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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish to play Big East pair

Mike Gotimer | Friday, October 8, 2010

No. 5/7 Notre Dame will wrap its regular season home schedule by attempting to harvest wins from two Garden State foes this weekend at Alumni Stadium.

The Irish (11-1, 5-0) will face tough opponents in Rutgers (8-5. 3-2) and Seton Hall (6-6, 2-3), who provide more challenges than their records indicate.

Last season, the Irish and Scarlet Knights were the class of the Big East, as the two teams were ranked top-10 when then No. 8 Notre Dame defeated then No. 10 Rutgers 1-0 on senior midfielder Lauren Fowlkes’ goal in the 84th minute.

While the Scarlet Knights may not be ranked in the top-10 for this year’s match, Irish coach Randy Waldrum still believes that they pose a potent threat for Notre Dame.

“Rutgers is still a very good team,” Waldrum said. “I think they got off to a little bit of a rough start, but you look and they went on the road and played Portland to [a 2-1 loss], who’s No. 2 or 3 in the country depending on the poll. They’re going to be very, very good, and I don’t see them being much different than they were last year.”

Rutgers has been ranked as high as No. 17 in the NSCAA poll this season. Redshirt freshman Jonelle Filigno leads the team with 11 points and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins has posted a 0.73 goals against average between the pipes this year. Historically, the Scarlet Knights have only beaten the Irish once in twenty tries, while Notre Dame has beaten Rutgers 17 times.

Before the Irish take on Rutgers, they will face a vastly improved Seton Hall squad. The Pirates, who won just five games a year ago, have already surpassed their win total from 2009, entering the match against Notre Dame with six wins on the year.

Waldrum said he believes that this Seton Hall squad is dangerous because they have displayed an uncanny ability to play up or down to their competition this season.

“They’re very much improved, no question about it,” Waldrum said. “The surprising thing with them that’s hard to figure out is they’ve lost some games that you’re a little surprised they lost but then they beat some teams that you were shocked about — they beat Rutgers early in the year and there were a couple of games that caught your eye that you were really shocked that they actually got a win in.”

The Irish are 15-1 all time against the Pirates with a 7-0 record in South Bend, where they’ve outscored Seton Hall 38-2. Freshman forward Katie Ritter, a former Big East Rookie of the Week winner, leads Seton Hall with six goals and 13 points while sophomore goalkeeper Jennifer Pettigrew has been solid between the posts with two shutouts and a 1.50 goals against average.

This weekend’s matchups will provide the Notre Dame student body with their last chance to see one of the ­­nation’s premier programs before the postseason begins. Waldrum stressed the importance of student attendance on his team’s performance. Recently, Waldrum has been critical of the students’ lack of support for the team.

“I would ask [the students] that they come out and support us,” Waldrum said. “It’s really been disappointing to me, and I know the students have a lot on their plates with the academics and all the different athletic events that go on, but it’s important that we get the support. When we go on the road, we’re playing in front of that team’s biggest crowd, and then when we get home, it’s like we can’t get our students in and get behind us for whatever reason.”

“The one time this year that I thought they came out in great force was that Santa Clara game early in the year, and we had the students behind the goals and the bagpipes playing, and it literally sends chills down your players’ spines,” Waldrum continued. “It’s like a 12th player, a 12th man.”

Notre Dame kicks off against Seton Hall at 7 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Sunday against Rutgers in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPNU.