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ND Women’s Soccer: Tournament bound

Allan Joseph | Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The NCAA left some in South Bend disappointed Monday when the brackets for the NCAA championship were released on the heels of Connecticut’s upset of No. 8/10 Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals.

The Irish (15-2-2) found themselves with a No. 4 seed in the region headlined by traditional powerhouse No. 3 North Carolina, the region’s top seed.

“I really thought we would be a two seed,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “I didn’t think we would drop to a four, especially when you see that Florida State is a two seed and they’re 13-5-2, and you’ve got a Boston College that’s lost six games that’s a two seed. I was a little disappointed with that.”

The Irish will open their quest to return to the College Cup for the sixth straight year by hosting New Mexico on Friday. The winner of that match will go on to tangle Sunday with the victor of Friday’s other contest in Alumni Stadium, a clash between No. 16/18 Illinois and No. 17 Southern California. If the Irish are able to win both games on home turf and the Tar Heels avoid being upset in Chapel Hill, Notre Dame will travel to North Carolina to participate in what may be one of the most hard-fought battles of the entire tournament.

“For whatever reason, the committee loves to pair us with Carolina somewhere along the way,” Waldrum said. “For everybody that wants to look ahead, certainly that would be a great matchup. We love playing Carolina. That could be a really fun matchup.”

The primary task for Waldrum, however, will be ensuring that his team does not look past the current Mountain West champion Lobos (12-2-5).

“I think the thing that we have to be careful of is that we [don’t] look to that matchup [with Carolina] and take care of Friday night’s matchup,” he said. “That’ll be the message we’re getting to our players.”

The Irish will be joined in the field of 64 by five other Big East teams in Marquette, West Virginia, Georgetown, South Florida and Connecticut. Only one conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, sent more teams to the championship field.

“I think the committee puts so much weight in the ACC,” Waldrum said. “[But] there are so many good teams now in the country that it’s not going to be an easy run to the Final Four.”

If Notre Dame is to renew its postseason rivalry with the Tar Heels, home field advantage will be crucial, especially against teams that Waldrum feels will travel well.

“New Mexico, they’ve never been in the tournament, so you know they’re going to travel well. Illinois, being close, is going to travel well with fans. I’m assuming just being USC that they will travel well with fans,” he said. “No one wants to be outnumbered in your home field. I really hope the fans come out and support us on Friday. We’ll really need them.”

In addition to the win-or-go-home intensity of the on-field product, Waldrum offered one last incentive to the student body to show up in droves on Friday night for the 7:30 p.m. game.

“The weather’s supposed to be great,” he said. “It could be a great home-field advantage if we could get the students and the fans to turn out.”