Tough weekend awaits Irish
Andy Troeger | Friday, September 19, 2003
Looking at the records and rankings heading into the Santa Clara Tournament this weekend, the casual observer might think that the Irish are the prohibitive favorites, boasting an unblemished 6-0 record and the No. 2 ranking in the country.
But the Irish know to expect two battles against tough foes.
Santa Clara, ranked No. 2 last week, and Stanford, ranked No. 2 in the preseason, both pose tremendous threats to Notre Dame’s chances of continuing their winning ways. Last year, the Irish failed to score a goal in either match-up, falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Santa Clara 4-0 at Alumni Field while ending their season at top-ranked Stanford by falling 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament.
However, this season Santa Clara has started only 2-1-2 and stands at No. 10 in the latest poll. Stanford is 3-2 and is ranked No. 16. Despite last year, the Irish have had past success against both opponents and hope to return to those winning ways this weekend.
“I think we match up really well with both Stanford and Santa Clara,” said sophomore midfielder Annie Schefter. “We need to go out and have fun and play as good as we can.”
“Santa Clara really thrashed us last year, but we’ve had our fair share of success against both teams,” said Irish coach Randy Waldrum. “We might have the overall edge in the series, but it’s always anybody’s game. Whoever makes the fewest mental mistakes will win.”
One challenge for the Irish this weekend will be the differing styles of their opponents. Stanford is led by the defense, and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart who led the nation in goals-against average last year by only allowing four goals all season.
Meanwhile, Santa Clara will try to match the Irish offense as they are led by a group of talented forwards that look to provide a lot of goals.
“Santa Clara is like us in that they have a lot of weapons,” Waldrum said. “I think we might have a little edge defensively with Melissa Tancredi. She can be the best back in the country when she puts her mind to it. Stanford’s defense and Barnhart are very strong. All three teams are very talented.”
For the Irish, having Stanford and Santa Clara come in off of rough starts could be more of a negative than a positive.
“We’d prefer they’d have continued to win,” said Waldrum. “Santa Clara’s loss and tie last weekend makes this game even more important for them. At the end of the year all three teams will be there.”
“They are both huge games,” said Schefter. “But I think our team is so talented that I think if everyone shows up to play and has a good game, we’ll be fine.”
The Irish come in off a strong performance last Saturday against Western Kentucky, winning 5-0. This came after what was arguably their worst game of the year in a 2-0 win over St. John’s.
“I think we needed to go back and send a message, not only to the rest of the country but to our kids again, that we just kind of had a letdown [against St. John’s] and that we could come back strong. It was good going into Santa Clara to score some more goals and keep the confidence going.”