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Irish Insider: Senior Class leaves impressive legacy

Tim Dougherty | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

CARY, N.C. – Somewhere underneath the tears of the Irish seniors following their 2-1 College Cup loss to North Carolina twinkles the glowing accomplishments of a class that made its long-awaited return to the championship stage.

Friday’s semifinal victory over Florida State gave Notre Dame its 92nd win over the past four years, surpassing the soccer Class of 1997’s 91 victories for the most wins by a Notre Dame senior class in the program’s history.

The loss brought the senior class’s career record to 92-8-3 over the past four years, a mark second in the country to only North Carolina’s 97-3-3 stretch over that same time

But at Notre Dame, success is measured in National Championships. Like the class of 1997, these seniors won a College Cup title as sophomores, when they defeated UCLA in a shootout at the same site as this weekend’s matches. Sunday they attempted to become the first Irish team to win two titles and the first program besides North Carolina to win three.

“This senior class for us amazes me,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said after the game. “Ever since we’ve been here we’ve been asked Carolina this and Carolina that and the aura of Carolina and all that stuff…. I think in terms of setting a legacy, this group of seniors has been to… two [College Cup semifinals] and won a National Championship. And that’s equal to what North Carolina has done in the last five years as well.”

After the loss, Irish coach Randy Waldrum said it was hard to talk to a group that had already won one title, but was so broken because they just lost their chance to win another.

“You never as a coach want to have that conversation. I want to be on the other side of that like [Noth Carolina coach Anson Dorrance is],” Waldrum said. “I think this group’s has been special and helped us form our own legacy as well. I think the kids deserve to be looked at on a national scene the way that we feel like we are. We just hope that we’ll be back. For the seniors, I thank them for all they’ve done.”

Senior midfielder and All-Tournament midfielder Jill Krivacek said that at the end of the game, the long journey of the class just began to come into focus.

“Everything at that moment seemed to flash before us – for me at least,” Krivacek said. “The four years playing with my best friends and the friendships that we developed, the National Championship in 2004, and I think now we have a little better perspective. But it’ll be a few years from now that we really realize that it was a great four years.”

In addition to the 2004 title, Krivacek said one of the great legacies left by the seniors is their dominance at Alumni Field, where they posted a 53-2-1 record and had not lost since Michigan beat them 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament during their freshman year.

“[Senior forward] Molly [Iarocci] and I were talking about this [Saturday] night,” she said. “That we felt for the girls who had to go off on a loss losing at home at Alumni. I think what we took pride in as a senior class is we never had [another] loss at Alumni Field in our four years. We protected our home field.”

The seniors dominated in their showing at Alumni Field, knocking off No. 8 Penn State 4-0 in front of their home crowd.

“That game against Penn State was a great way to leave Alumni Field,” Krivacek said.

Even after stumbling in their final act, Krivacek has no regrets.

“We hadn’t played North Carolina in our four years and there’s no other way to go out than to play Carolina,” she said. “Unfortunately we didn’t win, but it was a very good Carolina team.”

It was also a very good Notre Dame team, one that carried a No. 1 ranking and its accompanying bullseye almost the entire season. It was the type of team that elicited those same kinds of remarks from the teams the Irish brought down on the way to Cary. When the Irish beat Colorado 3-0 at home in the Sweet 16, Buffaloes midfielder Katie Griffin was thankful for the opportunity to go out against No. 1 Notre Dame.

“If you have to lose to somebody you might as well go out to the number one team in the nation. We’ve never played Notre Dame before.”

When someone finally pulls the plug on the torch atop Grace, there is nothing anyone can do to extinguish the legacy of these seniors. Fluorescent light or not, when it comes to ranking the all-time Notre Dame women’s soccer classes, Krivacek, Iarocci, Jen Buczkowski, Christie Shaner, Kim Lorenzen, Lizzie Reed, Claire Gallerano and Nikki Westfall are No. 1.