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ND Women’s Soccer: Irish travel to New Jersey for two conference matches

Mike Gotimer | Friday, October 9, 2009

After three weeks of conference play, No. 9/8 Notre Dame prepares to take on No. 10/11 Rutgers on an East Coast swing in New Jersey in what may prove to be the Big East’s premier match-up of the season and Notre Dame’s biggest threat to extending its NCAA record 57 match conference unbeaten streak.

Although the Irish (8-3-1, 4-0-1) hold a 16-1-2 record all-time against the Scarlet Knights (9-1-3, 3-0-2), they face a Rutgers team holding its highest NSCAA ranking in school history and the only other Big East team that remains undefeated in conference play.

Rutgers is fresh off of a grueling road trip in which they defeated Marquette 3-1 on Friday in Milwaukee before traveling to Tampa for a scoreless tie with South Florida on Sunday. On offense, the Scarlet Knights are led by junior forward Ashley Jones who leads the team with 19 points on a Big East high eight goals and three assists. Senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie, who has started all but one match for Rutgers and carries a 9-1-2 record, seven shutouts, and a 0.41 goals against average into the match, anchors the Scarlet Knights superb defense.

Despite the magnitude of the match, Irish coach Randy Waldrum didn’t think that his team did anything different to prepare.

“I don’t think we’ve done anything different,” Waldrum said. “We have to focus on paying attention to details on offense and finish. The key for this weekend is to focus on the small details.”

The match with the Scarlet Knights also presents the Irish with another chance to take down a top 10 foe, as they couldn’t do against Stanford or North Carolina, who rank No. 1 and 2 respectively in the current NSCAA poll. Waldrum views the match as an opportunity for the team to evaluate its progress at this point in the season.

“I think we’ve definitely moved forward since those games and the progress has been steady,” Waldrum said. “West Virginia was a good indicator. Although their record isn’t as good this year, they’re still one of the top teams in the conference and I thought we played very well against them on Friday night. I think it’s a great opportunity in another big game setting for us to se where we’re at.”

After their showdown with Rutgers on Friday night, the Irish will travel north to Seton Hall for a Sunday afternoon contest to complete their Garden State road trip. Although Notre Dame’s matchup with the Pirates will be overshadowed by their contest with the Scarlet Knights, Waldrum says his team still knows that they have to get it done against a conference opponent.

“I think one of the good things is that we realize [Friday] night’s game is the one to worry about and we haven’t really talked about [the Seton Hall game],” Waldrum said. “If we take care of things on Friday, we can focus on it on Sunday and prepare. I think we know that we need to win every game.”

Notre Dame holds a 14-1-0 advantage all time against Seton Hall (4-7-1), who remain winless in conference play. The Pirates are led on offense by junior midfielder Nicki Gross who has scored a team high four goals and three assists for 11 points.

Notre Dame kicks off against Rutgers at 7 p.m. on Friday in Piscataway, N.J., before traveling to South Orange Sunday.