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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish face Red Storm in semis

Mike Gotime | Friday, November 6, 2009

No. 4/7 Notre Dame finds itself in a familiar position this weekend as they head to Storrs, Conn., to play St. John’s in the Big East semifinals. By the end of their east coast road trip, the Irish hope to return home with their 11th Big East title.

The Irish, who are making their 14th appearance in 15 years in the conference semifinals, find themselves facing a Red Storm team that has not advanced this far in the conference tournament since 1994.

Notre Dame hasn’t faced St. John’s since the 2007 season. Coach Randy Waldrum said he believes that the 2009 edition of the Red Storm could pose challenges for the Irish with their experience and strong defensive play.

“They’ve got a roster that’s pretty senior dominated, so they’ve got experience, and they haven’t given up much defensively this year,” Waldrum said. “It’s gonna be difficult.”

St. John’s finds themselves in the semifinals after a thrilling 1-0 double overtime victory over a good Georgetown team in the quarterfinals. The stout Red Storm defense is anchored by sophomore goalie Kristen Russell, who has played every minute of the 2009 season, allowing just 0.56 goals per game and recording nine shutouts.

On offense, the Red Storm are led by senior forward/midfielders C.J. Ludemann, who leads the team with 11 points, and Kaitlin Hass, who leads the team with four goals.

Although Waldrum said each team carries momentum into the game, he believes that St. John’s may come out aggressive early on as they fight for a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“Both teams are going in with momentum and St. John’s is trying to get into the NCAA Tournament, and to do that they want to win the conference tournament,” Waldrum said.

The winner of the semifinal match between Notre Dame and St. John’s will face the winner of the other semifinal match between Marquette and West Virginia Sunday for the Big East crown.

While Notre Dame has yet to face Marquette this year, the Irish posted a 3-2 overtime win on the road against West Virginia on Oct. 2.

“Both teams are very good but they’re completely different,” Waldrum said. “West Virginia plays more like us. They’re big on the passing game and try to move the ball around. Marquette is a high-pressure team and puts numbers around the ball.  They try to pressure you.”

Because the Irish have faced the Mountaineers already this year and are familiar with their style of play, Waldrum said they may present a more favorable matchup for Notre Dame than Marquette.  However, he respects the fact that both teams can present a challenging match for the Irish.

“We match up a lot of ways better with a West Virginia team than with Marquette, but having said that, we had to go to overtime to beat West Virginia on the road, and they’re both quality teams and present difficult matchups.” Waldrum said.

Notre Dame continues its quest for its 11th Big East title today at 7:30 p.m.