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ND Women’s Soccer: Squad faces pair of road tests

By Cory Bernard | Friday, September 7, 2012

Last weekend, Notre Dame split a pair of contests against ranked opponents. The road doesn’t get any easier for the young squad as they head for the West Coast this weekend.

They will take on No. 18 Portland tonight and No. 22 Washington on Sunday. Against the Pilots (4-1-0), Notre Dame (3-2-0) faces a team buoyed by a notoriously raucous home crowd at Merlo Field. Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he spoke to his team about the hostile atmosphere.

“We talked about it with them, that they’ve come close to selling it out,” he said. “There should be 5,000 people there, and there are stands on all four sides of the field. It’s a different place to play because the student section will be loud. They don’t have football, so soccer is their big sport and they will be harassing you the whole time.”

Many of the younger Irish players will be experiencing a hostile collegiate environment for the first time. For this reason, Waldrum said this game is an important learning step for his team.

“I do think it’s a big test,” he said. “At times, for instance, at Marquette can be brutal. It’s just something these young players have to get used to quickly. You have to put all that out of your mind. Portland will be a really good test for us, not only because of the team, but fan support.”

The Huskies (5-0-0) will also challenge the Irish. Washington has opened the season with five straight victories, outscoring its opponents 12-2 during that stretch. Waldrum said the Huskies have caught his attention.

“I’ve been really impressed with Washington,” Waldrum said. “They are off to a great start and they are a team that I really think can go far.”

In order to emerge victorious over the weekend, the Irish will have to create more scoring opportunities than they did during their shutout loss to North Carolina on Sunday. According to Waldrum, Notre Dame’s forwards must control the ball better, while the rest of the team must do a better job of assisting the strikers.

“A lot of times this week we’ve been working on support of the ball,” Waldrum said. “We couldn’t hold the ball, number one, but then we didn’t have the right support [against North Carolina]. It was kind of like everyone stood around and watched that player instead of getting in good supporting angles. We spent some time during the week working on the shape of our midfielders and getting them a little more involved.”

Making things more difficult for the Irish will be the continued absence of midfielders Cari Roccaro and Mandy Laddish. The freshman and junior, respectively, are still in Japan representing the United States as part of the U-20 national team. Waldrum said the team hasn’t been too hung up on their missing stars.

“[The mindset]’s always just been ‘Focus on what we have,’ ” Waldrum said. “Everyone is anxious for those girls to get back, but it’s not something we’ve hearing about in training. I think they all believe in themselves. That’s kind of the goal they have, and they’re confident.”

The Irish will put their continued training to the test tonight at 10 p.m. against Portland, before taking on the Huskies in Seattle at 3 p.m. on Sunday.