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ND Women’s Soccer: Loyola, Santa Clara visit ND

Fran Tolan | Friday, August 29, 2008

Judging from the 7-0 beating Notre Dame handed Michigan in its season opener last Friday, the No. 4 Irish appear determined to avoid the poor start they endured last season.

But the team will face several big early-season tests this weekend as the host of the 16th annual Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic held at Alumni Field

The Irish will take on Loyola Marymount tonight at 7:30 p.m. and wrap up the weekend with a contest against No. 21 Santa Clara on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Last season, the Irish also opened against Michigan but only managed a scoreless draw. Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said he was much happier with the result this time around.

“We’ve started off very well, I’m very pleased,” Waldrum said. “That was much better than the 0-0 tie.”

In last season’s tournament, the Irish lost in overtime to Oklahoma State to surrender the tournament title to Washington State. In another reminder of last season’s rocky early performance, Notre Dame will face a Santa Clara team that beat the visiting Irish 7-1 a week before the 2007 Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic. But Waldrum said this weekend the Irish will look to erase the memory of that blowout.

“Every time we play [Santa Clara] it’s a battle with both teams leaving everything on the field,” Waldrum said. “I don’t think we’re going to have to say too much about last year to get our team motivated.”

But before the Irish fully set their sights on the Broncos, they must contend with an unfamiliar and highly experienced Loyola Marymount team, who Notre Dame will face for the first time.

“It should be a tough game because they return nine of 11 starters from last year,” Waldrum said. “I don’t think we can intimidate them much just because it’s our home field.”

West Virginia is the fourth team in the tournament field and although Notre Dame will not face the Mountaineers, Waldrum said they will help make this year’s event more competitive than last year’s.

“Obviously it’s great to have a Big East rival like West Virginia here for this,” Waldrum said. “With all these great teams, it’s really going to be a big event.”

Several Notre Dame players received individual honors this week as Carrie Dew was named the Big East defensive player of the week and senior forward Kerri Hanks earned a spot on the conference’s weekly honor roll. In addition, Hanks and senior co-captain Brittany Bock were among the 22 players named preseason All-Americans by Soccer America.

But Waldrum sounded more concerned about getting a good all-around performance out of his team to kick-start the season than about individual accolades.

“It’s going to be a great weekend, especially for all the fans,” Waldrum said. “We’re just going to try to go out there and do everything we can to win it.”

The tournament kicks off tonight at 5 p.m. when West Virginia faces off against Santa Clara. Notre Dame begins play against Loyola Marymount after the conclusion of that contest.