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ND Women’s Soccer Commentary: ND out-everythings Rutgers in blowout Big East title match

Tim Dougherty | Monday, November 6, 2006

Less than a minute into the game, the Rutgers Knights’ faces flushed with scarlet. They had just lost track of Big East offensive player of the year Kerri Hanks, who – unmarked – chased after a Brittany Bock header before finding her own mark in the back of the net to take a 1-0 lead. By the end of the game, between the embarrassment, anger and blood, Rutgers was red all over.

That’s what happens when you get taken to the woodshed.

In Notre Dame’s final tune-up before the NCAA Tournament, they physically dominated Rutgers – often to the audible dismay of screaming scarlet supporters.

Many New Jersey natives looked at Notre Dame’s roughness (the Irish committed 14 first-half fouls while Rutgers committed five) as if the game were being playing down in Jungleland.

Wrong Springsteen tune. Because as the game played out, it became clear that “Hungry Heart” was more applicable.

The truth is, when the team bus took Rutgers out of New Brunswick, it also took the New Brunswick out of Rutgers, as Notre Dame scratched and clawed their way to victory with intensity and willpower unmatched by its opponent.

“Our energy level was a lot higher,” captain and tournament defensive MVP Kim Lorenzen said. “That kind of factors into winning tackles and ultimately getting fouls called.”

All day, the Irish aggressively attacked every loose ball, and left tracks behind them – cutting through the Knights’ armor like Hanks through the back line. The sophomore sensation sparked Notre Dame’s engines when she followed up her first score by outrunning one defender and out-willing center back Meghan Ryan to gain possession of the ball before sending it through goalkeeper Erin Guthriel’s legs and into the net. No one could blame Guthriel if she blushed.

In the end, the four Irish goals were almost half as much as the 10 Rutgers surrendered throughout the regular season – not the nationally televised image they wanted to show to the NCAA selection committee as they continued to make their case for a higher Tournament seed.

Notre Dame’s dominance Sunday was aided by the passionate play of Hanks. While her rousing performance before the intermission left little room for late dramatics, she upstaged herself with some impromptu second-half drama. After Rutgers defender Meghan Ryan’s boot high-kicked closer than she appreciated, Hanks grabbed her face in seeming anguish, prompting a whistle against the Scarlet Knights.

“I kind of didn’t get kicked in the face,” Hanks admitted. “But it was a high kick, and I knew it was, so I just acted like I did [get kicked].”

Thus, after she and her defense were outplayed all day, Meg Ryan was even out-acted. As a well-known journalist once noted: “Burgundy down.”

Hanks, to be sure, had plenty of help. From the defense to the midfield, everyone played her role – all Jerry Bruckheimer action scenes, all game long.

Sunday, Notre Dame played like they had something to prove. And with center defender and Big East defensive player of the year Carrie Dew and her torn ACL on the sidelines, they did.

Not to themselves – after all they have now won eight games this year without her. The NCAA selection committee, however, certainly should have no qualms awarding the Irish the top tournament seed and home field advantage until the Final Four Dec. 1 in Cary, NC. No one else has the firepower. And as they proved Sunday, no one has a hungrier heart.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Tim Dougherty at [email protected]