Sept. 15, 2011
CHICAGO - The University of Cincinnati women's soccer team enters BIG EAST Conference play this weekend beginning with a road match against DePaul University on Friday, followed by a home tilt versus No. 12 University of Notre Dame at Gettler Stadium.
The Bearcats will battle the Blue Demons at 5 p.m. ET at Wish Field in Chicago, Ill. Cincinnati owns an all-time record of 11-3-1 against DePaul, but have lost the past two matchups in the series, including last season's 2-1 overtime heartbreaker on Sept. 26 at Gettler Stadium.
"Any time you go into BIG EAST play, you never expect more than a one-goal game," said Michelle Salmon, UC women's soccer head coach. "In the three year's I've played DePaul it's always been a one-goal game. We know going into this weekend, DePaul is going to be well-organized. (DePaul head coach) Erin (Chastain) does a tremendous job."
DePaul began the season 0-0-5, but has won its past two matches. Sophomore midfielder Ashley Goddard leads the Blue Demon attack with five total points, including a team-leading two goals. Freshman defender Sarah Gordon, who scored the game-winning goal on Sunday in DePaul's 2-1 comeback victory over Minnesota, is another player UC must watch out for after being named to the BIG EAST honor roll on Monday.
The Blue Demons have been out-shot by their opponents 95-78 on the season, which bodes well for the Bearcats, who claim a 138-78 shot advantage. Cincinnati has held the shot advantage in all but one of its eight matches this year.
"I think you're going to see a very attack-oriented team," said Salmon of what she expects from her Bearcats squad this weekend. "We've seen that through our entire non-conference play. We're a very aggressive, attacking team. I've challenged the team this weekend to have a clean sheet and come out defensively organized.
"Last week, even though we got two wins, there were some things that we needed to clean up on the defensive side of the ball. So I've challenged them to do just that - defend soundly and attack with aggression."
Sunday's matchup against Notre Dame (3:30 p.m., Gettler Stadium) presents a different challenge for Cincinnati. The Fighting Irish, the defending NCAA champions, entered the 2011 campaign ranked preseason No. 1.
UND has proved beatable after starting the season with a 3-3-1 record, but its three losses were to No. 3 North Carolina, No. 21 Duke and No. 2 Stanford.
The Irish lead the all-time series with UC 12-1-1. The Bearcats' lone win over Irish came during the 2001 season. The last time these two schools played at Gettler Stadium in 2009, UC fell 2-1. In 2010, the Irish jumped all over the Bearcats 4-0 in South Bend, Ind.
Salmon believes history does not have to repeat itself and is confident heading into the UND matchup.
"It just comes down to execution. I always say this when we play Notre Dame, `They put their jerseys on the same way we do.' And for us, it's going out and executing. Yeah, they are coming off a national championship, but I do feel that our non-conference schedule prepared us for that. We had a common opponent in Wisconsin and seeing that game and how we played, we can compete.
"It's a matter of execution and that's what Notre Dame does well; they find a way to execute to get big wins. And with our senior class; they've been there and done that. They've played Notre Dame tight and other times they haven't. I feel like, at the end of the day, if our senior class steps up in big moments and our freshmen execute and stick to the game plan, we'll have success."
As part of a soccer doubleheader at Gettler Stadium on Sunday, the UC men's soccer team will play Oakland University at 1 p.m., followed by the women's matchup against UND. Salmon expects the large anticipated crowd to give the Bearcats a home-field advantage.
"The great thing that we are excited about is that we anticipate that the Notre Dame game will have a very large crowd, which will play in our favor," Salmon said. "We're following the men, so there will already be a great atmosphere in place for us to step on the field."