Postseason begins tonight for No. 6 Notre Dame, Miami
By MIKE CONNOLLY
Associate Sports Editor
Tonight's Big East quarterfinal match up between the Big Mid-Atlantic Division champions the Fighting Irish and the No. 4 team from the Northeast Division the Hurricanes of Miami appears to be a mismatch.
The Irish are one of the top teams in the country and most experts expect them to be deep into the NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are unranked and surprised many people by securing a bid in the Big East tournament in their first year of conference play.
These factors coupled with a 7-1 Irish victory just a week ago should point to yet another Big East victory for the Irish.
But Irish head coach Randy Waldrum is not taking a victory for granted. Despite defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 9-2 and the Indiana Hoosiers 4-1 in their last two games, the Irish gave up cheap goals in both games. Waldrum has stressed to his team the need to put mental mistakes behind them as the stakes get higher in the playoffs.
"If we give away a silly goal early we are at a point in the season now where teams are not playing to develop," Waldrum said. "And if we get behind early, teams are going to pack it in front of the goal and make it very difficult to score. So we have to jump out and get on top of them early and put the game away early."
The Irish jumped out and put the game away early in their last game with the Hurricanes by building a 4-0 halftime lead. Waldrum hopes that his team can get out to a similar lead tonight.
The Irish are basically assured of a bid in the NCAA tournament no matter how they do in the Big East tournament. But unless Notre Dame wins the tournament, it will probably not get one of the top four seeds, host NCAA tournament games through the quarterfinals.
The Irish have to treat every game like it is a do-or-die situation, according to Waldrum.
"I think one of the things we have to do is to get the players to understand and realize that it is a one game situation and a playoff atmosphere," he said. "We can't make mistakes and have another day to play. I think we have tried to stress to them to finish out winning the rest of the this week so we can get a top seed."
Waldrum is especially concerned with the recent sub-par performances by his team because they remind him of the level of play the Irish showed on a Texas road trip in September when they barely beat Texas A&M and lost to Southern Methodist.
"It was really similar to what happened to us down in Texas," Waldrum said. "We have to reassess things to make sure that we don't end up in that position again."
If the Irish are going to go far in this year's postseason, they will have to rely on their talented senior players to carry them. It was these players that combined to score three goals in the last 10 minutes of the Indiana game to save a Notre Dame victory.
"Our seniors basically took things over at the end when they had to and put things away," Waldrum said. "It's important to have players with that kind of leadership on the field and its important that they continue it."
Jenny Streiffer, Jenny Heft and Jen Grubb each scored for the Irish in a four-minute span against the Hoosiers.
Streiffer has been especially hot in recent weeks and is battling to become the second player in NCAA history to record 70 goals and 70 assists in a career.
"I think she have kind of found her groove for scoring goals. Earlier in the season she was missing some opportunities,"Waldrum said. "Now we have made a move to put her up front rather than playing in the midfield and I think she is so dangerous with the ball on her foot. She is so individually at breaking down people on the dribble and I think now she is starting to find her rhythm."
Streiffer leads the Irish against the Hurricanes at 7:30 tonight on Alumni Field.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 2, 1999