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Irish Ready For Second Season, With NCAA Tournament Games Slated For Alumni Field (Nov. 15, 17)

Nov. 11, 2002

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The Notre Dame women’s soccer team – looking to make a postseason run after enduring an injury-plagued regular season – received one of 35 at-large berths into the 2002 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship and will play host to first- and second-round games this weekend at Alumni Field. Friday’s action (Nov. 15) opens with the Purdue (13-4-3) vs. Eastern Illinois (13-7-1) game at 4:30 p.m. EST, followed by Notre Dame (11-7-0) and Big Ten Tournament champion Ohio State (10-10-1) at 7:00. The winners then will advance to Sunday’s second-round game at Alumni Field (Nov. 17, 1:00 p.m.).

The winner of Sunday’s game at Notre Dame will move on to next week’s third round of the NCAAs (Nov. 22-24), versus the team that emerges from games at national No. 1 seed Stanford (featuring Denver, California and Cal Poly, in addition to the Cardinal).

Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAAs every season since 1993, including the 1995 national championship season, three NCAA runner-up finishes (’94, ’96 and ’99) and two other trips to the College Cup semifinals (’97, `00) – also advancing to the NCAA quarterfinal round in 1998, losing in the first round in 1993 and the second round in 2001.

The Irish – ranked 21st in last week’s NSCAA coaches poll (new poll TBA) – will be looking to continue their lateseason surge that included four wins in the final five games. Notre Dame tied for fourth in the BIG EAST Conference Mid-Atlantic Division standings (3-3-0) but did not advance to the BIG EAST Tournament based on the head-to-head tiebreaker versus Georgetown (a last-minute goal gave the Hoyas a 4-3 win). The Irish had a 7-3-0 overall BIG EAST record when including cross-divisional games (which do not factor into determining BIG EAST Tournament bids), highlighted by a 3-1 win over eventual champion Connecticut and a 1-0 win at Boston College (the No. 3 seed in the Northeast Division).

Notre Dame’s challenging 18-game regular-season schedule included 10 opponents that made the NCAA field, led by four of the national top-eight seeds: No. 4 seed UConn, 5th-seeded West Virginia, No. 6 seed Santa Clara and 8th-seeded Portland. The Irish faced four other teams that are among the 16 first/second-round NCAA hosts: BYU, Maryland, Michigan and Villanova – while two other 2002 Irish opponents (Purdue and Hartford) also qualified for the 64-team field.

Notre Dame’s 2002 opponents combined to win nearly 65 percent of their games (210-124-26, .619) and only four of the 18 opponents had losing records. Four Irish opponents – BYU (Mountain West), Santa Clara (WCC, tied), Hartford (America East) and UConn (BIG EAST) – won their conference titles (the Irish posted wins over the Hawks and Huskies) while WVU played in the BIG EAST title game. Four others reached their conference tournament semifinals: Villanova and Rutgers in the BIG EAST, Purdue in the Big Ten (failed to advance on PKs) and Maryland in the ACC (lost to champ UNC).

Ohio State claimed the Big Ten’s automatic bid after advancing past top-seeded Penn State and Purdue in a pair of games that ended in penalty kicks. The Buckeyes then beat Wisconsin, 2-1, in the Big Ten title game.

Notre Dame has won all four previous games vs. OSU (18-1 scoring edge), including games at Alumni Field in 1994 (3-0) and ’96 (7-0).

Eastern Illinois also needed penalty kicks in its postseason, besting Southeast Missouri 3-2 in PKs to claim the Ohio Valley Conference’s automatic bid.

Purdue – ranked 17th in last week’s NSCAA poll and first in the Great Lakes region, with the Irish second in the region – will join OSU in making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers are familiar with Alumni Field, after posting a 3-1 win over the Irish on Oct. 8.

The NCAA third round and quarterfinal games (Nov. 29-Dec.1) will be played on campus sites while the College Cup semifinals (Dec. 6) and final (Dec. 8) will be played at the University of Texas.

The other national seeds include North Carolina (2), Pepperdine (3) and UCLA (7).