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ND Women’s Soccer: Squad to begin title hunt at home

Alex Barker | Friday, November 13, 2009

No. 5 Notre Dame begins its quest for its third national title when it hosts IUPUI in the first round of the NCAA Championships today at Alumni Stadium. This is the 16th consecutive season the Irish have hosted first and second round matches in the NCAA tournament.

Since dropping three of four matches in the early part of the season, the Irish (17-3-1) have caught fire, putting together a 15-game unbeaten streak after rolling through the Big East schedule. Last weekend, the Irish capped off the conference slate with two one-goal victories over St. John’s and Marquette in the Big East Championships to capture their 11th conference title.

No. 2-seed Notre Dame brings an NCAA tournament home record of 39-3-0 into this contest against an IUPUI squad making its first ever playoff appearance after capturing the Summit League Championship.

Despite the teams’ close proximity, the Irish and the Jaguars have never faced each other.

While Notre Dame fields a young team due to several injuries among the upperclassmen, it is not a roster that lacks in postseason experience. Last season, the Irish almost completed a perfect season before falling 2-1 to North Carolina in finals of the NCAA championship.

Leading the Irish’s run this season is sophomore forward Melissa Henderson. Despite being hampered by injury for much of the season, Henderson leads the team with 11 goals and four assists.

Right behind her is junior forward Lauren Fowlkes, who has 10 goal and three assists on the season. Fowlkes took home Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors for her efforts.

The defense has been equally impressive. The Irish haven’t given up more than one goal since their 3-2 overtime victory at West Virginia on Oct. 2.

Junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss has been a major factor in that streak, posting a 9-0-1 (seven shutouts) record over the past ten contests. Weiss’ 0.53 goals against average and 29 saves are both team bests.

Kickoff between the Irish and the Jaguars is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.