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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish head to Cary, N.C., in pursuit of perfection

Fran Tolan | Friday, December 5, 2008

Notre Dame travels to the College Cup in Cary, N.C. this weekend with a lofty goal – to finish off the best season in program history. The top-ranked Irish are 25-0-0 and will have to defeat two other No. 1 seeds to bring home the National Championship trophy.

“We have 25 wins going into the Final Four and that is just so hard to do in this day and age,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “…If this team goes on and finishes out undefeated, this team is clearly the best [in program history] because the record shows it. If they win it all, then there’s not much of an argument.”

Waldrum said that the 2004 Irish are the current Notre Dame gold standard – for now.

“We have to continue to keep these players motivated because until we win it all, the ’04 [team] is one of – if not the best – team here,” he said.

Waldrum said he is especially excited for this weekend because the Notre Dame seniors will have one more chance at winning a title. The class has travelled to the College Cup the past two seasons before going home empty-handed.

“I am really, really happy,” Waldrum said. “I’m most happy for our senior class to get one more shot at it.”

Senior co-captain Brittany Bock, who missed four games due to a leg injury, returned to the field last Friday in a 2-0 win over Florida State. The forward said this year’s squad is better than the two that came up short in recent years.

“This year, we’re going in with an amazing record and I think this is the best team I’ve been on,” she said.

The Irish will open play at 4:30 this afternoon against Stanford at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Cardinal, who boast a 21-1-1 record, are one of the four No. 1 seeds in the College Cup. The other semifinal will pit North Carolina against undefeated UCLA.

“All four No. 1 seeds made it and I can’t remember the last time that happened,” Waldrum said. “Between the four teams, there are only two losses [in their combined records]. Any of the four is capable of winning it all.”

Notre Dame dealt North Carolina its only loss of the season and Stanford’s only setback came against UCLA.

Waldrum said he is not concerned with a possible matchup with the Tar Heels in their home state. The Irish defeated North Carolina 1-0 on Sept. 5 in Chapel Hill.

“Carolina has been a good place for us to play over the years,” the coach said. “Plus, our kids kind of get motivated to play in North Carolina’s backyard.”

Notre Dame has gotten a goal from 19 different players this season, but Waldrum said he is most happy with the recent play of the Irish back line.

“We’ve always had a team that can score goals and create offensive opportunities but the thing I’m most proud of has been the really good defense.”

Senior co-captain Carrie Dew leads the unit, which has given up an average of .40 goals per game. Dew is the reigning Top Drawer Soccer national player of the week. The center back played last season with a knee brace but Waldrum said she has fully recovered from the injury.

“Carrie Dew is finally healthy, but because people love stats she’s just not talked about as much [as the Irish forwards],” Waldrum said. “Defense is where we made the biggest upgrade this year.”

The Irish back line will have to be stout today because goals should be hard to come by against Stanford goalie Kira Maker and the Cardinal defense. The unit has posted shutouts in 14 of its 21 wins.

Notre Dame and Stanford will take the field today at 4:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPNU.