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ND Women’s Soccer: Westward bound

By Megan Golden | Friday, September 9, 2011

An offensive resurgence over the weekend gave No. 8 Notre Dame a refresh as to what is possible before it heads west to face second-ranked Stanford and No. 17 Santa Clara.

Notre Dame (3-2) will open the weekend against a familiar team in Stanford (4-0-1), which fell 1-0 to the Irish in last season’s national championship. The Cardinal return six starters, including sophomore goalkeeper Emily Oliver.

“They have a great goalkeeper, and [senior forward] Lindsay Taylor up front is their go-to player,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “From what we’ve seen of her, she looks really good— [a] really energetic and high-tempo midfielder. They are very good and very professional, like we try to [be] here at Notre Dame. They will be a good challenge for us.”

The Irish defeated Santa Clara (3-0-2) by a score of 1-0 last season with a goal just 3:05 into the game. Santa Clara senior goalkeeper Bianca Henninger recorded six saves in the game and is one of several returning starters on the Broncos’ roster.

Waldrum said he was able to prepare his team for both Stanford and Santa Clara all week in practice because the two teams run a similar system.

“The interesting thing about this weekend is that both teams out west play with the same system and same formation, so there are no surprises there,” he said. “[Santa Clara sophomore midfielder Julie] Johnston played on the under-20 national team. She’s really been a thorn in our side; she came to South Bend [last year] and played really well against us.”

On its last road trip — also against two ranked opponents — Notre Dame came away 0-2 after dropping its first game against top-ranked North Carolina and falling to No. 10 Duke in a Sunday matinee. Waldrum said the key to a successful weekend will be to stay focused and mentally confident.

“It’s so hard to play Friday and Sunday physically, but it’s tough especially against high-level teams,” he said. “Being mentally and physically prepared is huge. We didn’t come out and perform the second day last time, so we are trying to come out and perform the entire weekend.”

Senior forward Melissa Henderson agreed that confidence will play an important role in returning home with two wins.

“Confidence [is key], and I think we need to realize going in that we’re capable of doing it,” she said. “We need to believe in one another, come together and really play for one another, play for our school.”

The Irish outscored their opponents 11-2 over the weekend, and Henderson alone netted four goals. Waldrum said the Irish will have to continue to be patient near the goal and take advantage of good shot opportunities.

“I was happy offensively [this past weekend] with creating more chances and scoring more goals,” he said. “[Santa Clara] probably [has] the best goalkeeper in the country in Bianca.”

The Irish defense remains on the top of the list of priorities, however, as the team continues to search for a permanent goalkeeper.

“We’ve been working on defense still, and we’ve got to get goalkeeping up,” Waldrum said. “We gave up two goals this weekend, and we’ve got to be better than we are.”

Opponents have scored seven goals on the Irish thus far, five more than the defense had allowed five games into the season last year, when they went on to win their third national championship.

Senior defender Jessica Schuveiller insisted that the defense is ready to work together and play for the entire weekend.

“Just collectively as a team, we need to be better at all-around defense and playing together as a group,” she said. “I think no matter who we have on the field at a time, we just have to have a mentality that no one’s going to get past us. We have to really support each other when we’re on the field together.”

The Irish will face Stanford on Friday at 10:30 p.m., and they will return to action at Santa Clara on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Contact Megan Golden at [email protected]