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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish begin play in ACC

By Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Sept. 12, 2012, Notre Dame accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in all sports except football and hockey.
Exactly one year later, the No. 8 Irish begin ACC play with a trip to Raleigh, N.C., to face North Carolina State.
Tonight’s game will mark the start of a new era for Notre Dame (4-1-0, 0-0-0 ACC), as the Irish compete in a conference that sent nine teams to the NCAA Tournament last season. But Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he and his team view the matchup with the Wolfpack (5-1-0, 0-0-0 ACC) as just another game.
“I think every player knows, all of our fans know, [the ACC] is a much better conference, but I think we’ve had a ton of success over the years I’ve been here with ACC competition,” Waldrum said. “I think we’re just trying to keep the mindset that it’s a game against a good team that we’ve got to be prepared to play.”
North Carolina State was one of the few ACC teams that did not reach postseason play last year, as the Wolfpack only won five games and went 0-10-0 against ACC competition.
North Carolina State made some off-season changes, hiring Wake Forest assistant Tim Santoro as its head coach in November, and with wins in five of their first six contests, the Wolfpack have already tied last year’s win total.
“Watching some video of them last year and this year, they’re much improved,” Waldrum said. “They’re much more organized than I’ve seen them in the last couple of years, and I think [Santoro’s] brought some confidence to the team.”
The Wolfpack have been bolstered by the play of freshman forward Jackie Stengel, who leads the squad with five goals on the season. Sophomore forwards Caroline Gentry and Brittany Stanko are tied for second on the team with three goals apiece.
“[Stengel] is a strong physical player, kind of the key for her team to make things happen for them, and we’ve got to be aware,” Waldrum said. “They’ve also got Caroline Gentry, who is a little bit of a handful because she’s got good size, she’s good in the air. They’re built the way you should be, and they’re very defensive-minded. They drop back and bunker in and look to counter.”
Notre Dame will look to counter North Carolina State with one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The Irish have scored four goals in four of their five regular season matches, with the only blemish being a 1-0 loss to then-No. 4 UCLA on Sept. 1.
Waldrum said he doesn’t expect the Irish to rattle off 34 shots per game, as they did in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Detroit, but he hopes the team makes the most of its looks on goal.
“I think the thing we’ve got to make sure we focus on is taking advantage of the [chances] we get,” he said. “I don’t think against North Carolina [State], for example, we’re going to get 35 shots, but I think if we can get 10 shots, we’ve got to be efficient in our percentages there. I think it’s more about the quality of chances we get as opposed to the numbers.”
With Notre Dame’s non-conference season concluded, the focus for the Irish will now shift toward a conference title, Waldrum said.
“This is the second part, we try to bank those wins in the first part and then when we get to conference play, we obviously try to win the conference – that’s the approach we’re taking.”
The Irish and the Wolfpack will square off tonight at 7 p.m. at the Dail Soccer Complex in Raleigh, N.C.
Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu