Irish move to No. 1 as Tar Heels stumble to No. 4
By MIKE CONNOLLY
It's official. Notre Dame has the best women's soccer team in the country according to the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America Poll.
The Irish received 295 points in the latest poll to place them 10 points ahead of second-place Clemson.
"It's certainly a special moment for Notre Dame soccer, but we hope that there are many more to come this season," head coach Randy Waldrum said in a prepared statement.
The Irish ascended to the No. 1 rankings after two shutout victories against No. 14 Portland and No. 15 Washington this weekend. Last week, No. 2 Clemson knocked off former No. 1 North Carolina to open the top spot for Notre Dame.
Although Waldrum called the new ranking a "tremendous honor," the team does not talk about rankings, according to sophomore midfielder Ashley Dryer.
"We try not to focus on it," she said. "We still have a lot of stuff we need to do."
Senior captain Anne Makinen said she cares little about the rankings. She did not even find out the Irish were ranked No. 1 until reached for comment Wednesday night.
"We don't really talk about rankings," she said. "I don't personally follow rankings. They don't matter in the end."
Waldrum said the No. 1 ranking is especially impressive considering how much the Irish lost from last year's national runner-up team. Notre Dame had to replace five starters from last year's team — including the most prolific scorer in Irish history, Jenny Streiffer.
"The players deserve a lot of credit, because we've kind of snuck up on some people who thought — justifiably so — that we might be down a little bit after graduating five starters," Waldrum said.
The lowered expectations from people outside the program only motivated the Irish even more, Dryer said.
"Everybody did basically write us off but we knew we had good freshmen coming in and good returning players," Dryer said. "I think our team always thought we could do it."
The Irish are also well aware of the dangers of being No. 1 and unbeaten. In the semifinals last year, the Irish knocked off the No. 1 and previously unbeaten Santa Clara Broncos. Dryer said the Irish must avoid getting cocky as the season progresses.
"When you lose, it kind of builds you character," she said. "But if you always win you have to be careful to realize that you can be beaten and you don't want to be beaten at the end of the season."
u Senior captain Kerri Bakker was named Big East defensive player of the week. The senior from Washington, N.J., helped the Irish post a pair of shutouts against Washington and Portland. This is the third week in a row that an Irish player has won Big East defensive player of the week. Senior captain Kelly Lindsey was named Big East defensive player of the week the previous two weeks.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, September 21, 2000