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ND Women’s Soccer: Team sets off to New England

Allan Joseph | Thursday, October 14, 2010

With only two weekends remaining in the regular season, the No. 4/5 Irish will travel to New England this weekend in search of two wins that will put them on the brink of yet another Big East National Division title. On Friday afternoon, Notre Dame (13-1-0, 7-0-0 Big East) will face Connecticut (6-2-2, 3-3-1) before taking on Providence (8-4-2, 2-3-2) on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re getting closer and closer to being in a position to maybe wrap up the championship,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “I think we’re still a couple of wins away from that at least.”

In fact, if the Irish continue with their conference perfection this weekend, they will clinch at least a share of the National Division; two more Notre Dame wins combined with any Georgetown loss will give the Irish the crown outright. Notre Dame travels to face the Hoyas next week.

At the forefront of the Irish’s minds, however, is the trip to Storrs, Conn., the site of the renewal of a traditional league rivalry, albeit one that has been one-sided recently. The Irish have come away victorious in each of their last eight meetings with the Huskies.

“We have such a rivalry with Connecticut,” Waldrum said. “They’ve been such a force in the Big East and that’s always a tough game and a tough place to play.”

The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Irish senior goalkeeper Nikki Weiss, who hails from Redding, Conn., and will be facing her home-state school.

“I think it’s always good to get a chance to go home and play in front of friends and family,” Waldrum said. “I think we’re eating lunch at her house on Saturday.”

On Friday, however, Weiss will be focused on stopping the three-pronged attack of Husky senior midfielder Elise Fugowski, sophomore midfielder Linda Ruutu and graduate student forward Angelika Johansson, who are all coached by the longest-tenured coach in the Big East, Len Tsantiris.

“Those players, I think, are a couple of the best players in the conference,” Waldrum said. “Their team kind of goes how their two or three best players go.”

The Friars have traditionally been one of the easier matchups on the schedule for the Irish, but this year promises something different. Providence opened its season with one of the best starts in program history, posting six shutout wins in eight games. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Webster and graduate student forward Jill Camburn will pose the biggest offensive threats to the Irish back line, but the true intangible will be the team’s confidence.

“Providence is having really their best year ever, or at least as far back as I can remember,” Waldrum said. “I think we’re going to find a very confident Providence team.”

With the weekend shaping up to be one that could be crucial late in the season, Waldrum took the time to mention that its importance was earned, not given.

“If we didn’t do the work early in the season, these last two weekend wouldn’t matter,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a really good position.”

The Irish clash with Connecticut at 4:30 p.m. Friday and then battle Providence at 1 p.m. on Sunday.