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Picture Perfect

Fran Tolan | Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No. 1 Notre Dame has not yet entered the second phase of its season but the Irish have made plenty of history so far.

With four wins since last Friday, the team is off to its best start in the program’s 21 seasons. The undefeated Irish downed Seton Hall 6-0 Sunday at Alumni Field to cap not only an unbeaten fall break but also a perfect regular season. Notre Dame beat a quartet of Big East squads to run its overall record to 18-0-0 heading into the postseason.

“This is the first time we’ve gone through a regular season unbeaten and that’s not an easy thing to do in this day and age, especially with the kind of schedule we play,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “I’m just proud of them and now we just gotta go into that second phase of the season.”

In her first career start Sunday, senior forward Kerry Inglis made Notre Dame’s Senior Day one to savor. She scored her first NCAA goal to put the Irish on the board then capped the scoring with a tally in the 85th minute.

Inglis, who got injured during her first preseason practice freshman year, has had several major ankle surgeries and now wears a brace on the field. But her most memorable regular-season game was worth the wait.

“It’s a great storyline. You couldn’t write a better script for Kerry Inglis,” Waldrum said. “Her career has never been able to really take off like she could have had it. To see her come in today and get two goals – get the game-winning goal on the first one – I mean, you couldn’t have asked for a better script for her.”

Irish freshman forward Melissa Henderson added a pair of goals Sunday as junior Michele Weissenhofer and sophomore Taylor Knaack also scored.

Kerri Hanks’ school record of 11 consecutive games with a goal was snapped against Seton Hall, and may have been the only aspect of the win that could be considered mildly disappointing. With just under 13 minutes to play, Hanks came out of the game after notching a pair of assists. With the two helpers, she ran her point-scoring streak to 14 games, tying Katie Thorlakson for the school record.

“We could’ve made the decision to leave [Hanks] in and try to help her continue that [goal-scoring] streak but I think she realizes it – as we do – we would all kick ourselves in the rear end if we left her in the game if we’re winning and she got an injury,” Waldrum said. “And I think she’ll be the first to tell you if it helps us and keeps her fresh and ready for the playoffs, she’ll pass on the streak. But … she got some points in the game today so she keeps the scoring streak alive.”

Before the blowout of Seton Hall, the Irish picked up road wins over Providence and Connecticut last weekend before defeating No. 24/18 Rutgers 3-1 Friday on a wet night at Alumni Field.

“Friday, it rained all day and the night before [but] the soccer gods were watching us and it just stopped right about kickoff time,” Waldrum said. “Considering that, we had some good fan support out, and the kids played really well on a field that was pretty sloppy against a good Rutgers team. So I was really pleased with the performance.”

But even after outscoring its opponents 16-1 in its last four matches, Notre Dame will now wipe the slate clean and prepare for the Big East tournament. The Irish earned a first-round bye and will host a quarterfinals match next Sunday. The conference semifinals and finals will also be held at Alumni Field.

Waldrum said he knows his team’s record up to this point will not earn it any wins in the postseason.

“It’s a great storyline, I think, as long as the players and the staff keeps putting it in perspective that it’s great that you go undefeated but you still have a lot of work to do with your conference tournament coming up,” he said. “We’re hosting it so you want to make sure you’re in it and you wanna do everything you can to win it.”