Nov. 28, 2007
Members of the Notre Dame women's soccer program met with the media earlier this week (and following the NCAA third-round win at North Carolina). Excerpts of their comments are included below. (Note that, due to technical difficulties in the UNC postgame, full comments were not immediately available and remain incomplete at this time) ... also note that video interviews (taped Nov. 26) with ND's Randy Waldrum and Michele Weissenhofer are available now on und.com (free via Irish All-Access).
NOTRE DAME WOMEN'S SOCCER QUOTE SHEET (Nov. 24-27, 2007)
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Randy Waldrum - "We were very pleased with the results. Anytime you can come to Carolina and beat them, it's a great result. I'm a little disappointed for the fans that this was not in the `final four.' But it was a great game and I felt all along it was going to be right down to the wire. "
"We started the year out a little bit shaky on defense and with our goalkeeping. That is something that has gotten better as the season has gone along. Carolina is so dangerous when they can dump the ball into the box and then have several players with size and strength in the air. That would make any team antsy in the back. Their dead-ball situations were extremely dangerous and ours were too.
"Lauren Karas was great for us today in goal. She came up big - it was by far the best game of her career at Notre Dame.
"We were so different this time against them than we were last year in the championship game. Last year, I felt we underachieved and were a little bit intimidated and did not play up o the way we can play. This time made us proud to see how we responded. It was similar to how we played them in the preseason here. We came out and matched their intensity level and made a conscious decision to go at them and attack them. A lot of teams want to sit back, weather the score and not give away goals and keep it close.
"[Assistant coach Ben Waldrum] came up with a good gameplan of how to get behind them and it led to a couple of the goals. We switched the ball quickly and were able to get in behind that back line, because they are so compact and they press you - but we were able to find some open spaces. It makes you really proud to see the team respond the way it's capable of responding.
"The preseason game with UNC had a huge impact on this game. We had not played them in a regular-season [or preseason] game in several years. We felt it was important to get more of a comfort level for playing them, so that preseason game was huge.
"Typically, when we go up two goals, historically we have been pretty good at keeping the lead and most teams have troubles climbing back into the game. But Carolina looked dangerous every time they got into the attack. I knew if they got one back, it was going to be a long afternoon. It rattled them a little bit being down 2-0 but they got back into it with the first goal. Once they got a goal, to see us respond and get the next goal and go back up by two - that was even bigger than going up by two initially. It was great to see that response.
"Having Courtney Rosen more healthy over the past few weeks has been very important. Courtney has so much ability on the ball and is so good technically at finding people. She is a smart player, so having her back has given us another weapon in the midfield. It has enhanced our play in the midfield.
"And having Michele Weissenhofer being healthier makes all the difference in the world. Over the last few weeks, we had some people like Susan Pinnick and Rose Augustin step up and score some goals at critical times, when Weissenhofer was not quite back to herself. But now to have Weissenhofer back, to me she know looks like the Weissenhofer we had all of last year. She actually looked faster than some of the Carolina kids in the back and she was strong and confident. Maybe the goal versus Illinois in the second round was a big thing for her. As forwards, it's like a home-run hitter if you are in a slump it begins to weight on you. I think she was getting really down on herself for not scoring a lot of goals on a regular basis. Hopefully this is a good sign for us going into the Duke game.
"Yael Averbuch is such a big player for them and she is deadly from 30 yards out. Every time she gets the ball, she is a threat to score. I think Amanda Clark handled her really well and I don't think Averbuch was much of a factor in the game. Having Clark able to take her out of the play was huge. We also took away their flank play, those were kids who last year in the final killed us down the wide areas. With that and the job Clark was doing, that did not give them a lot of options other than being more direct than they already are. The gameplan we had was really good and the players carried it out great.
"From the opening whistle, it was very physical. Both teams played with a great intensity level. Players were throwing their bodies all over the field. It would have been a great national championship game and was exciting from end-to-end."
EXCERPTS OF COMMENTS FROM UNC HEAD COACH ANSON DORRANCE - "I thought today's game was just a spectacular game. ... Our kids fought hard, some of them played some of the best soccer of their life. You would expect this at this point in the NCAAs, against an elite team like Notre Dame.
"My issues during the game were to try to find more scoring chances. We were squandering a lot of our flank service by just bashing it into the box, so we addressed the issues of how to create chances in the box. ... .Some of the stuff that Nikki [Washington] did 1-v.-1 was spectacular. I felt that, if we could one, it would put us in the game. I'm always confident that we are going to score at least once.
"A 2-1 lead is the most nervewracking in soccer and I knew that was going to make it hard on Notre Dame. Of course, 3-1 becomes a little bit more dicey but we scored the second goal with enough time to feel comfortable to get the third. We created some wonderful chances to get the third.
"In the second half of the season, we began to play a little bit better and then we began to win every close game. They were battles every step of the way, winning games in overtime and even penalty kicks."
SOPHOMORE FORWARD Michele Weissenhofer - "It was a great feeling. Everyone played out of their mind. Our goalkeeper Lauren Karas had a great game and our defense played out of their mind. Elise Weber got hurt but Ashley Jones came in and did her job. It was a team effort all-around.
"We came right back after they scored their first goal. That's always so important, the five minutes after a goal is scored. It was a great pass by Courtney Rosen. I was running across the face and then darted in with the ball. I could feel the defender on my back, so I tried to get in front of her as much as possible and then just tucked it in the corner.
"The game was so intense and you would look at the clock and it didn't look like it was moving. Everyone went 100 percent to every ball. North Carolina hustled all day and so did we. We finished more of our chances today. It was such an intense game and there was such high pressure. We just kept pushing forward and never backed down. I think that was a key to our success.
"We got a taste of what it would feel like to win a national championship, but it was just a small taste and we still have a lot of work to do. We are only halfway there. If we keep playing like we did on Saturday, with that same level of effort and great team play, we will be tough to beat. We all believe in each other and Saturday's game just helped us believe even more.
"Brittany and I have been playing soccer together since youth soccer and she's always been dominant in the air. On the flip-throws, sometimes there will be spin on the ball. Brittany probably knows my throws 10 times better than anyone on the field, maybe Amada Clark also would know it a lot too. I think that's probably to Brittany's and the team's advantage. On the goal, Brittany was wide open the only one who actually jumped in the air. It was a beauty
"On the second goal, Kerri Hanks got the turnover and played a diagonal ball and I was able to run onto it. The defender was trying to block me off but I pressured the goalie and she may not have thought I was going to get there. It hit the goalie's shoulder and I inched around her and knocked it down with my chest and shot it. We were so excited. It was hard to believe what happened, because it happened so quick.
"Everyone is so excited but we have to focus on Duke and playing another good game. We have to play just as hard as we did against UNC.
"It was awesome to actually feel like I've done something for the team and give back since they've helped me so much with my injury. We have a lot of depth and it completely helps, with players like Becca Mendoza and Courtney Rosen.
SENIOR GOALKEEPER Lauren Karas - "It was not a case of revenge, but I needed to reconcile what happened in the final last year. It was nice to not lose to Carolina twice in my career. ... Everyone is really excited, but we know we still have to win three more games and Duke is a really good team. We need to get up for them, just as much as we did as for UNC. We just need to keep working hard and training hard and approach every game like it could be our last.
"For the seniors, every game now could be our last. We would like to win another championship, this time knowing that we led the team to a national championship instead of being led to a national championship in our freshman year. All of the hard work would pay off, especially when you consider what we have gone through this year.
"Carolina was dangerous on every single play. Every time they came down, even if there wasn't a shot on goal, I had to execute something. But they did have a lot more shots than most teams do against us, and a lot more good shots. It was nice to finish a game where I actually had the chance to do some good things to help the team.
"I had been ready for this game since we got the draw. It was exciting.
"We were disappointed to not have Elise Weber in the second half because she does so much for us, attacking and with her speed in the back. But we have plenty of capable players on our team and Ashley Jones has played everywhere on the field. We have so much depth on our team that it was not as much of an issue, although we would have loved having Elise in there for the whole game."
JUNIOR FORWARD Brittany Bock - "On the first goal, we were pressing pretty hard and Michele had the flip-throw and it was something we've been wanting to look for all year. I drifted back and felt like I was wide open. Michele and I grew up playing on the same teams and I've headed a lot of her flip-throws over the years. I can adjust to those throws pretty easily and I knew the general range of it. I know how to read where the ball typically is going to come that helps a lot.
"It was an intense game and we knew it was going to be a battle. We played them really well in the preseason and thought we should have won that day. I have played on teams with a lot of the UNC players and know their skills and how good they are. Our coaches helped us with what to focus on form the last game. We knew we had to come out hard with intensity and could not back down. In last year's championship game, we kind of just sat back.
"Playing them in the preseason helped a lot with this game. We're all glad we got to play them earlier, kind of get that revenge out of our system. It also showed us that we could play with them. That helped going into this game. We weren't thinking about the championship game. We were thinking about how we should've beat them in preseason and how well we were playing.
"I have played forward some in high school and club, but it was a different mindset. In college, you have to make specific runs hold the ball at the top, playing off the other players. Whatever you get thrown to you, you have to play and if you want to be a good player on a college team you play wherever you need to play. I think I am cleaner on the ball this year and I know more what I have to do as a forward. It was something that needed to be done. We were losing, we were 3-4-1, and some of our forwards were dinged up.
"Michele has been hobbled pretty much the whole season with a bad ankle. That slowed her down all season and she's been battling that. But the past couple games you can see that she's back. And that just takes a huge burden off everyone all over the field, to have another strong frontrunner. We all know what she's capable of and I think it helps me and Kerri Hanks to have her out there at 100 percent. For her to come in and step up is big time.
"Carrie Dew is an amazing defender and just an amazing soccer player. For any player who goes through an injury, especially one like an ACL, it takes so much out of them and takes so much out of their team. For her to be out all of the 2006 postseason and then coming back this summer, the first few games you could tell Carrie was not back yet. But every game, you could tell she was coming back and she's such a huge impact on this team. Everyone on this team has huge respect for Carrie and how she plays on the field, with her leadership and the way she's playing. She may not be the most vocal player in the back line but she leads by example. She's very calm, composed and clean on the ball, an aggressive player. All the players look up to her, even the players who are older than her. She's a very experienced player. So to have her back at full strength I think gives the team a lot of confidence
"I've always been told since I was younger that you need be able to play any position, because you're not a good soccer player if you can just play one area of the field. Anything that's thrown at you, you need to be able to know how to handle it and know how to play. With Lauren Fowlkes moving from the midfield to the back, it shows a lot of character. She's an amazing player - aggressive, attacking on the ball. For her to get thrown in the back, a lot of players who are attacking-minded don't necessarily want to play in the back. For her to switch back there and keep a dominant force in the back line and then for me going up top. all these players in the midfield there now are all capable of playing how they're playing. Every player. once given the chance, has played at the highest level. They have stepped in and done their thing.
"In the midfield, you always work so hard and, unless you score, it's kind of like you're the work force. You get down and dirty and your basically the engine of the team. Anyone who knows soccer, knows what players are playing at a high level. You have to give credit to every one of our midfielders, who are not really getting the recognition but have done a great job during what has been a challenging season."
SOPHOMORE MIDFIELDER Courtney Rosen - "We knew they were pressing hard and there was room behind them. I saw Michele making the run and she had an awesome goal and finished it. It was great. It was high pressure the whole game, so it was a matter of just playing it quick and trying to find feet, trying to switch the field. That was what we worked on all week. We just played the ball through."
"I think I'm finally getting back from my foot injury that's been plaguing me since my senior year of high school. I'm able to play consistently for more than three months at a time. It's helping me out. I'm fit to where I need to be and I'm playing well. I'm working hard and everyone else is playing well. It's easy to look better when everyone around you is playing awesome. I attribute it to everyone else on the team.
"I think everyone has really stepped into their roles on the field and done really well. Lauren Fowlkes is great as a center midfielder but she's great in the back, too, which is where we've needed her for most of the season. Amanda Clark has done her part as the holding midfielder. We've had to fill some big shoes in the midfield, after losing J en Buczkowski and Jill Krivacek to graduation and I'm proud of everyone.
"Celebrating the win was one of the greatest moments. But we also wanted to act like we've been here before. That's what we did. I think everyone played with a lot of class, a lot of dignity. Everyone worked really hard. In the first minute of game, if Julie Scheidler wouldn't have saved that ball off the line, it would have been a completely different game. There was just one thing after another. You can tell everyone loves each other and is passionate about each other and is willing to sacrifice."