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ND Women’s Soccer: Climbing the Ivy

Fran Tolan | Friday, September 14, 2007

Notre Dame is relieved to be on familiar soil after last weekend’s trip to California, which resulted in two losses to Stanford and Santa Clara.

The Irish take on Princeton tonight and No. 16 Oklahoma State on Sunday at the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic. Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he focused on helping his squad regain its composure this week after it dropped two straight games.

“I’ve been really trying to make sure psychologically they’re doing okay,” Waldrum said.

The coach said he told players that, including two preseason games, they are 2-2-1 against teams ranked in the NCAA top 10 this season.

“We’ve played a really tough schedule, and when I tell [the players] our record, they start realizing we’re doing okay,” Waldrum said. “We’ve done well against a lot of good teams. It just shows there’s some parity.”

Immediately following the tournament opener between Washington State and Oklahoma State, the Irish will take on Princeton. Despite the Tigers’ 0-2-1 record, Notre Dame knows they will still provide a formidable challenge. Princeton allowed just two goals in its three games, all against ranked opponents. The squad is coming off a scoreless tie against No. 25 Villanova last Friday.

“Princeton’s a very solid team,” Waldrum said. “They’re well-coached and they’re perennially one of the top Ivy [League] teams.”

On Sunday, the Irish will have to reload in preparation for an undefeated Oklahoma State team that won its own event, the OSU Invitational, last weekend. The Cowgirls defeated Xavier 5-0 Friday then beat Louisiana-Monroe 7-0 Sunday.

“Oklahoma State looks very good,” said Waldrum. “We’ve seen them on video and they’re very strong.”

After allowing countless scoring opportunities last weekend, the Irish have made defense a priority and hope to play like the back unit that surrendered just .40 goals per game last season.

Waldrum said his team will focus specifically on stopping a pair of Cowgirls foreign attackers, Swedish senior midfielder Yolanda Odenyo and German senior forward Adriane Radtke.

“We’ve been working really hard to get rid of some bad habits we developed,” Waldrum said. “We’ve been so dominant on the offensive end [in recent years] that we could get away with not being as sharp defensively as we should have.”

Even though they may be without sophomore defender Haley Ford, who has an injured hamstring, Waldrum said he would be “shocked” if his back line did not perform better this weekend.

But while the Oklahoma State game is important for the Irish as a team, it holds special significance for Waldrum. Oklahoma State assistant coach Karen Hancock played for Waldrum at Tulsa, where he coached from 1989-1994.

Hancock eventually became the Cowgirls’ head coach, and later married Oklahoma State sports information director Will Hancock. The couple gave birth to a daughter, Andrea, in November 2000. But Will Hancock was killed in a plane crash in 2001 while traveling with the Oklahoma State basketball team.

In order to spend more time with her daughter, Karen Hancock stepped down as head coach and took on the role of assistant this season.

“It’s going to be great to have her here,” Waldrum said. “She’s just amazing.”

Hancock had a 110-89-19 record as head coach and has helped lead this year’s squad to a 4-0-0 record.