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ND Women’s Soccer: Near perfection inspires team for new season

Mike Gotimer | Friday, August 20, 2010

While a new season may be underway, it’s the same familiar story for No. 4 Notre Dame.

The Irish, who have made seven of the past 11 College Cup semifinals, once again enter the season with national title aspirations following a bitter season-ending defeat from rival North Carolina, as Tar Heels midfielder Casey Nogueira notched the game winning tally in the final ten minutes of play in both the 2008 National Championship game and 2009’s semifinal.

Fortunately for Notre Dame, Nogueira has graduated and the Irish return many key contributors from last year’s team, something that coach Randy Waldrum said has his team primed for yet another run at a national title.

“I think that the good thing about it is that we’ve kind of had a history of getting there,” Waldrum said. “We’ve been there I think four years in a row and seven out of the 11 that I’ve been here, so I think the good thing is that when you go that regularly, the players kind of understand what it takes to get there in terms of the training and the work that they have to put in. I think they get that part of it.”

Waldrum said the Irish have a number of core players who will play a key role in helping Notre Dame return to the peak of college soccer this season, led by junior midfielder Courtney Barg, who registered an All-American season and earned Big East midfielder of the year honors in 2009.

“I think that we saw really the coming out last year of a player like Courtney Barg,” Waldrum said. “She’s a really key player for us.”

Flanking Barg at midfield will be seniors Rose Augustin and Lauren Fowlkes, who split time last season between the midfield and backline.

“Lauren Fowlkes I think is one of those key players that would play up front last year and as a defender,” Waldrum said. “I’m not quite sure honestly what we’re going to do with her this year.  We’ve looked at her in both spots in the preaseason, so I’m sure we’ll play her a little bit in both places until we settle in on a plan.”

Leading the Irish up front will be junior Melissa Henderson, who has been one of the nation’s top offensive players during her first two seasons, while junior counterpart Jess Schuveiller is expected to lead the back four on defense once again.

Notre Dame has always played a tough non-conference schedule, and this year’s slate is no different, as the Irish will play No. 3 UCLA and No. 9 Santa Clara during their first five games. Despite the daunting challenge, Waldrum’s experience proves that his team needs to face a challenging slate to set the tone for the season.

“It definitely sets the tone, and that’s why I’ve always liked to play good teams early in our non-conference schedule,” Waldrum said. “I really like the team to get tested and find out where we are early in the year. The one thing I always worry about is playing too light of a schedule and thinking we’re better than we really are and getting into the late part of the year into a tough stretch and not being ready for it.

“Certainly on the road at UCLA, anytime you go west with the time change and the travel and playing a good team is always going to be a challenge for you, and UCLA has certainly had as much of an impact on the soccer world that we’ve had, especially in the last six to eight years, and that’s going to be a good test.”

The Irish began their season Friday against Minnesota at Alumni Stadium.