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ND Women’s Soccer: Measuring Stick

Allan Joseph | Friday, September 3, 2010

An old soccer adage holds that the team that has the possession advantage will win the game, a strategy Spain used to great effect this summer in its World Cup triumph. Irish coach Randy Waldrum hopes to emulate the newly minted world champions this weekend in both style and results as Notre Dame hosts the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic.

The No. 3/4 Irish (2-0) will face No. 8/9 Santa Clara (2-0-1) on Friday night before taking on Texas Tech (5-0) on Sunday afternoon in a pair of clashes that Waldrum feels has significance beyond the early days of September.

“You always want to win every game if you can,” he said. “More importantly, we feel that when you play top teams early, it sets up for being able to host playoff wins late in the year — if you can get enough of these big wins. We kind of like having teams coming in here in November and having to play us at our place.”

The three central midfielders in Waldrum’s 4-3-3 system will be especially important in ball possession, which has been the focus of practice all week.

“We’ve not been very good the first couple games of keeping the ball enough,” Waldrum said. “It’s going to be our focus to keep the ball so that we can make the opponents chase the game a little bit and chase us.”

Friday night’s game against Santa Clara will provide one of the season’s toughest challenges all year, as this year’s edition of the Broncos is again one of the top squads in the country. The Santa Clara matchup has become a yearly fixture on the Irish schedule that has consistently proven to be an early test for Notre Dame, and Waldrum sees no difference in this year’s matchup.

“They’ve always been good, and they’ve got a good team again,” he said. “[They’ve] got a couple of really key kids that we think can cause us some problems, and so we’re going to have to play very well to get the win.”

Notre Dame is not nearly as familiar with Texas Tech, but Waldrum is familiar with the Red Raiders coach. Tom Stone was Waldrum’s star in the first coaching job the Irish coach ever held. In his fourth season at Texas Tech, Stone has begun to build a program that is beginning to win consistently.

Waldrum said he and his staff have not had much of an opportunity to scout the Red Raiders, and will use the tournament-opening contest between Ole Miss and Texas Tech to familiarize themselves with Stone’s strategy and tactics.

“I do know he’s got a couple of kids that we tried to recruit,” Waldrum said. “[But beyond that], we don’t have a lot of information on them.”

Despite the uncertainty of the weekend’s second contest, the Irish know what their focus will be.

“It’s ball possession,” Waldrum said. “That’s been the impetus all week and that’s been the focus.”

The Irish take on the Broncos at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and then face the Red Raiders at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Alumni Stadium.