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ND Women’s Soccer: Bock kick starts Irish offense

Fran Tolan | Thursday, November 8, 2007

Imagine nailing Jell-O to a wall. Or fitting a square peg into a round hole. Regardless of the corny metaphor you prefer, both describe what it has been like to defend Notre Dame’s during its current 12-game win streak.

On Sunday, the No. 11 Irish (14-4-1) beat Rutgers 2-0 despite the absence of three key players, including junior forward Brittany Bock, who sat out with a bruised leg.

Since moving from the midfield up to her current forward spot, Bock has sparked an Irish attack that won all 13 of their Big East games while outscoring opponents 41-5.

And, unlike in some past years, they have not simply been beating up on weak conference foes. Irish coach Randy Waldrum has frequently said that the Big East is much stronger than it was even five years ago. The conference boasts four top-25 teams.

In the semifinals of the Big East tournament this Friday in Morgantown, W. Va,, the Irish will take on Georgetown. In their first meeting with Georgetown, who upset No. 24 Connecticut Sunday, the Irish beat the Hoyas 3-0.

If the Irish are able to dispatch Georgetown, they will play the winner of the other semifinal between No. 12 West Virginia and No. 23 Louisville. On Sept. 28, the Irish defeated Louisville 1-0 on the road, despite a hostile Cardinals crowd that Waldrum called one of the most intimidating in the country.

If host West Virginia beats Louisville, it may prove to be the most difficult conference test the Irish face. The Mountaineers (14-4-1) have won their past five matches, including a 1-0 win over Villanova in the quarterfinals.

Early in the season, the Irish defense might have had severe trouble against West Virginia. But the Notre Dame back line should be able avoid the mental mistakes that plagued it in its first few games together. Irish defenders Elise Weber, Julie Scheidler and Lauren Fowlkes, all newcomers to the squad, suffered several difficult losses during the first month of play but have grown into a dominant unit. The defense, which is led by junior Carrie Dew, has registered seven shutouts in conference play.

In a possible final against West Virginia, there is also no reason to think that the Irish offense would be unable to pepper the back of the net like it has the past month. The Mountaineers recently lost 2-0 to Connecticut and surrendered three goals in a win over Georgetown.

The Irish attack is led by junior Kerri Hanks, who recently became the third player in NCAA history to notch 50 goals and 50 assists before her senior year.

And Bock should return to provide a potent threat in the air on Hanks’ corner kicks and sophomore forward Michelle Weisenhofer’s long throw-ins. Bock has 16 header goals in less than three seasons with the Irish. When senior midfielder Amanda Cinalli is added to the offensive mix, the Irish can control the tempo against anyone.

So unless the Hoyas or Mountaineers can figure out something as difficult as finding a proverbial needle in a haystack, the Irish should capture their 10th Big East crown during their 13 years in the league.