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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish open NCAAs at home

Greg Hadley | Friday, November 15, 2013

Six of No. 23 Notre Dame’s seven losses this season have been by one goal, and the Irish are prepared for another tight battle as they open the first round of the NCAA Championship at home against Iowa tonight. 

“I don’t expect it to be a very high-scoring game,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “With our struggles and the way they defend, I think it could be a really tight game. It’ll come down to set pieces and who doesn’t make mistakes. We need to stay focused for 90 minutes.”

In such a close game, the difference may come down to Notre Dame’s home-field advantage. The Irish (11-7-1, 7-5-1 ACC) are 8-2-1 at home this year and are making a social media push to have over 3000 fans attend the game.

“Being at home is big,” Waldrum said. “It’s the last game that fans will get to see us at home, so we’re really trying to get a lot of people to come and help us. Plus, we’ve just been much better at home this year.”

The Irish are coming off a tough month that included four double-overtime losses and only two wins. After being eliminated in the ACC quarterfinals by then-No. 5 Virginia Tech on Nov. 3, Waldrum said his team used the 12-day layoff to train hard and work on the issues it needed to fix.

“With only a few exceptions, we’ve been on the road most of the month,” Waldrum said. “So we weren’t able to correct problems that we had. I would have liked to play in the [ACC] conference championship this weekend, but I do think the week off was good. We got a few players healthy, and we’ve had six days to train really well and correct some of our issues. Our practices have been very intense and good, and we’re hungry to get back on the field.”

On the other hand, Iowa (15-6-1, 5-5-1 Big Ten) enters into the tournament on a roll, having beaten then-No. 7 Michigan and then-No. 20 Penn State en route to losing to then-No. 18 Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game last weekend.

“Iowa has had a great year,” Waldrum said. “They’ve clearly shown that they can play with anyone in the country. They’re a team that really likes to bunker in, drop deep in their own half, and not give you room to operate. They’re very dangerous off the counterattack and on set pieces. As a team, they like to keep things close.”

Waldrum said the Irish need to limit several dangerous Iowa players in particular, including junior forward Cloe Lacasse, senior forward Ashley Catrell and redshirt junior midfielder Katie Nasenbenny.

“Those three players really make their team tick, offensively,” Waldrum said. “Defensively, we need to neutralize Lacasse and offensively, we need to be patient and wait for our opportunities because they won’t give you many.”

In order to penetrate the Hawkeye defense, Waldrum said his squad spent most of the past week focusing on some key areas they have struggled in recently.

“We haven’t been good in the final third [of the field] the past month,” Waldrum said. “We’ve spent time working on our creativity, our movement and our ball circulation once we get in their half of the field. I think it’s very important that we get more players involved in the attack then we have been. It’s going to be tough, and I think some of our players will have to do something special.”

The Irish take on the Hawkeyes tonight at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Championship. 

Contact Greg Hadley at ghadley@nd.edu