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ND Women’s Soccer: Voigt’s consistency aids Irish success

Brian Hartnett | Friday, October 5, 2012

No. 24 Notre Dame will look to continue its tear through the Big East when the Irish welcome conference opponents Seton Hall on Friday and Rutgers on Sunday.

Notre Dame (9-3-1, 5-0-0 Big East) extended its winning streak to six games after a pair of road victories last weekend. The Irish took advantage of a late Providence own goal to edge the Friars 1-0 on Friday and saw their offense break out for three second-half goals in a 4-0 win over Connecticut on Sunday.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said the team’s winning streak has come as a result of consistency in both the team’s lineup and in the play of Notre Dame’s young core.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’ve gotten more settled in our lineup due to the return of [freshman midfielder Cari] Roccaro and [junior midfielder Mandy] Laddish,” Waldrum said. “Other players have also gotten to the point where they’ve really grown and started to show some consistency in their play.”

The Irish have also been bolstered by a strong defensive unit, which has posted shutouts in four of the team’s last five contests. Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Voigt has stepped into the role of starter and helped lead the unit, as she has recorded three solo clean sheets. For her role in last week’s shutouts, Voigt was named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Week, an honor Waldrum said indicates that the young netkeeper is playing up to her potential.

“For the first time, Sarah has really been close to healthy,” Waldrum said. “We expected this type of performance out of her last year, but she never really got healthy and struggled with a loss of her confidence. This year, she’s really seized the moment when she’s had opportunities.”

Notre Dame will look for continued success on the defensive side of the pitch when it welcomes a pair of New Jersey teams at a critical juncture in the conference season.

The Irish will first meet a slumping Seton Hall team Friday night. The Pirates (6-8, 1-5) have dropped their last four games, scoring only one goal over that stretch. Although the Irish hold a 14-game winning streak against Seton Hall, Waldrum said he sees the Pirates as a team with enough talent to compete with any conference opponent.

“Although Seton Hall has struggled compared to past years, they are still composed of basically the same players, and they have just enough people in the right positions to cause problems,” he said. “They are fully capable of knocking us off, and we have to be careful.”

Friday night’s contest will also hold some sentimental value for the Irish, as it is the team’s annual Senior Night. Before the game, the Irish will honor their two departing seniors, walk-on midfielder Nicole Borner and tri-captain defender Jazmin Hall.  Waldrum said he has been impressed with Hall’s leadership ability and cited it as her main mark over her time at Notre Dame.

“Jazmin is an example of one of those players who came in and didn’t play a whole lot but continued to get better and better,” Waldrum said. “She’s really grown in all the off-the field stuff, and the team has really gravitated toward her. She’s the perfect story you can tell recruits about, and I think that’s the legacy she’s going to leave.”

Notre Dame will close its weekend with a tough test against Rutgers (8-6, 1-t), a team that has also struggled in conference. The Irish are unbeaten in their last 12 matches against Rutgers, although the two teams played to a scoreless draw last season. Redshirt Junior forward Jonelle Filigno, a member of the Canadian national team who has scored nine of Rutgers’ 16 goals on the season, leads this year’s Scarlet Knights team. Waldrum said he expects Sunday’s game to be a very close one, as it represents the team’s last test before a date with No. 11 Georgetown on Oct. 12.

“Although we’ve had success against Rutgers, our games with them are always close,” Waldrum said. “It will be one of those games where you don’t want to be the team to make a mistake. If we want to win the conference, we need to win these two games and set up a meaningful game against Georgetown next week.”

Notre Dame will face Seton Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium and battle Rutgers on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu