Way to San Jose runs through Lincoln
By MIKE CONNOLLY
Associate Sports Editor
The Notre Dame women's soccer team leaves the friendly confines of Alumni Field Sunday for the hostile environment of Nebraska's Abbott Sports Complex — a place where the Huskers haven't lost all season.
The Irish know that the trip into Husker country will be a difficult road block on the way to San Jose, Calif., and the 1999 final four.
"We'd rather be at home so that we can stay in our routine and have our home fans but going on the road is just one thing you have to deal with," Irish head coach Randy Waldrum said. "And if we want to go to the final four, we have to go through Lincoln."
The Cornhuskers will have extra incentive when the Irish come to town as Notre Dame has eliminated Nebraska from the tournament the past two seasons with both games being played at Alumni Field.
"It's a big rivalry," junior forward Meotis Erikson said. "It's not just the fact that we have beaten them the past two years but also a final four bid is on the line. They are going to be out for us but we have incentive too."
The Irish incentive comes from the fact that they haven't advanced to the final four since 1997. Thanks to a loss to Portland in last year's quarterfinals, the Irish missed the final four for the first time since 1993.
If the Irish want to spend the first weekend in December in sunny California, they must shut down the Huskers leading scorer, Meghan Anderson. Anderson scored 21 goals from her midfield position.
The job of stopping Anderson will fall mainly on the midfield according to Waldrum.
"She is kind of coming forward out of the midfield for them," he said. "We're not going to do anything special or change anything the way we play. We're going to keep our eye on her as best we can but I think with the three we put in midfield we'll match up really well with her."
The Irish midfield played one of its best defensive games of the year against Stanford. After juggling the lineup all season, Waldrum has finally settled on rotating junior Anne Makinen, sophomore Mia Sarkesian and freshmen Nancy Mikacenic and Ashley Dryer.
The more stable lineup led to the improvement, according to Makinen.
"We've been talking a lot about [defense] in practice and trying to improve," she said. "We have just been talking better [on the field]. It's been kind of a search for the right positions and now we are finally getting comfortable."
Waldrum expects the Cornhuskers to attack the Irish and not hang back like other teams who have been intimidated by the Irish talent. While other teams have packed the box and tried to counter attack, Waldrum believes that the Huskers will come after the Irish.
"I think Nebraska is very similar to us in that they have a lot of offensive weapons," Waldrum said. "I think the game will be more wide open. It will come down to which set of backs can do a better job. They pretty much match up man-to-man and I like that because I think we have some good one-on-one players. We'll have to see how they match up with us."
One player on the Irish roster is especially looking forward to the game at Nebraska. Junior Kelly Lindsey hails from Omaha and was heavily recruited by the Huskers.
"I am definitely excited," Lindsey said. "I would love to go back there and play in front of a crowd that has never seen me play before in college. So I think it will be a lot of fun."
The Irish will find their trip to Lincoln a lot more fun if it is just a pit stop on the way to San Jose.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 23, 1999