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ND Women’s Soccer: Wise Weiss

Alex Barker | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just one year removed from a campaign in which she did not make a single start, junior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss now finds herself anchoring a strong Irish defense and just two wins away from leading Notre Dame to its fourth consecutive NCAA College Cup appearance.

The Redding, Conn. native passed senior Kelsey Lysander for the starting position earlier in the season after the Irish stumbled out of the gates, losing three of their first six matches despite boasting a No. 2 preseason ranking.

“When we were struggling to find the right lineup early in the season, injuries really compounded our problems,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “Early on we just didn’t have a solid back line and it took us a while to establish that. Once we got that settled, it really cleared up our goalkeeping situation. The key for us was to get our back line and goalkeeper in sync.”

Weiss has been spectacular in net for the Irish since taking over as the regular starter. She has made 14 starts this season, posting a 12-1-1 record with a 0.55 goals against average. Weiss has recorded sevens shutouts this season, including her first career solo shutout against Pittsburgh in a 0-0 tie on Oct. 4.

“[Weiss] has a very strong physical presence and good height which is a bonus in a goalkeeper,” Waldrum said. “She has always been capable [of being a very good player], but in the past some mental lapses got in her way. She worked really hard in the preseason and now she is playing with much more consistency.”

Weiss said practicing alongside the veteran Lysander has been a real asset is her development as a player.

“Kelsey is a great goalkeeper, person and leader,” Weiss said. “She just comes out every day and makes us better and she really pushes us to our fullest potential.”

Lysander started every game last season for the Irish en route to a 26-1 record.
Waldrum acknowledged that the decision to play one goalie over the other has been very tough.

“It hasn’t been easy deciding between these goalkeepers,” he said. “They each have had periods where one has been better than the other. Right now, they both are looking really good but we have to stick with the hot goalkeeper which has been Nikki.”

The amount of one-goal games the Irish have been involved in this season has really made the goalkeeper position that much more important.

“We had a stretch where we were winning a lot of close games,” Waldrum said “We needed someone to step in and show the team that they could handle the pressure of a close game and that they weren’t going to give up goals in those situations. And that’s exactly what Nikki did. She has shown us that she is more than capable of being that person.”

After two dominating wins in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Weiss and the rest of the Irish find themselves just three wins away from the team’s eighth appearance in the College Cup finals. Despite the youth of the team, Weiss said she believes the amount of experience among them will prove vital as they continue to advance deeper into the tournament.

“Experience is definitely a very important factor at this time of the year,” Weiss said. “Our seniors really do a good job conveying that message and this is the time of year where we have to take our stand as the Notre Dame women’s soccer team.”