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ND Women’s Soccer: High hopes

Fran Tolan | Friday, November 30, 2007

Notre Dame avenged its loss to North Carolina in last season’s national title game by downing the Tar Heels 3-2 last Saturday in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. But the Irish (18-4-2) know their work is not finished.

They return home to face Duke (10-5-7) tonight at 7 for a chance to return to the College Cup, soccer’s version of the Final Four.

“We had a couple of days to enjoy [the win over North Carolina] and now it’s back to work,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “We’ve got a great opportunity. We don’t need to let it slip through our hands. … We’re only halfway to where we want to be.”

The comparisons between the two teams from Tobacco Road go beyond the proximity of their schools. Like the Tar Heels, Duke boasts a strong midfield that should challenge the Irish in the possession battle.

“They have a really solid midfield, so our midfield matchup against theirs is going to be really big,” Waldrum said.

Sophomore C.J Ludemann, who has four goals and seven assists on the season, leads the Blue Devils’ midfield. She is joined on the unit by fellow sophomore Elisabeth Redmond, who leads the team with eight goals. Redmond will draw a lot of attention from Irish defenders, Waldrum said.

Duke, which is making its first quarterfinals appearance since 1994, already has NCAA Tournament wins over No. 23 South Carolina, No. 13 Georgia and Indiana.

Waldrum said he’s familiar with the majority of Duke’s lineup, because he recruited many of the current Blue Devils when they were in high school.

“They’re a very talented team,” Waldrum said. “We were looking at the roster and they’ve got about seven kids that we’ve recruited throughout the years.”

Waldrum said both the Irish and the Blue Devils focus on maintaining control of the ball throughout the game.

“Duke’s a little bit more of a passing team than Carolina,” Waldrum said. “They’re very similar to us in that they like to keep possession.”

But the game could simply hinge on a battle between the forwards and whether one team can finish better.

“It might come down to who can impose their offensive firepower on the other,” Waldrum said. “It should be a good chess match between two really good teams.”

The Irish offense packs the punch necessary to outscore the Blue Devils.

Three Irish forwards, senior captain Amanda Cinalli and juniors Kerri Hanks and Brittany Bock, were recently named semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding player in the nation.

Sophomore forward Michele Weissenhofer notched two goals and an assist in the victory over the Tar Heels after she was slowed by an injury for most of the season.

The Irish have outscored opponents 8-2 in their three NCAA Tournament wins, and a trip to the College Cup would be their third appearance in the last four seasons.

The 2004 team won the national championship while the 2006 squad was the runner-up. Cinalli is the only starter remaining from the squad that took home the 2004 title.

The winner of tonight’s contest will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Florida State and Connecticut.