Irish offense stalls after Makinen's injury
Associate Sports Editor
SAN JOSE, Calif.
After a four-overtime marathon victory over Nebraska in the quarterfinals, head coach Randy Waldrum brought a tired, physically beaten team to San Jose.
With junior forward Monica Gonzalez slowed by a torn meniscus in her knee, junior midfielder Anne Makinen limited by a knee injury and senior forward Jenny Heft weak from a bought with the flu, the Irish faced incredible odds against the undefeated Santa Clara Broncos.
"I think we got through … this weekend on a lot of heart," Waldrum said. "We were a little banged up and throwing things together to try and make it work. I am just really proud of this group."
Thanks to 74 minutes from Makinen and a lot of hustle by an exhausted Irish squad, the Irish earned the right to face the perennial powerhouse North Carolina Tar Heels in the finals with a 1-0 victory. After managing just three shots against the Broncos, the Irish knew they would need a better offensive attack against the Tar Heels.
The Irish appeared to have a good scoring chance in the 30th minute as Makinen broke past her defender to the left of the Tar Heel goal and prepared to cross the ball to an awaiting teammate. But just before the Finnish national team player could send the pass, she fell to the ground and grabbed the back of her leg. The Irish offense would never be the same.
"I am not quite sure what happened," Makinen said about the injury. "I don't think there was any contact. But after that, I was done."
With Makinen on the bench, the entire pace of the game changed, according to junior captain and center defensive back Kelly Lindsey.
"At the time she went down, no one really realized it but you could tell the minute she went out that our possession fell a little bit and we didn't have a spark up top," Lindsey said. "She wasn't there to collect balls for us and distribute them for us. We really missed her in the second half."
With Makinen out of the game, the Irish shifted the lineup and played with two freshmen — Nancy Mikacenic and Ashley Dryer — and a sophomore — Mia Sarkesian — in the midfield. Talented but inexperienced players, they lack Makinen's ability to find open players and to exploit defensive weaknesses from the center midfield.
"It definitely changed things just because when she is not in there we are not as dangerous," senior Jenny Streiffer said about Makinen's injury. "She is just an incredible player. We did the best we could without her, and I am disappointed for her that she couldn't play."
Makinen's injury became even more devastating when the Irish fell behind 1-0 in the 56th minute. Unable to hang back on defense and wait for an opening to score, Notre Dame had to attack more and juggled the lineup to get the best offensive punch.
"We could have said we can just keep it close and lose 1-0," Waldrum said about the more aggressive style of play after the Irish fell behind. "But I don't think any of our kids wanted to play that way."
The Irish shifted Streiffer back to midfield and brought in freshman Ali Lovelace at forward. Sophomore Lindsey Jones, a more offense-minded defensive player replaced Vanessa Pruzinsky.
When this alignment failed to score, Waldrum moved Streiffer back to her more natural forward position and pushed All-American Jen Grubb from defense to midfield.
"It was just an attempt to control the midfield more," Grubb said about her position change. "We were losing the battles in the air and they were getting harder tackles. I have also been bugging Randy all year to move me back to the midfield, so maybe it was just to shut me up. We just wanted to get control of the midfield again."
While the offense never found the back of the net against the Tar Heels, Waldrum was pleased with his team's effort in a difficult situation.
"We've been very potent all year and I don't think anyone saw what we can really do," Waldrum said. "We won Friday on courage and we played today just on courage. That's something you can't coach."
All Sports Stories for Monday, December 6, 1999