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ND looks to defeat Demon Deacons

Casey Karnes | Thursday, October 3, 2013

No. 4 Notre Dame will finish up its four-game home stand at Alumni Stadium with a match up against No. 13 Wake Forest. The Irish (9-1-0, 5-0-0 ACC) skated through the first three games at home undefeated, and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 9-0. Irish coach Randy Waldrum, however, said the success the Irish have enjoyed over this stretch loses its luster if they can’t finish it with a win.
“Outside of UCLA early, I think this is the next biggest home game we’ve had, without a doubt,” Waldrum said. “In the two big home games we’ve had, I was really pleased with one performance, and not so much with the other one. So hopefully we can repeat what we did against Maryland. It’s a huge game.”
The Demon Deacons (8-2-1, 3-2-1) will be looking to give the Irish their first ACC loss when they come into Alumni Stadium. This will be the final match of a four game road trip for Wake Forest, and a win would salvage a .500 record over that span.
Outside of leading scorers junior midfielder Riley Ridgik and senior forward Katie Stengel, who have six goals apiece, the Demon Deacons’ offense has struggled recently. The Demon Deacons have scored only eight goals in their six ACC games, and have been shutout three times. Despite that, Waldrum said he still sees them as a threatening attack.
“Everything offensively for them is off of two players, really three,” said Waldrum in reference to Ridgik, Stengel, and senior midfielder Ally Berry. “[Stengel] is every bit as good as any forward in the country. She’s lethal when she gets around the goal.”
On the other side of the ball for the Demon Deacons, senior goaltender Audrey Bledsoe has led a stout defense that has held ACC opponents to only three goals. Bledsoe, a 2012 NSCAA third-team All-American, has five shutouts and 35 saves this season, with only seven goals allowed all season. Getting the ball past her will be the toughest challenge for the Irish, Waldrum said.
“[Bledsoe] is very athletic, she’s a really good shot-stopper … she’s the real package,” Waldrum said. “Everything starts with her, [and] defensively they’re a well organized team, really well coached in the back.”
Bledsoe will be facing an Irish offense that has exploded recently, scoring three goals against Pittsburgh and five against Syracuse. Essential to the breakthrough was the play of sophomore forward Cari Rocarro, who notched her first career hat trick against Pittsburgh (4-7-1, 0-6-0), and added another goal and two assists against the Orange (4-7-1, 0-5-1). Previous to those two games, Roccarro, the Big East Freshman of the Year and third-team NSCAA All-American, had yet to tally a single point all season. Her move to forward from midfielder has revitalized the Irish’s offense, Coach Waldrum said.
“[Roccaro’s] been great making that move, getting her up front… has brought some more intensity to the front line,” Waldrum said. “It’s something we kind of needed because we had gotten a little bit stagnant.”
Supporting Roccaro are Notre Dame’s leading scorers junior forward Lauren Bohaboy and sophomore forward Crystal Thomas. Bohaboy has six goals to pace the Irish attack, while Thomas has a team-best seven assists. If the Demon Deacons focus on Roccaro on defense, Waldrum said he has enough weapons to make them pay.
“We were able to [move Roccoro] because we’ve got a few players like [sophomore midfielder] Glory Williams, [freshman midfielder] Cindy Pineda, and [freshman midfielder] Rilka Noel who are playing really well, ” Waldrum said. “I think teams are going to key on [Roccaro], as they should. I think the nice thing is we have some other players who can cause some problems for them if they do.”
The matchup between the Irish and Demon Deacons will kick off Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.
Contact Casey Karnes at wkarnes@nd.edu