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Women’s Soccer: Round Three

Fran Tolan | Friday, November 21, 2008

In round one, Notre Dame delivered a series of punishing blows to its helpless opponent.

In round two, the team traded punches with its foe before the Irish delivered a late uppercut to gain the upper hand.

Now it’s time for round three.

After blowing out Toledo and squeaking past Michigan State last weekend, No. 1 Notre Dame (23-0-0) prepares for a slugfest against No. 22 Minnesota (22-3-0) tonight at Alumni Field.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said the Big Ten champion Golden Gophers play an up-tempo, attacking style.

“They love to attack, they love to pressure the ball, they really go after it,” he said. “They’re very similar to Marquette or [North] Carolina in that way … At the end of the day, I think we’re gonna go out there and find a very good team.”

But that’s not to say that Minnesota has a weak back line.

“They’re a very good defense, much like we are,” he said. “They haven’t given up a ton of goals but we have the weapons, and if we stick to our game-plan I think we’ll be alright.”

The undefeated Irish, who are no strangers to hosting late-round Tournament games, welcome a Golden Gophers team that is used to the cold weather.

“Usually we look at the cold [weather] as a homefield advantage for us,” Waldrum said. “But that’s not the case this time around.”

For that reason, Waldrum said the Irish hope to see tremendous fan support tonight.

“That’s where the crowd can really help us out,” he said. “We really need their help so I hope to see a lotta students come out.”

The Irish will play without co-captain Brittany Bock for the fourth straight game and Waldrum said the team is not optimistic that she can return this season. Bock, whose injured leg has no structural damage, has been unable to practice due to the intense pain it causes her.

“To tell you the truth, I think we’ve gotten beyond the fact that we might have to play without her,” Waldrum said. “… But [the team] hasn’t skipped a beat with [out her]. We’ve played the last few games of the season without her and, in the beginning of the season, we played some big games without her.”

Freshman Melissa Henderson, who has scored 17 goals, gives the Irish enough depth up front to replace Bock.

Waldrum said the Irish must play every game like it is their last because any of the remaining 16 teams is capable of winning the national title.

“I think when you look at the 16 that are left, there are no real surprises out there,” he said. “At the end of the day, any of them can win it all and it wouldn’t be a terrible surprise. It’s the first year in a long time where there haven’t been any big surprises.”

So Notre Dame heads into tonight’s matchup with the Golden Gophers with the intention of focusing on one game at a time. And Waldrum said the team cannot wait to take the field.

“I think everyone’s ready to go, and excited,” he said. “Even with the cold weather, we’re ready.”