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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish set to finish five game road trip in Cincinnati

Tim Dougherty | Friday, September 22, 2006

As No. 1 Notre Dame settles into its Big East schedule, the Irish travel to Cincinnati today to cap off a five-game road stretch before returning to play Louisville for their first home match in a five-game stand at Alumni Field.

Notre Dame dismantled its first conference foe DePaul last Friday 5-0 before edging out a sloppy 2-0 non-conference win against Michigan Sunday. From today until round one of the NCAA Tournament, the Irish will only see their familiar Big East opponents.

As the Irish enter the second part of the season, captain and defender Kim Lorenzen hopes this consistency will help their concentration.

“[The different stages of the season] are kind of like gradual steps until the final NCAA Tournament,” she said. “Now that we’re into conference play, it’ll help us focus on the end goal to get good wins against these teams [in order to earn a top tournament seed].”

At the same time, Irish coach Randy Waldrum espoused the dangers that can creep up if the Irish settle down too much in the Big East season – especially when facing unranked teams like Louisville and Cincinnati.

“There’s still some disparity between the top and bottom teams [in the Big East conference],” Waldrum said. “It’s difficult to get teams mentally prepared to play everyone. Sometimes you tend to play down to the team you’re playing.

“But in non-conference season playing teams like USC and Santa Clara, you know the girls are going to be up for top ranked teams.”

The Bearcat and Cardinal programs enter their respective games from different directions. Head coach Meridy Glenn of Cincinnati has tasted success in her 24 years coaching at Cincinnati. She has led the Bearcats to six NCAA Tournaments – including a second round defeat of Notre Dame in 2001 – while becoming the 10th winningest coach in women’s collegiate soccer history with a 242-165-32 record.

However, the Bearcats have hit hard times recently, rebounding from a 3-11-3 campaign – and hoping to compete for a Big East tournament spot. Early wins this against Kentucky and Miami of Ohio indicate they are an improved team, Waldrum said.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt they’re better [this year],” he said. “Years ago Cincinnati had a very good program. We’re another year or two away to see if they’re going turn it in that direction but they’re clearly on their way.”

Top-ranked Notre Dame will clearly be the most important game on Cincinnati’s schedule, as they are advertising a “‘C’ of Red Night” to encourage fans to watch them try to knock off the nation’s top team.

With the protection of freshman standout keeper Andrea Kaminski, who ranks second in Big East saves, the Bearcats hope to pose a tougher challenge than they did in last year’s 4-0 Irish victory.

Undefeated 6-0-1 Louisville, on the other hand, is a program on the attack. Its momentum was confirmed this week when Soccer Buzz awarded the Cardinals votes in its weekly poll – the first time the women’s soccer program has received such honors from any national publication. But Waldrum wondered whether Louisville can continue playing at a level it hasn’t experienced before.

“They have a lot at stake in this game. But so do we,” said Waldrum, whose Irish beat the Cardinals 3-0 last year. “These are two very important games because of seeding at the end of the year, and they are conference games.”

Waldrum said the Irish will look to stop Cardinals senior forward Jamie Craft, the reigning Big East Offensive Player of the Week after scoring two goals and an assist to defeat Cincinnati 4-1 in each team’s conference opener. The Cardinals will also be backed by keeper Joanna Haig, a teammate of sophomore defender Carrie Dew and sophomore midfielder Brittany Bock during the U-20 World Championships earlier this season.

Since returning from the tournament in Russia, Dew has helped shore up an Irish back four that Waldrum and Lorenzen agree have made too many mistakes for championship defense.

“She brings a calming effect to the back line,” Waldrum said. “When she’s there, I think Kim Lorenzen plays better, Christie Shaner plays better and Ashley Jones plays better.”

Jones earned Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors this past week next to Dew with her performance in Notre Dame’s shutout wins over DePaul and Michigan. Jones is the second player to receive conference honors after freshman Michele Weissenhofer won Rookie of the Week status scoring or assisting five of seven Irish scores last weekend. Her 10 assists lead the nation, and her 20 points rank second.

Bock’s two goals and assist helped the Irish to victory against the Blue Demons.