Sept. 20, 2000
SOUTH BEND, Ind.–The Notre Dame women’s soccer program has returned to the top of the national polls for the first time since 1996, following last week’s pair of quality wins and North Carolina’s 2-1 loss at upstart Clemson. Notre Dame (7-0-0) headed to the Northwest last week as the nation’s No. 2-ranked team and posted two wins at the Portland adidas Invitational over teams currently ranked in the national top 25: Washington (5-0) and Portland (1-0). North Carolina (8-1-0) dropped out of the top spot and currently is ranked fourth in the National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA) poll.
The Irish are ranked first in the NSCAA poll and various other polls conducted by soccer-specific publications and websites, including the long-running poll compiled by the editors of Soccer America magazine. The last season in which Notre Dame sat atop the NSCAA poll during the regular season was 1996, when the Irish owned the top spot for the final two months of the season (a 2-1 win over UNC on Oct. 4 of that year, followed by a 2-0 win over Duke, bumped the Irish up from the No. 2 spot).
Notre Dame also spent the final month of the 1994 season as the No. 1-ranked team, thanks to an earlier 0-0 tie with UNC and the Tar Heels’ loss to Duke in early October.
“To be ranked No. 1 is a tremendous honor for our team and the players deserve a lot of credit, because we’ve kind of snuck up on some people who thought-justifiably so-that we might be down a little after graduating five starters, three of whom were All-Americans,” said second-year Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, whose Irish teams have compiled a 28-4-1 record-including an impressive 9-3-1 mark versus top-25 teams and a 1995 season that ended in the NCAA Championship title game.
“Along those lines, we truly are a team that still is developing its identity and we have some huge strides ahead of us. The team feels very honored to be No. 1 but they know that we still have a lot of work to do. At the same time, you can’t minimize what this group accomplished during the last four games. We beat four of the nation’s top teams, including two of the nation’s premier programs in Santa Clara and Stanford, a win over Washington after a long roadtrip and the victory over Portland in a tough atmosphere, with almost 4,000 fans that were very vocal and are right on top of you.
“So, it’s certainly a special moment for Notre Dame soccer … but we hope that there are many more to come this season.”
The Irish face a challenging test in their first game as the nation’s top-ranked team, as Notre Dame next plays on Friday, Sept. 22 at West Virginia (which received the 29th-most votes in this week’s NSCAA poll). That game kicks off a string of eight straight BIG EAST Conference games for the Irish, with upcoming home dates versus Pittsburgh (Sept. 24, 3:00 p.m.), Seton Hall (Sept. 29, 5:30 p.m.) and Rutgers (Oct. 1, 1:00 p.m.). Notre Dame’s only remaining games versus teams currently in the NSCAA top 25 are Oct. 13 at home versus Boston College (7:30 p.m.) and Oct. 21 at Connecticut (1:00 p.m.).
Notre Dame is one of six undefeated teams in the NSCAA top 25, with the others including second-ranked Clemson, No. 3 Nebraska, Duke (8th), California (11th) and Arizona State (24th).
Notre Dame’s strength of schedule has improved since the start of the 2000 season, as Portland (14th), Washington (15th), Boston College (22nd) and Michigan (24th) each have entered the NSCAA poll in recent weeks. Other 2000 Irish opponents currently ranked in the NSCAA poll include No. 5 Stanford, 19th-ranked Santa Clara and Connecticut (25).
National Soccer Coaches Association of America – Division I Women’s Soccer Poll (Sept. 18, 2000)
Also receivingvotes: Missouri, Marquette, West Virginia, BYU, Furman, William & Mary,Purdue.
BAKKER NAMED BIG EAST CONFERENCE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The Notre Dame women’s soccer program has produced the BIG EAST Conference defensive player of the week for the third consecutive time, as senior Kerri Bakker (Washington, N.J.) was tabbed with the honor after helping the Irish post a pair of shutouts at the Portland adidas Invitational on Sept. 16-17.
Bakker played a key role off the bench in the 5-0 win over Washington, helping the Irish allow just seven shots in that game (only two of them on goal). She then drew a start for the crucial matchup with Portland, playing at central defender alongside classmate Kelly Lindsey (who earned the last two BIG EAST defensive player-of-the-week awards). She played a key role in the win over UP, holding the Pilots to 11 shots (four on goal) and helping to withstand a late charge as the Irish escaped spirited Merlo Field with a 1-0 victory.
Bakker-who made her fifth career start, and second of the season, in the Portland game-is part of a Notre Dame defense that has allowed just three goals (the Irish have scored 27) while compiling a 194-40 shot margin (average of 28-6). That number is even more noteworthy when considering shots on goal, as Notre Dame has attempted 116 (17 per game) while allowing just 21 (three per game). Notre Dame has yet to trail this season while holding the lead for nearly 70 percent of the minutes played. Just two teams have managed to forge a tie versus the Irish this season: Providence and Stanford.