Top-ranked Irish kick off grueling four-game ‘break’ against Eagles
While the rest of the Notre Dame student body is relaxing over the next week and catching up on needed rest, the No. 1-ranked women’s soccer team will be enduring perhaps its most grueling stretch of the season.
The Irish will play four games in a span of eight days, three against Big East opponents looking to knock them out of No. 1.
In what might well be the toughest of the four tests, the Golden Eagles of Boston College fly into Alumni Field tonight for Notre Dame’s only home game of the week.
The Golden Eagles have been soaring of late as their 11-4 overall record has already secured a postseason berth in the conference championships.
“It’s going to be a very tough game,” Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. “I think potentially they’re a tough as any team we’ve played at home this year.”
Although Boston College is unranked, the Eagles have shown the ability to upset by taking 18th-ranked Connecticut to overtime before falling 1-0. If the Eagles are to make a second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need a big win over a top team. Tonight’s game against the Irish gives them that chance.
“They know they really need to beat a good team to get in,” Waldrum said. “I think they’ll come out and go after us.”
Boston College boasts a strong goalkeeper in senior Courtney Schaeffer and her solid play will allow the Eagles’ offense to attack an Irish defense that will be depleted by the loss of senior co-captain Kelly Lindsey who is out with a strained MCL ligament.
Most teams in the Big East have played conservatively against the Irish keeping as many as six defenders close to the goal in order to make the game close. Since Schaeffer’s talents provide an insurance policy between the posts, Waldrum feels the Eagles will do everything it needs necessary to win.
“I don’t think they’ll lay back,” he said. “I’d expect them to come out and play.”
To combat the Boston College attack and compensate for the loss of Lindsey, Waldrum will insert sophomore Nancy Mikacenic into the defensive backfield.
“I don’t see much of a drop off,” Waldrum said. “Nancy has been playing some really good soccer lately. She can hold down the fort.”
Boston College will have the edge when it comes down to intangibles against 13-0-0 Notre Dame, who with a win will be off to best start in school history. The Eagles have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They aren’t expected to win and that might allow them to play with the kind of wreckless abandon that often keys an upset.
“They’re certainly confident enough,” Waldrum said. “They believe they can win.”
After away games at Syracuse and Yale, the Irish will travel to Stoors, Conn. to take on the 18th-ranked Huskies, the Northeast division champions. While this game will be a huge one for both teams, Waldrum has not been able to even address the Huskies with the Eagles looming tonight.
After starting slow, the Huskies have been surging in the last few weeks returning to the nation’s elite class of programs.
On the injury front, the Irish received good news when it was announced that freshman Amy Warner’s knee injury is not as serious as some first feared. Warner has been rehabbing the knee, running and doing some recovery training, and has felt little to no pain. She is expected back for the playoffs.
“We think we’ll have her back,” said Waldrum. “We’re probably being overly cautious since she’s so young and has her three years to go.”
Always on the lookout for a silver lining in the dark clouds of injury, Waldrum sees some positives in the absences of Warner and Lindsey.
“The injuries have given us a chance to look at some other players and get them some important time,” said Waldrum. “ Being able to rotate players is important for depth. I think our top 15 players are all comfortable playing with each other.”
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 13, 2000