ND Women’s Soccer: Road to the Cup
Chris Masoud | Friday, November 12, 2010
While the aftermath of a loss can follow a team into its next matchup, the Irish take the pitch on Friday with a simple motivating factor — one more loss and the season is over.
Notre Dame will take on New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Championships, the first time the team has laced up its cleats since a 2-0 loss to Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the Big East Championships on Oct. 31.
“The two weeks have been really good — probably our two best weeks of training,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “I’ve never been a big believer in losing is a good thing. I would rather have won and have gone on and won the conference tournament. But since we didn’t, I think the two weeks have been really good for us.”
In order to encourage attendance, admission to Friday’s contest will be free for all Notre Dame students. Attendance for the matchup with the Huskies was just 416, and Waldrum said that home-field advantage was simply not a factor in the game.
Waldrum did, however, mention that the early exit from the conference tournament did give the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate personnel decisions, hinting that a couple of lineup changes could be in effect for Friday’s tilt.
“We looked at some of the personnel we were using,” Waldrum said. “While we were a little reluctant to make changes because we were winning, I think sometimes when you lose like we did, and then a few weeks where you haven’t been great, it makes it easier to make those changes.”
No. 4 seeded Notre Dame (15-2-2, 9-0-2 Big East) has never faced New Mexico (12-2-5, 5-0-2 Mountain West), but the Irish have won their previous two NCAA opening-round matchups against first-time opponents Toledo and IUPUI.
“You don’t really know how [the Lobos] are going to come out, because it’s their first time in,” Waldrum said, “but I think you expect them to come out just flying and just happy to be here. One thing we’ve seen in watching game tape is they’re a very well organized team defensively.”
Led by sophomore Kelli Cornell between the pipes, the Lobos have maintained a 0.39 goals against average and a .913 save percentage, giving them the second-ranked defense in the nation.
While the past two weeks has given the squad a chance to refocus and prepare for New Mexico, Notre Dame’s greatest advantage may be a healthier Courtney Barg. The junior midfielder missed the majority of the regular season due to injury, but showed signs of regaining her form in limited minutes during the final stretch of the season.
“She’s getting closer,” Waldrum said. “I think we were a little worried with the number of minutes she played on previous weekends, but I think she’s getting closer to being able to play 90 minutes in every game. She’s getting awful close to being where she needs to be for the rest of the way.”
A victory on Friday sends the Irish into a second-round match against the winner of the contest between Illinois and Southern California earlier in the day.
While North Carolina will be competing in the same region, Waldrum is confident in his team’s ability to compete and win on the road, especially in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Irish have won three of the last four contests at North Carolina, including a victory in the third-round of the NCAA Championships in 2007.
“If you’re going to win a national championship, you have to beat them [the Tar Heels] somewhere along the way, whether it’s going to be in the third round or the championship game,” Waldrum said. “I hate that cliché about one game at a time, but really at this time of the year you better just focus on that next game or you could be in trouble.”
The Irish take the field Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. Sunday’s second-round matchup will be at 1 p.m.