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Fran Tolan | Monday, September 22, 2008

The hits just keep on coming for Kerri Hanks and No. 1 Notre Dame. A week after becoming the sixth player in NCAA Div. I history with 60 career goals and 60 assists, the senior forward scored two more goals and added several additional milestones to her resume.

What’s more, the Irish won their first Big East game by downing DePaul 1-0 Friday and defeated No. 16/17 Penn State 3-1 Sunday. The successful road trip ran Notre Dame’s record to 8-0-0, including 4-0-0 away from home.

The wins were bittersweet for the team, though, as head coach Randy Waldrum was not with Notre Dame Sunday due to a death in his family.

Waldrum got credit for his 300th win with the Irish because he did not name an interim head coach for the Penn State game. Notre Dame assistant coach Ken Nuber said that the players had their head coach in mind as they remained undefeated.

“All of our hearts are with [Waldum] and his family,” Nuber said. “That was definitely in the back of everyone’s head in that game.”

When Hanks slammed home a left-footed shot in the 78th minute against DePaul, not only did she provide the Irish with the only goal of the game. The senior from Allen, Tex., also became the fourth Div. I player to post 70 goals as well as 60 assists. The score also gave Hanks 200 career points and tied the Notre Dame record for game-winning goals with 19.

“She’s been great her whole career; she’s just an incredible player,” Nuber said. “A lot of our goals are the result of all the hard work she puts in.”

The Irish dominated DePaul for the duration of the contest, amassing a 24-2 advantage in shots taken. However, only when Hanks capitalized on a return pass from Notre Dame sophomore midfielder Erica Iantorno did the Irish punch one in.

“It was a great give-and-go,” Nuber said. “Erica [Iantorno] posted high on the 18-yard line and took a pass from [Hanks] and held it and when she gave it back, it was just a great finish.”

Nuber said the Irish were unlucky not to score until so late in the second half.

“It’s a very difficult place to play; it’s a very small, Astroturf field,” Nuber said. “[DePaul] played with a very defensive posture, especially as it got late in the game. … I would say they weren’t necessarily playing for a tie but I think they would have been happy with a tie.”

After notching their first Big East win against the Blue Demons, the Irish flew to Penn State and took care of business in their final non-conference game.

Notre Dame held off several early Penn State chances before notching three first-half goals to take control of the contest.

“We struggled a little early; they were really pressuring and attacking us well,” Nuber said.

Freshman forward Melissa Henderson struck first for the Irish, converting a header on a cross from sophomore defender Julie Scheidler in the 18th minute. Hanks put in yet another goal less than two minutes later. The senior’s initial effort failed but she stuck with the play and eventually hit the ball into the back of the net.

“She did a good job of holding the defender off her; the ball was served in and her first shot with her right foot got blocked,” Nuber said. “But she got it again and put it in. It was just another example of her working hard for a goal.”

Irish junior forward Michele Weisenhofer provided insurance for Notre Dame when she hit home a volley that Nuber called the “goal of the day.”

“Erica [Iantorno] served it across and Weisenhofer was getting pulled down by a defender who was pretty much waterskiing on the back of her jersey,” Nuber said. “The ball was about waist-high and she just hit it in.”

After another successful weekend, the top-ranked Irish will get ready to return to action at Alumni Field Friday night against Louisville.