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ND Women’s Soccer: Up for grabs

Bill Brink | Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Four games into the season, Notre Dame still doesn’t have a bona fide starting goalkeeper.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum has rotated three candidates, senior Lauren Karas, sophomore Kelsey Lysander and freshman Nikki Weiss, but has not found an answer. Waldrum said the void at keeper has cast a shadow of doubt over the entire defense.

“We’re at a point right now where defensively, everybody’s worried,” Waldrum said Sunday.

Waldrum gave Weiss the tentative starting nod for Friday’s Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic, but said the battle is “still wide open.”

None of the keepers have consistently shown what Waldrum said he is looking for: someone who can step up and make plays in the penalty box.

“Right now they’re afraid to come up to the line and make mistakes,” he said. “We’ve got to have someone that she’s going to step up and take charge.”

The level of play in goal fell significantly in relation to last season. Karas started 25 games last season as a junior, a year in which the Irish went 25-1-1 and lost to No. 1 North Carolina in the NCAA Championship.

During the season, she allowed an average of 0.41 goals per game, made 41 saves and had a .804 save percentage. Lysander saw backup duty in eight games, allowing one goal and making four saves.

This season, Karas has allowed two goals per game and has just a .500 save percentage. Lysander has allowed four goals per game, and Weiss has let in 1.11 per game.

As a team last season, Notre Dame allowed seven percent of shots to result in a goal. This season, 19 percent of shots reached the back of the net. Last season, the team goals-against average was 0.4 goals per game. This season, they’ve allowed 2.09.

Waldrum was happy with the keeper’s play early in the season but said their performance has fallen off since then.

“Lauren was great for us against Florida. We got that, and we were excited about it,” Waldrum said. “She came out Friday, and she really struggled in the first half. Kelsey had a great preseason, and she really struggled.”

Waldrum said that the keepers might not be entirely at fault. The young defense needs some time to get itself together, he said.

“It’s a whole unit thing, it’s not just the goalkeepers,” Waldrum said. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to sort out defensively for sure. We’ve got a young defense back there. We’ve got players we’ve been moving around.”

The defense has so far allowed the keepers to see many more shots than last year. Last season opponents got off 5.9 shots per game; this year they’ve managed 11.8 shots per game.

Waldrum said junior defender Carrie Dew still hasn’t fully recovered from her ACL injury, and the absence of her full abilities has hampered the defense as well.

While the offense returned fairly intact, the Irish lost two senior defenders, Christie Shaner and Kim Lorenzen. The team also lost senior Jill Krivacek, a defensive midfielder. Losing players of their caliber created a defensive vacuum that so far the team has not been able to fill. Sophomore defenders Haley Ford and Amanda Clark and junior defender Elise Weber, along with Dew, make up the current defensive unit.

Be it the caliber of their opponents (Notre Dame faced three top-10 teams in the first six games, including the preseason), the relatively green defense or a drop-off in goalkeeping talent from last season, the Irish face a challenge that Waldrum said requires someone to assert themselves.

“We’ve got to get some consistency,” he said. “We’ve got to get someone who can dominate the penalty box for us.”