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Women’s Soccer: One step at a time

Bill Brink | Friday, August 31, 2007

On the heels of a successful preseason, No. 2 Notre Dame opens the regular season against Michigan tonight at 7:30 on Alumni Field.Senior forward and captain Amanda Cinalli seemed slightly taken aback when asked what worried the team most about the game against Michigan.”Worried? I don’t know if we’re too much worried,” Cinalli said. “I think we’re just excited.”The Irish tied No. 1 North Carolina 2-2 and beat No. 11 Virginia 3-1 in their preseason campaign. The exhibition games gave freshman players a chance to experience the game at the collegiate level, and so far the transition to college has been smooth.”They’ve been doing really well for us,” Cinalli said. “We already feel like they’re veterans, which is great.”One of those freshmen, goalkeeper Nikki Weiss, is one of three keepers who has seen playing time throughout the preseason. Weiss, sophomore Kelsey Lysander and senior Lauren Karas received equal playing time, about 30 minutes each in both exhibition games. Coach Randy Waldrum has not decided on a starting keeper and will continue to rotate them until one separates from the others.Notre Dame has won 32 straight games at home and has not lost in 41 straight home games. The Irish are 17-2-0 in season openers.”It’s definitely a whole new set of games, but a 32-game home winning streak is pretty fun,” Cinalli said. “We love playing at home. Home crowds are so much fun, they really pump us up. Just having all the cheering and our friends and family here really helps out a lot. I think that support is really key for us.”Five starters graduated last year, but Cinalli said their spots have been satisfactorily filled.”Some of [the freshmen] have filled those roles, we’ve also had a transfer [junior Elise Weber, from Wisconsin] who’s stepped into that hole and is helping with that a lot,” Cinalli said. “And then some of the underclassmen have stepped up, so it’s been everyone.”The graduation of Jen Buczkowski and Jill Krivacek left a large hole at the midfield position. Freshmen Lauren Fowlkes, who had a goal against Virginia, should start there, along with juniors Brittany Bock and Becca Mendoza.Junior Carrie Dew, back from an ACL injury, will play alongside Weber and sophomores Amanda Clarke and Haley Ford in the backfield, helping to fill the void left by the departure of Christie Shaner and Kim Lorenzen. Cinalli and Waldrum said Weber has been a great help to the team since joining them this summer.Notre Dame is 12-2 against Michigan and defeated the Wolverines 2-0 in Ann Arbor last season. The Wolverines, who were 9-7-6 last season and lost in the first round of the NCAA playoffs, had a 1-1 preseason record. They defeated Ohio 5-0 and lost to Dayton 2-1.Cinalli said Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina in last season’s NCAA championship and the subsequent tie this preseason provided the team with extra motivation.”Obviously it was a heartbreaker, the national championship,” Cinalli said. “Coming into preseason and playing North Carolina, I mean, we completely dominated them and should have beat them, but we did tie them and so that kind of built our confidence going into the season.”