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Women’s Soccer: Hosts of the party

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 7, 2008

No. 1 Notre Dame will host a Big East semifinal match against No. 25 Marquette tonight at 5 p.m. The conference final will also be held at Alumni Field, on Sunday against the winner of Friday’s West Virginia-Connecticut winner.

The Irish have a perfect record and will have home-field advantage as long as they keep winning. But Irish coach Randy Waldrum knows hosting the Big East tournament does not guarantee victories. He said the team hopes to see a packed crowd Friday to give it an extra boost.

“Home-field advantage doesn’t help you if don’t have a lot of fans there,” Waldrum said. “Hopefully, the weather cooperates, and we’re expecting a great crowd even though it’s an earlier game.”

The contest will be televised live on CBS College Sports and tickets are free for students.

Marquette is the only team that has led against the Irish this year and Waldrum said he expects this game to be as competitive as Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over the Golden Eagles on Oct. 5.

“They’re always a very difficult team to play,” Waldrum said. “Their head coach, Markus Roeders, always does a good job putting a competitive team on the field.”

Roeders has led Marquette to six NCAA Tournament appearances but has just a 1-4 career record against Notre Dame.

Still, Waldrum said this season’s Golden Eagles squad is dangerous because of its good balance, especially on the back line.

“They’re very athletic and competitive and fast,” he said. “And the thing I’d say is they have really good goalkeeping and a good, strong defense.”

Waldrum said that even against Marquette’s solid defense, he hopes the Irish can produce enough offense that he can rest senior forward Kerri Hanks. Hanks, Notre Dame’s top scorer, injured her knee in a 5-0 win over Cincinnati last Sunday.

“I’d say it’s a game-day decision with [Hanks],” he said. “She had a good week of practice and she’s doing a lot better but I think I’m inclined to be a little conservative with her. We’re gonna try to rest her if we can but if we have to use her, we will.”

If Notre Dame gets past Marquette, they might have a chance at revenge against West Virginia, who took down the Irish in penalty kicks in last year’s Big East final. The Mountaineers will play Connecticut in the other semifinal at Alumni Field today at 2:30 p.m. But Waldrum said his team cannot afford to overlook the Golden Eagles.

“We’ve gotta be focused with a team like Marquette coming in,” he said. “We can’t even afford to guess about the other game. We just need to go out and beat Marquette then worry about the rest of the weekend when we get there.”