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ND Women’s Soccer: Friars next, Huskies loom

Fran Tolan | Thursday, October 16, 2008

No. 1 Notre Dame will have little time to relax over fall break. The undefeated Irish will take on four Big East opponents the next two weekends, beginning with a road tilt against Providence Friday.

But Irish coach Randy Waldrum said his team will face an even bigger test at Connecticut Sunday. The Huskies, perennially one of the strongest squads in the Big East, suffered from injuries early in the season but are coming off a tie against No. 15 West Virginia on Sunday.

“I think what’s happened with Connecticut and them being a little bit down this year can be attributed to some of their early injuries,” Waldrum said. “But they’re going to be there in the end and you just know [Huskies coach Len Tsantiris] is going to get them turned around.”

Connecticut, which was ranked earlier in the season, has had to struggle just to even up its Big East record at 2-2-3.

“I’m a little leery of them because it’s a bit of a situation where they feel like they have to win,” Waldrum said. “They’re like a wounded animal. They need to win just to survive and keep their hopes for the NCAA Tournament – and even the Big East tournament – alive.”

Waldrum said Connecticut’s Joseph J. Morrone Stadium brings back bad memories for him and the Irish.

“That’s been a very difficult place to play over the years,” he said. “Part of that’s been that they’ve been one of the top teams in the conference. We’ve gone out there undefeated a few times and they’ve ruined it for us. They’ve got enough to make life difficult for us.”

Waldrum said senior forward Elizabeth Eng and junior midfielder Annie Yi could pose problems for the Notre Dame defense. He also praised Connecticut’s goalkeeping and coaching.

And life will not get any easier for the Irish after they take on Connecticut. They return for their final home weekend, which concludes with a match against No. 14 Rutgers.

Rutgers is 10-3-1 overall and 5-1-1 in Big East play, and beat Villanova 5-0 on Sept. 22. Last weekend, Villanova took Notre Dame to overtime before the Irish won 3-2.

“Rutgers has had some really good results,” Waldrum said. “And that game could come down to determining the championship in our division, provided we take care of business this weekend. Hopefully, that should give us some extra motivation.”

Waldrum said he is happy his team will face tough challenges against Connecticut and Rutgers.

“It’s good for us to finish with some really good teams like that,” he said. “You want to be tested as you head into the Big East tournament the later the NCAA [Tournament].”

But before the Irish have the opportunity to take on heavyweights like Connecticut and Rutgers, they will head to Providence (5-5-3 overall, 0-4-3 Big East) Friday. And Waldrum said Notre Dame is not overlooking the Friars.

“I think we’re better than Providence on paper but we have to keep our focus and intelligence level,” he said. “We wanna make sure we take care of business.”