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ND Women’s Soccer: Team to face Carolina yet again

Mike Gotimer | Thursday, November 18, 2010

No 7. Notre Dame and No. 3 North Carolina will renew women’s college soccer’s biggest rivalry Saturday in the College Cup’s round of 16 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

For the better part of the last two decades, match-ups between the Irish and Tar Heels have been the sport’s biggest game of the year and often carries huge national title implications. This weekend’s contest is no different, as the winner will advance to the next round as the clear favorite to reach the Final Four.

“I think arguably both of our programs are probably the two most storied programs in the country,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said.

The Tar Heels, who enter the tournament as defending champions, are led by their explosive front line of junior Courtney Jones and freshmen Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai. The three forwards have scored 11, 8 and 14 goals, respectively, on the year.

“That tandem of three forwards they’ve got there is very, very good and probably as good as any in the country.” Waldrum said. “If we can contain and shut them down, I think that’s the strength of their team. I think it’s key that we keep those three players in check.”

While the Irish have lost their previous three battles with the Tar Heels, Notre Dame is one of the few programs in the country that has risen to the occasion against North Carolina on their home field, winning three out of four games at Fetzer Field, something that is not lost on Waldrum.

“I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t,” Waldrum said. “It seems like we’ve always done well when we’ve gone there, and I think we’re one of the only teams that’s beaten them there on multiple occasions. There’s just something about it — I think our kids just get psyched and get ready to play when they arrive on campus, so hopefully they’ll do that again Saturday because we’re [going to] need a good performance. I think if we play like we did this weekend and put that kind of effort in we’ll be in really good shape.”

The Irish are coming off dominant performances in the first two rounds of the tournament, outscoring New Mexico and No. 22 USC by a combined score of 7-0. They used that momentum to have another strong week of practice and prepare for their rivals once again.

“The energy level in the training was great again this week,” Waldrum said. “I think after that loss to Connecticut that seemed to really re-energize the team and get the team realizing that we’ve [got to] go perform every time we step on the field and those two weeks that we were preparing for New Mexico and USC were probably two of the best weeks of practice we had and then this week the kids were right back at it with a very high level in training again.

“I think we’ve prepared as well as we can for them, and we’ve watched a ton of video on them,” Waldrum continued. “I think we know their team pretty well, so I think now it’s just roll the ball out and see which one’s ready to go.”

The Irish and Tar Heels will kickoff at 5 p.m. Saturday at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.