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Women’s Soccer: Irish seek first win in Oklahoma

Brian Hartnett | Friday, August 24, 2012

Notre Dame finds itself winless heading into the second game of the season, a position the Irish have not been in since the last century. The young Irish squad will look to rebound and place its first tally in the win column when it travels to Oklahoma to take on Tulsa on Friday night, returning home to battle East Carolina on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.

The Irish (0-1) dropped their season opener for the first time since 1999 last weekend, losing 1-0 to Wisconsin (2-0). Notre Dame bested the Badgers in nearly every statistical category, finishing with more shots on goal, saves and corners, but could not close the game out, giving up the game’s lone goal in the 84th minute.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said the season opener heightened the need for his team to impose its style on the game, and illustrated how important finishing games will be this season.

“We got too caught up in their style, which was a more physical game, instead of imposing our possession-oriented game,” Waldrum said. “We also have to learn how to finish games out and not give up late goals. I think we can win a lot of games, but with our tough schedule, I think we’ll be in several close games that won’t be decided until the end.”

Another point of emphasis for Notre Dame will be converting opportunities on the offensive end. The Irish had a number of opportunities to score in their season opener, including five shots on goal in the first half, but could not find the inside of the net. Waldrum said the Irish would look to address this problem through practice and some minor on-field changes.

“The only thing you can do is spend practice time on [converting opportunities], much like a basketball player in a shooting slump,” Waldrum said. “We may move some players around and be a little more mobile in our positions, since we didn’t create enough opportunities with our forwards. All the pieces need to be put together, but I like the chemistry our players have had so far.”

Team chemistry will be very important for an Irish squad consisting largely of underclassmen. Notre Dame started seven freshmen in the season opener, including goalkeeper Elyse Hight and the defensive trio of Stephanie Campo, Brittany Von Rueden and Katie Naughton.

The Irish will look for continued development from their highly-heralded freshman class when they take on Tulsa (1-0), a team Notre Dame and Waldrum are very familiar with. The Irish defeated the Golden Hurricane 7-1 last year at Alumni Stadium, and Waldrum served as the head coach of both the Tulsa men’s and women’s teams from 1989 to 1994, recording a 66-33-6 record with the men and a 61-36-9 record with the women. Given the history between the programs, Waldrum said he expects the matchup with the Golden Hurricane to be a tough road test for the Irish.

“Tulsa will be a challenge for us since they are very good at home, and there will be some added focus from their coaching staff, since I used to coach there,” Waldrum said. “I like how we match up, and I see it as one more opportunity to handle pressure and gain experience.”

After traveling to Oklahoma, Notre Dame will return for its home opener against East Carolina (1-1), a program the Irish never have faced. The owner of an 11-8-1 record last season, East Carolina lost its season opener 2-1 in overtime to Campbell last weekend, but rebounded to defeat Old Dominion 1-0 on Wednesday. The Pirates return 20 letter winners from last season, including all-conference junior goalkeeper Christiane Cordero and all-conference senior defender Hali Oughton.

With a tough slate of two games in three days, Waldrum emphasized the benefit a strong fan turnout against East Carolina would provide for the team.

“The excitement of opening at home always gives the team new life, and we need to get the word out there and build student support,” Waldrum said. “Both games this weekend will present challenges, and it will be an important weekend for our team.”

The Irish face Tulsa at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in Tulsa, Okla. and battle East Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.

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