Dec. 2, 2010

By Greg Johnson

CARY, North Carolina -- Ohio State womens soccer coach Lori Walker is facing an interesting task as the Buckeyes prepare to play Notre Dame in the semifinals of the 2010 Womens College Cup Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Walker has been on the stage before having won three national championships during her playing days at North Carolina, where she graduated in 1994. But this is the first time any of her players have advanced to this level of the NCAA tournament.

Combine that with the fact that Notre Dame is making its fifth consecutive trip to the semifinals and the experience edge is leaning heavily towards the Fighting Irish.

Walker, who is only the second woman to play and coach a team to the Womens College Cup joining Paula Wilkins who accomplished the feat with Massachusetts (1993) and Penn State (2002), believes her players can overcome by taking the same approach it has all season.

Our motto has been, ‘Be here now,” said Walker, whose club is 17-4-2 entering the match. When you look back on the season as a whole, it can be overwhelming. But every day we just stayed in that particular moment, and we talked about what we needed to do against each particular opponent. That breaks it down to where its manageable.”
The Ohio State players know they have the perfect person in Walker to turn to for any advice about how to handle playing in a marquee game.

I tell them to enjoy the heck out of it,” Walker said. The thing thats amazing to me is how similar the feeling is (reaching the College Cup as a player and coach). There is something about sports where you are right there in the moment. I feel exactly how I felt every time I was representing North Carolina as a player. Its funny, because I still feel like Im a 17 or 21-year-old kid in many ways.”

Notre Dame was having a typical strong season until going 2-1-2 in its last five matches prior to the NCAA tournament. This included an October 15 tie and a loss on October 31 to Connecticut in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
We had a rude awakening after the UConn (loss) when coach (Randy Waldrum) said he would see us the next day at 5 a.m. for a film session,” said Notre Dame junior defender Jessica Schuveiller. That woke us up. We refocused and were where we want to be right now.”

Notre Dame, 19-2-2, has had an impressive run through the tournament. The Fighting Irish posted consecutive shutouts against New Mexico (3-0) and USC (4-0). But the last two wins came on the road in dominating fashion.
The Fighting Irish easily handled No. 1-seededed North Carolina. It was the first time the Tar Heels, who have won 20 NCAA titles, lost by multiple goals since November 24, 1985.

Notre Dame then traveled to Oklahoma State where it posted a 2-0 victory to reach the Womens College Cup.
In my 12 years here, this has arguably been our best run through every round of the NCAA tournament,” said Waldrum, who coached the Fighting Irish to the 2004 national championship. In the past, it has seemed somewhere along the way we always had a game where weve stumbled or didnt play well but still won. Going into all four of these games this year, weve been the best weve been all year.”

One of the key strategic changes Waldrum made during the season was moving senior captain Lauren Fowlkes from defense to forward. She has three goals and three assists in the NCAA tournament.

Even when I was a young player, Ive been someone whos been pretty versatile,” Fowlkes said. It may take a game or two to get settled in. The way you read the game from each position is different, but playing there all last season helped me. It was easy to get used to this year.”

While this group of Notre Dame players are thinking about taking home the championship trophy after reaching this point multiple times, Ohio State is thrilled to be the first Buckeyes team to reach this point in program history.

Growing up a lot of players went out of Ohio because Ohio State wasnt thought of as good enough, so it is very special to be here,” said junior defender Danielle Scoliere, who grew up 20 minutes from Ohio States campus. It has special meaning for me growing up an Ohio State fan and being able to represent it here.”