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ND Women’s Soccer: Team finds goalkeeper with Karas

Fran Tolan | Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Three months ago, Notre Dame did not have an established starting goalkeeper.

Returning starter senior Lauren Karas, sophomore Kelsey Lysander and freshman Nikki Weiss each auditioned daily for the right to stand between the pipes for the Irish.

But now, after Karas led the team to a 3-2 upset victory of No. 4 North Carolina in the NCAA Round of 16 Sunday, hardly a question remains.

Karas, who has been the unquestioned starter since Sept. 28, made clutch save after clutch save against the Tar Heels and displayed the poise she has gained since winning the permanent starter job.

“We made that decision [to start Karas] around the Louisville game to just let her go and let her run with it,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “It seems to have really helped her confidence. It just built and built and she hasn’t let us down.”

Since a 1-0 win over Louisville Sept. 28, the Irish are officially 15-0-1, with the draw being a penalty-kicks loss to West Virginia in the Big East tournament final. Karas has allowed only eight goals while starting every contest during that span.

Against North Carolina, Karas made five saves, including two on second-half shots by the Tar Heels’ star, midfielder Nikki Washington that appeared headed for the back of the net. And with 30 seconds remaining, Karas made a sliding save to stop a North Carolina breakaway and secure the victory for the Irish.

“That was probably her best overall game in her four years here,” Waldrum said. “She’s had some games where she’s been very good but she just had so much action and so much she had to deal with. She was just fantastic.”

Although she is reluctant to talk about herself, Karas said she was always confident, even after she almost lost her starting job at the beginning of the season.

“I’m not doing anything different than my first three years here except now I have a chance to be on the field,” she said.

The senior is also quick to credit Notre Dame’s other goalies, freshman Nikki Weiss and sophomore Kelsey Lysander, for keeping her sharp throughout the season.

“We didn’t have a starter in the beginning of the season because Kelsey and Nikki are great goalkeepers,” Karas said. “They push me in practice and they’re great support.”

Waldrum is happy with his choice for starter.

“Behind the scenes, we sat down with her and we just came to the fact that we were going to live with her or die with her and I think that’s really helped her confidence,” Waldrum said. “She’s hitting her stride around the right time.”

The Irish host Duke Friday with only that game standing between them and a trip to the College Cup.

“They haven’t done anything less than we’ve done,” Karas said of the Blue Devils. “It’s an even playing field right now.”