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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish face tough road to finals

Mike Gotimer | Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No. 4/5 Notre Dame was pleased to learn Monday evening that they had earned a No. 2 seed in what looks to be a challenging College Cup bracket.

With their No. 2 seed, the Irish are guaranteed to host at least three home games during the championship and would only travel if they were to face No. 1 seed Florida State in the pod final. However, despite the luxury of playing in front of a home crowd, Irish coach Randy Waldrum said that there is enough competition in the bracket to make Notre Dame work for a berth in the Final Four of the College Cup.

“I would say that you’ve got a few teams in there that we think can pose some problems,” Waldrum said. “Obviously we’re just focusing on IUPUI because it’s one loss and you’re out, but looking at the brackets and seeing who could be difficult teams down the road, there’s a handful of 4-5 quality teams that can be a tough stretch not only for us but for Florida State as well.”

In addition to the Seminoles, the Irish could run into quality opponents in each round of the tournament, starting with IUPUI, who is making its first appearance in the tournament. Should the Irish advance to the second round, they’ll face the winner of the first-round matchup between Central Michigan and Purdue.

“We got the group of four that we had anticipated before going into the selection, but I think the thing you have to be careful about is to make sure that you continue to stay focused, so at this point, IUPUI is the national championship,” Waldrum said. “This is their first time and they walked right through [the Summit League] and their tournament, so they’re gonna be challenging and bring a lot of fans in from Indianapolis. They’ll be excited so it’s important to get our fans out, and we really need the students behind us this weekend at home. We have two difficult games, and IUPUI could be one of the toughest first round games we’ve had in years, just as Central Michigan could be for Purdue.”

The Irish could run into the winner of a potential second round matchup between Florida and Ohio State in the third round. Both teams would be far from an easy out for the Irish, especially the athletic Gators. Fortunately for the Irish, Florida is one of two teams in their half of the pod from outside the Midwest, which could add to Notre Dame’s homefield advantage.

“I think it kind of depends on what’s going on with the weather at the time,” Waldrum said. “They’re gonna be up at Ohio State in that opening weekend, and I don’t think the weather’s gonna be too bad, but Florida is probably as athletic a team as there is in our grouping, so it could be a problem if they got through, so you hope travel could be to our advantage, and the weather might be bad. Anytime a team travels to the Midwest from the South or West Coast it’s gonna be difficult.”

On the national level, three of the four pods appear to be very challenging. In Waldrum’s opinion, defending champion North Carolina has the easiest road to the Final Four.
“I think Carolina has the easiest pod,” Waldrum said. “I just didn’t see much all the way through there that’s gonna pose a huge problem. The other three groupings all got a very difficult draw.”