Dec. 4, 2010

 

By Greg Johnson

CARY, N.C. -
Reaching the finals of the 2010 Womens College Cup isn't enough for either top-ranked Stanford or Notre Dame.

Both teams are used to advancing this far in the championship but falling agonizingly close to bringing home the national championship trophy.

This is Stanfords third straight Womens College Cup appearance, including its second consecutive time in the final. Notre Dame has advanced to the national semifinals or finals the last five seasons.

Both programs are hungry to end their quest for a title when they square off in the championship match at WakeMed Soccer Park. The game starts at noon (EST) Sunday.

Stanford, 23-0-2, lost to Notre Dame 1-0 in the national semifinals in 2008, and last year they fell 1-0 in the finals to 20-time NCAA champion North Carolina. The Cardinal players want to add the final piece to their legacy.

Its an expectation for us to be here, and its not just good enough to make the College Cup as maybe it was two years ago,” said Stanford senior forward Christen Press, who leads the nation with 26 goals. Now were here to win and so its more about business. The mentality we carry now will help us in the game to be mentally prepared.”

If Stanford wins, it will become the eighth program to win a Division I womens soccer NCAA title. A victory would also be the Cardinals 100th team national title. Stanford, which beat Boston College 2-0 in the semifinals Friday night, has won NCAA team titles in 17 different sports and has had at least one national team champion the last 34 academic years.

Notre Dame, 20-2-2, has won the event in 1995 and 2004, but both of those championships pre-date the current players on the roster. In the Fighting Irish previous four Womens College Cups, theyve been eliminated by North Carolina three times. This includes championship game losses in 2006 and 2008.

This year, Notre Dame routed North Carolina 4-1 in the third round to exorcise that demon.

Now, they want to make this 2010 journey complete.

This is my fourth year here at the College Cup,” said Notre Dame senior forward Rose Augustin, who is her teams second-leading scorer with 11 goals and 10 assists. Its been a great experience coming here. The first two years you dont know what to expect coming here, but the last two years, were here to win.”

The Fighting Irish advanced to Sundays final with a 1-0 victory over Ohio State on Friday.

Both teams prefer to play an attacking, ball-possession style of game. If they remain true to form it could be a very entertaining match.

For the fans, I hope it is that type of game,” said Notre Dame Coach Randy Waldrum. For the coaches, I dont know if my heart could take that. You hope the game is entertaining, end-to-end and attractive for the fans.”

But with the stakes this high, there is no telling how the match will play out.

Ive been doing this long enough to know that sometimes a game that looks like it has the best two teams playing, the championship game doesnt always pan out to be as attractive,” said Waldrum, who will be coaching his 300th match at Notre Dame.

Waldrum cited a couple of reasons for why the final sometimes becomes a survival of the fittest affair. One is the demanding Friday-Sunday, semifinal-final format. The demands of playing in two pressure matches in three days can wear teams down. The second reason is both teams becoming conservative due to the moment.

Augustin hopes that isnt the case for the Fighting Irish.

All year long, especially in the playoffs, weve been talking about just attacking,” Augustin said.

Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe believes his team has learned some valuable lessons in their previous disappointments in the Womens College Cup. The most important factor the Cardinal has taken to heart is being ready to play at the first whistle.

We have to be aggressive at the start,” said Ratcliffe, who is in his eighth season at Stanford. In the couple of games weve lost when weve gotten to this stage, the other team scored against us relatively early in the game. It was like we were trying to get acclimated to things. At this stage, you have to start strong and get after the other team right away.”
If both teams play to form, it should be a good day for womens college soccer.