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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish prepare for NCAA Tournament amid hype

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, November 13, 2013


When the NCAA Championship draws were announced online at 4:30 p.m. Monday, No. 23 Notre Dame wasn’t huddled around a computer. Instead, the team was out on the practice field, preparing for the start of its second season.

“We didn’t watch the selection,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We were actually out training in the snow, but when we told [the players] at the end, they were really excited, especially to be getting a home game.”

The Irish (11-7-1, 7-5-1 ACC) will play at Alumni Stadium for their first-round NCAA Championship match against Iowa on Friday at 7 p.m. Notre Dame has not played at home since Oct. 24, when the Irish earned a 3-1 win over Boston College. 

As the Irish have played six of their last eight games on the road, Waldrum said he was more concerned about the location of their first-round game than about their opponent. 

“We’ve been on the road so much, and this time of the year is such an important time with the playoff run,” he said. “This is what we’re always built to do, is to try to get deep into the tournament and to the [NCAA College Cup]. Playing at home, I think, is a huge advantage.”

Waldrum said he and several players are utilizing social media to help the team meet its desired goal of 3,000 fans in attendance Friday night. Notre Dame has had an average attendance of 1,248 spectators through 11 home games this season.

Fans will have the opportunity to see Notre Dame play in its 21st consecutive NCAA Championship, a streak that is second only to North Carolina’s 32 straight NCAA Championship appearances. 

Waldrum said the tournament appearance streak is a tribute to the program’s consistency over a long period.

“I think it shows that we’ve been able to be a program that can sustain some excellence, instead of being like a lot of programs that are in this year and out the next,” he said. “I’m really proud of the consistency we’ve been able to show, but that’s not just from me – that’s from [former Irish coach] Chris Petrucelli and former players, as well as this current group.”

Notre Dame will enter its matchup with the Hawkeyes (15-6-1, 5-5-1 Big Ten) having lost six of its last eight games. Four of these defeats came in double overtime, including a 3-2 loss to No. 1 Virginia on Oct. 10.

Notre Dame’s late-game struggles against tough ACC competition have helped the team learn how to face adversity, Waldrum said.

“I said to the players last week, ‘I don’t think we’ve ever been more prepared to play in an NCAA tournament than we have this year,’ and that’s going back even to the years we won it,” Waldrum said. “We’re not going to face anybody that’s any better than what we’ve faced over the last month of our season, so I think we should be extremely confident and very well-prepared.”

Last season, the Irish advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship, where they fell to No. 1 seed Florida State. With nearly all the personnel from last year’s team back, the Irish have their eyes set on next month’s NCAA College Cup, Waldrum said.

“Our expectation is to take it a step forward and get to the Final Four,” he said. “That’s going to take us putting together four really good games because we don’t have an easy road. Iowa this Friday night is not going to be easy; they’ve had a great run the whole season, not only in their conference tournament. If we’re fortunate to get past them, looking ahead, there’s no easy stops for us.”

Notre Dame kicks off its NCAA Championship play when it meets Iowa in a first-round matchup Friday night at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu