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ND Women’s Soccer: Championship chase

Megan Golden | Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coming off an upset of top-ranked Marquette, Notre Dame advanced to the Big East semifinals, where it will meet Louisville on Friday.

No. 20 Marquette defeated Notre Dame (10-6-3, 6-3-2 Big East) in September, but recent moves on the Irish depth chart sparked Notre Dame in its 1-0 Big East quarterfinal victory Sunday over the Golden Eagles. The Irish are hoping to have a similar fortune against Louisville (11-5-3, 7-1-2 Big East), a team that defeated them Sept. 16.

“Anytime that you can get another shot to beat an opponent, it’s always good,” Irish senior midfielder and co-captain Jessica Schuveiller said. “We’re a different team now, and we’ve grown from experiences this season. We’re looking forward to playing them [Friday].”

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he agrees that this is an improved Irish team.

“I think we’re playing well at the right time of the year,” he said. “We’ve kind of quietly turned the corner, and we’ve scored some goals and [recorded] some shutouts. The team’s confidence has [increased] after a big win, especially doing it on the road against a very good Marquette team.”

Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to the Cardinals earlier this season capped a frustrating eight days for the Irish. Notre Dame outshot the Cardinals 20-10 (5-5 SOG) and were awarded six corners to Louisville’s three, but the Irish were unable to finish.

Shifting Schuveiller from defense to midfield and inserting several freshmen into the Irish backfield has proved beneficial for Notre Dame’s defense. The Irish had recorded just one shutout in seven games prior to playing Louisville. They have shut out five additional Big East opponents since their Louisville matchup.

“I think you go back and look at our lineup. We’ve kind of changed our lineup,” Waldrum said. “The biggest difference is we [have] settled into what our personnel is going to be. Earlier in the season we were still trying to find our way and settle into the lineup.”

Louisville’s lone conference loss came against Marquette on Sept. 30, when the Cardinals fell 1-0.

Louisville sophomore forward Christine Exeter leads the Cardinals with 13 goals on the season. Exeter scored nine goals during Louisville’s current seven-game winning streak.

Waldrum said Notre Dame has been preparing all week to match Louisville’s intensity.

“Louisville is a very defensive team and looks to sit in and congest teams and counterattack when you’re attacking,” he said. “We pretty much dominated all the stats and had all the possession [versus Louisville]. We worked on breaking down the defense that’s going to be packed in.”

Waldrum said the regular season is enough time for freshmen to gain experience and play a critical role in the postseason. Freshman forward Lauren Bohaboy and freshmen defenders Taylor Schneider and Sammy Scofield, he said, will play a part in this semifinal matchup.

Even though they won the national championship last season, the Irish were eliminated after one game in the Big East quarterfinals last year. Last season marked just the second time in 16 years the Irish did not compete in the Big East semifinals.

“Just not having made it last year, we have two classes that have never been here and we’re excited to be back again and to prove ourselves,” Schuveiller said. “[We are] making a statement because we’ve been doing really well toward the end of the season.”

The Irish are 13-1 in the Big East semifinals all-time. With a win, Notre Dame will play either Georgetown or No. 24 West Virginia in the Big East championship game.

The Irish will face Louisville at Dick Dlesk Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va., Friday at 3 p.m.