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ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: Stout defense walling off goal to opponents

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, September 13, 2005

They allow only a fifth of the number of shots their offense takes. Their opposition shots-on-goal percentage is 90 points lower than their team’s. They have held opponents to two or fewer shots in three of their first six games.

They are the members of the Notre Dame women’s soccer defense, and they rank among the best in school history.

Led by fifth-year senior Candace Chapman, the Irish defense has suffocated opposing offenses, allowing just five goals in six games. While the Irish have accumulated 32 goals on 123 shots, the defense has held the team’s six opponents – of which three were ranked – to just 25 shots.

The shots-on-goal difference is even starker – 75 for the Irish to 13 for their opponents.

After losing senior standouts Melissa Tancredi and Gudrun Gunnarsdottir from the backfield this offseason, the Irish have filled the gaps and kept last year’s mentality intact.

The veterans have guided the younger squad and have been impressed by the new players’ quick adjustment to the college game.

Among the returning starters from last year is Christie Shaner, a junior from Ambler, Penn., and two-time All-Big East selection.

“I feel like every system that we’ve thrown at [the freshman defenders], they’ve been able to handle,” she said. “Coming from club soccer to college soccer is a completely different game, and … they’ve done very well.”

Shaner specifically pointed to freshman Carrie Dew as a prime example of the new players becoming an integral part of the team.

“The leadership [on defense] comes from all the players because as a defensive unit you have to be vocal and organized to be successful,” she said. “It’s coming from the returning players … but it’s also coming from the incoming freshmen – Carrie Dew for one.”

Dew has started all six games this year, and is the only defender other than Chapman to do so.

A former Big East Player of the Year (2002) and current member of the Canadian National Team, Chapman has met the expectations that go along with a preseason All-American selection. She had led the defense in holding opponents to a shots-on-goal percentage barely above .500, and she has been instrumental in controlling the tempo when the ball is in Notre Dame’s zone.

Another key contributor on defense for the Irish has been junior starter Kim Lorenzen. Lorenzen started the first four games this year for the Irish, extending her games-played total to 54 of the previous 55 contests, but sat out this weekend’s Santa Clara Adidas Classic with an injury. She was a central part of the Irish defense last year as well. That team set a high bar for this one to meet.

“I know last year, we almost tied the record for consecutive shutout minutes,” Shaner said.

The team’s desire to meet that level of excellence has fostered a rugged defensive mentality.

“Obviously if we don’t give any shots up to our opponents, it’s going to be tough for them to score,” she said. Shaner recalled a conversation she had with a defensive teammate – “We’ve got to take pride in letting no goals come against us,” she remembered saying.

Thus far in the young season, the unit has done exactly that twice, shutting out Vermont and Maryland, and has held three of its other four opponents to just one goal.

The lone exception to the rule came against No. 5 Santa Clara Friday, when the Irish lost 2-1.

Nonetheless, Shaner has a positive outlook on the season.

“Even though we came out with a loss, you have to look at it like we’re both very successful teams,” she said. “Maybe we lost early on, but … we can see video of the mistakes that we’ve made now and make adjustments.

“Hopefully we can still win the national championship.”

If a defense with a .833 goals against average is able to improve much, Shaner may be right in hoping that the Irish can come back from an early-season loss to contend for the College Cup.