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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish searching for goalie

Jack Hefferon | Thursday, September 1, 2011

Over the course of last year’s national championship season, one of the sure things for Notre Dame was goalkeeper Nikki Weiss. Weiss had the size and poise to lead the team from the back line, and started every game through the national championship run.

While Weiss’ presence in the goal may have been the winning difference for the team last season, her graduation now leaves Irish coach Randy Waldrum with a unique dilemma.

“It’s always tough when you lose someone with that much experience,” Waldrum said. “It’s probably hardest with goalies, because while field players change more frequently within the play of the game, the backup goalie doesn’t see a lot of meaningful minutes.”

With Weiss gone, the Irish now have three goalkeeping candidates. The lone returner is junior Maddie Fox, who only gave up an own-goal in her first two seasons. Joining her on the roster are highly touted freshmen Sarah Voigt and Jennifer Jasper.

It has been said that a team with two goalkeepers has no goalkeeper at all, and three would only muddle the situation further. For the moment though, Waldrum has no problem with having three keepers in the mix.

“You want a competition,” he said. “It’s great to have them pushing each other. As we get deeper into the season we’ll want a definite starter, but for the next few weeks, it’s still an open assessment.”

That assessment began in the summer preseason. Fox and Jasper battled for the top spot, splitting reps in practice and time in the preseason matches. Meanwhile Voigt was sidelined with an ankle injury she sustained while playing in Germany. When the Aug. 19 home opener against Wisconsin arrived, it was Fox who earned the start in the net, recording three saves and her first solo shutout.

“[Fox and Jasper] were our keepers in the preseason, and it was clear that Maddie had the upper hand there,” Waldrum said. “We started her against Wisconsin, and she played very well for us.”

While Fox had claimed the job after the preseason, Voigt returned shortly before the game against the Badgers, and immediately started making up for lost time. Voigt, the nation’s No. 1 goalkeeper recruit, showed so much progress that last weekend she got the nod to start against two of Notre Dame’s biggest matchups all year: No. 2 North Carolina and No. 21 Duke at the Carolina Classic.

“[Fox] is a great shot stopper, especially in tight,” Waldrum said. “But [Voigt] has a bit more height, and she’s better with balls in the air. She probably would have gotten the start against Wisconsin if we thought she was ready.”

With Voigt at the back, the Irish took to the field in Carolina.

However, their weekend took a turn for the worse after a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Tar Heels in overtime, and was totally soured with a thorough 3-1 beating at the hands of the Blue Devils.

Despite the results, Waldrum was pleased with his young goalkeeper’s play.

“[Voigt] played very well this weekend,” Waldrum said. “Maybe one of the goals she could have handled differently, but there’s not much she could have done. There wasn’t a lot of help from the 10 people in front of her.”

Heading forward now, the Irish will look to right the ship this weekend against Tulsa and Indiana. And while Voigt may have the starting spot for now, Waldrum insisted all three goalies need to stay sharp and keep improving.

“[Voigt] is going to be our starter for this weekend,” he said. “If she continues to play well, then you could say it’s her job to lose. The big thing is to keep Maddie ready at the drop of the hat, and she’s done that so far.”