and often.

“They pressure you, they get a lot of players around the ball wherever it is, it almost seems like a lot of defensive chaos … when they defend they just really work hard to get a lot of players around the ball very quickly, and they’re good at that,” Waldrum said. “So that kind of game Sunday is one that I think will be more disruptive.”

Waldrum said the team will keep the ball moving at a fast past to counteract the Golden Eagles defense, and with nearly enough players to suit up two teams, there’s little possibility the speed of the game will slow down.