ND Women’s Soccer: Team welcomes Pitt, Oakland over weekend
By Brian Hartnett | Friday, September 21, 2012
After sweeping its opening slate of Big East games, Notre Dame will look to keep its perfect conference record intact when it faces Pittsburgh at Alumni Stadium on Friday. The Irish will then take a break from conference play to host Oakland (Mich.) on Sunday.
Last weekend, Notre Dame (5-3-1, 2-0-0 Big East) earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Louisville and saw seven different players score in a 7-0 romp over Cincinnati. Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he was particularly impressed by the team’s ability to put together back-to-back wins.
“Until last weekend, we hadn’t really put together a good weekend with this young team,” Waldrum said. “I think it’s taken some time because we are so young, and we started with a tough schedule early on. The challenge for us now is taking these wins and putting together a good run.”
Waldrum noted a major factor in the offense’s seamless efficiency last weekend was the return of junior midfielder Mandy Laddish and freshman midfielder Cari Roccaro, who missed the first few weeks of the season to play for the U.S. in the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. Laddish and Roccaro made an immediate impact in their first weekend of play, as both netted goals against Cincinnati. Waldrum admitted, however, their biggest impact on the team could not simply be recorded in statistics.
“Having [Laddish] at midfield has made us better in holding on to the ball at that position,” Waldrum said. “[Roccaro] looked so strong and comfortable with the ball and helped us in many subtle ways most people wouldn’t recognize. She really allowed the other players to get the runs they needed to make.”
On the other side of the field, Notre Dame saw three different goalies guard the net in last weekend’s contests. Freshman Elyse Hight played the first half against Louisville before sophomore Sarah Voigt came in for the second half. Voigt started and played the majority of the game against Cincinnati before freshman Naomi Willett made her college debut toward the end of the game.
Waldrum said he plans to pencil Voigt in for this weekend’s matchups.
“Sarah will start for us this weekend, since Elyse has been sick and missed training,” Waldrum said. “I think it’s definitely time for Sarah to start, and we hope to get Naomi some more time as well.”
Notre Dame will look for top performances on both ends of the pitch as it gears up to play an improved Pittsburgh squad Friday night. Although the Panthers (5-5-1, 0-1-1 ) struggled to a dismal 2-13-4 record last season, they have more than doubled their win total already behind the leadership of new coach Greg Miller.
The two teams have not met since 2009, but Waldrum said he expects a tough game from Pittsburgh.
“They have a new coach and a new staff, which always re-energizes a team,” Waldrum said. “They’re a completely different team from what we’ve seen in the past, and I don’t know much about them, but they’ve turned around from last year.”
The Irish will face another challenge when they battle non-conference opponent Oakland (3-2-3) on Sunday. The Grizzlies won the Summit League championship last season and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to No. 1-seeded Wake Forest in the first round. This year’s Grizzlies team features junior midfielder Abigail Haelewyn, who leads the NCAA in assists with eight, and sophomore forward Kyla Kellermann, who has totaled six goals and fourteen points on the season.
Although Oakland may not carry the cache of most of Notre Dame’s opponents, Waldrum said he fears his team could fall into a trap game against the Grizzlies.
“I would rather play top teams because I know we’ll be ready for that,” Waldrum said. “These are the games that you worry about because you know the players could have the mentality of taking them lightly and playing down to their level.”
Despite the concerns, Waldrum asserted this weekend would be about helping the Irish make a run at the conference crown in one of their last seasons in the Big East.
“It’s one game at a time for us, and we’re really focused on our conference games,” Waldrum said. “We haven’t won the Big East in years and need to reestablish dominance there.”
Notre Dame will host Pittsburgh on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and will face Oakland on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.