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ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: Irish enter tournament streaking

Ken Fowler | Friday, October 28, 2005

The Irish think they are peaking at the right time.

Since losing badly to Marquette on Sept. 30, Notre Dame has turned a corner and become one of the hottest teams in the country in time for the Big East Tournament.

“We’ve gotten in that groove – into that second gear – for the end of the season,” Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “[The team is] playing with a lot of confidence and they’re playing with focus.”

With a 6-1 victory over Georgetown Sunday, the Irish extended their winning streak to seven. During the four-week tear, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents 32-1, posting six shutouts along the way.

The Irish hope to keep that winning streak alive in a quarterfinal matchup Sunday at 1 p.m. – again against the Hoyas on Alumni Field.

Waldrum said he is confident his team will continue its good play but knows there are dangers in facing a team twice in a week.

“You worry about overconfidence,” he said.

Notre Dame only found out it would play Georgetown late Thursday night when the Hoyas defeated Syracuse, 1-0, in a tournament play-in game.

Before that game, Waldrum said he was not sure which team he would rather face.

“That’s a question we’ve been kicking around all week,” he said. “In some ways we would like [to face] Georgetown, … but there are advantages in facing Syracuse.”

The Irish think they can get past the Hoyas to advance in the conference tournament and help their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

After Notre Dame’s victory over Georgetown Sunday, Waldrum said his team is hoping to win the Big East tournament this year but only so much as it helps its chances to reach the College Cup.

“Our focus [is] on the NCAA Tournament,” he said.

Waldrum’s team lost the 2004 Big East final to Connecticut, 2-1, but went on to win its six NCAA tournament games with solid defensive performances, giving up just 2 goals in those contests.

The Irish enter the conference tournament this year with more offensive firepower and a more diversified attack than last year.

Because of the addition of freshman forwards Kerri Hanks and Brittany Bock to the efficient tandem of Katie Thorlakson and Amanda Cinalli, Waldrum said he thinks his team will be tougher to stop in this year’s conference tournament.

“I think they’re all going to have huge impact offensively,” he said about his four top-scoring forwards. “Different teams are going to have different gameplans to play against not only Katie but also Hanks and Cinalli and Brittany.”

Thorlakson and Hanks became the first 50-point scoring duo since 2000 during Notre Dame’s win over Georgetown Sunday.

In the 2004 postseason, Thorlakson scored or assisted on 18 of Notre Dame’s 22 goals en route to its second national championship.

Waldrum said he doesn’t expect that kind of dominating performance from any of his players, only because the Irish have too many offensive weapons to keep the others from finding the net.

“I don’t know if any one of our weapons will have [a performance like Thorlakson’s in 2004],” he said.

But he added a caveat.

“If Katie wants to score 18 of our next 22, I’m more than OK with that.”

Though the diversified Irish offense and extra attention from opposing defenses may prevent her from putting up numbers like she did last year, Thorlakson said she is ready for another playoff run.

“I think I am [in as good shape] this year [as last year],” she said after Sunday’s 6-1 victory.

Waldrum said that Thorlakson and the Irish have practiced well leading up to the quarterfinal match.

“The intensity level of training has been very good,” he said. “The focus of it has been very good.”

He said that bodes well for Sunday’s game against Georgetown.

“As long as we’re focused … we’re going to be in good shape,” Waldrum said. “It’s just a matter of executing the game plan.”