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Dorrance: Stanford should be favored
December 4th, 2009 8:45AM

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[WOMEN'S COLLEGE CUP] Anson Dorrance (North Carolina), Randy Waldrum (Notre Dame), Paul Ratcliffe (Stanford) and Jillian Ellis (UCLA) met with the media on the eve of the Women's College Cup in College Station, Texas. Here's what they had to say ...

NORTH CAROLINA

Anson Dorrance

Opening statement...
"Obviously we're absolutely thrilled to be here. The girls know this, but this is the ultimate soccer party for our sport. You want to be at the party, and we're here. We're thrilled to be in such a powerful field. We're looking forward to the weekend."

On the field being the same as last year, and the teams' differences...
"We all evolve at different paces and graduate different players. Stanford comes in like they are shot out of a cannon. They are certainly the team that should be favored. They have talent at every position, are fast, and have goal scorers all over the place. You can't shut down one player and shut them down. They are a very strong team. All of us have athletes that are capable of taking games over. You can't write anyone off. These four teams are all veteran teams in this event. I'm not sure how many College Cups UCLA has been to in a row, but they have a nice run. Notre Dame is a perennial contender for a championship. All the other teams have the weapons to compete effectively for the title."

On reaching the College Cup...
"It's a tremendous hurdle to actually get here. If you think about how other sports get to the finals, the NBA and Major League Baseball have series for advancement. The terrifying and exciting thing about college athletics is that there is a single game to get here. Upsets in soccer are so common. I don't think anyone takes for granted the fact that we are here. It's a tremendous achievement. I tip my hat to [UCLA coach] Jillian [Ellis] and her kids for what they've managed over the last seven years. You want to be at the party. It's a lot of fun to be at this event. Even though we've certainly been here quite a few times, it's a tremendous thrill every time we make it back to the College Cup. I can't sleep the night after we qualify to get here. I'm so excited, and it's the truth."
 
On the 6-0 Notre Dame victory earlier in the season and taking anything from it...
"No, you can't really. What I would rather do in any season, when we racked up losses, what I'm dying for is to hit those teams again. I want to play them and I want them in my bracket. It gives you a wonderful motivational platform. We don't really feel having beat them earlier gives us much. I think it gives them a motivational platform. But other thing you appreciate about playing teams of the caliber of Notre Dame and UCLA in the regular season is that it helps harden our team. If you play elite teams in the regular season on a regular basis and as often as possible, over the course of four years your kids are battle tested. We always try to play the toughest schedule in the country and this year was no exception. [If you do that] over the course of four years the kids will just get better and better."

NOTRE DAME

Randy Waldrum

Opening statement...
"On behalf of Notre Dame we're happy to be back. As a Texan, I'm glad to be back home."

On what was said to team after North Carolina game earlier this season...
"I said let's get ready for Wisconsin on Sunday. You forget those kinds of games and just move on. I think the thing that we really felt strongly about was that we had enough talent to make it back. I think we were still finding a way early in the year, deciding where we were going to play some players, and that was due mainly because we lost some key players in our preseason to some injuries. It was one of those things, as a coach, you're trying to find your best lineup. Unfortunately we caught a couple of good teams while we kind of figured that out. Some seasons you can do it quicker than others. You're trying to find that chemistry that's going to work. I think it probably took a little longer due to the injuries; we had to get through that stretch of figuring it out. The approach we've tried to take is that that game is unimportant and not a factor at where we are now. We're taking the approach that North Carolina happens to be the next team on our schedule. It wouldn't matter if that was Carolina, UCLA or Stanford. That's the approach we've taken all year."

On when the team solidified a game lineup...
"We felt like we had to make the move with Lauren [Fowlkes] up front. We needed somebody that could hold the ball for us. That was a move pretty early on that we felt like we had to do. We moved Courtney Barg back from more of an attacking midfield player to a holding midfield player. That position for us in the formation we play is kind of the quarterback of our team. When we made that move things really started to take off for us. She did such a great job of orchestrating and organizing our team. When I realized that we were back and that this was the game we really needed and that we showed some character in was the Cincinnati game on the road. We had won some games after those early losses, but we hadn't played particularly well. We went down 1-0 with about 10 minutes left in the game and came back and scored two to win it. That game seemed to kind of turn us and the team started to believe that we were good."

On having Haley Ford back from injury in the center of the Irish defense...
"It's been a big plus. We've had four or five players who've really done a good job of carrying the load for us through some of these injuries. To have that experienced center back back in there has been great. We do have to give a lot of credit to Ellen Bartindale, who stepped in there when Haley was injured. Ellen went from really not playing in any meaningful games to starting for us against Connecticut and in games we had to win. She did a great job for us in five or six games before we really got Haley back."

On getting past North Carolina...
"What a lot of people may not realize is since 2006 when they beat us in the championship game - and we've played them five or six times - I think we're 2-2-1 against them. We've probably been as good with Carolina as anybody in the country, so it's not like Carolina is at a level we're not. I don't think we have that kind of a perception of them."

On the weather, as it is going to be cold and may snow in College Station, Texas...
"Bring on the snow, just hound us tomorrow! We're okay with that. We went down and played at Florida State last weekend and we saw the sun for the first time in a while. We're ready for a good snow."

On the same teams in College Cup...
"It's like in any other sport you learn how to win and you learn how to maneuver in the tournament. You learn how to go on the road and win big games. Tournament time is a different time and you gain some experience along the way. It's not an easy thing."

STANFORD

Paul Ratcliffe

Opening statement...
"We're excited to be back to the final four and we're looking forward to strong competition."

On preparation standpoint and knowing UCLA so well...
"We're more focusing on us, that we want to play to the best of our ability, but yeah, we know UCLA is a strong team and we've studied them and played them before. They are a good team and have a lot of good players. Jillian [Ellis] is a great coach, they are a quality team and we're going to have to play our best."

On being undefeated...
"Now you're in the playoffs and you have to win to keep going on. So everyone as the same burden - win and stay, or lose and go home."

On team focus...
"We've had great leadership. Kelly [O'Hara], Ali [Riley] and Alicia [Jenkins] are our three captains. They've been tremendous leaders the entire year and have kept the team very focused. They always work hard and give 100 percent effort so it's been a really good year."

On the difference of this team to last final four team...
"We're just more experienced. The most important thing is the leadership is there and the experience. We've been here before so we know what it takes."

On the weather...
"The field looks great so we're hoping it's going to be able to take a little bit of rain and if it snows, but we've come this far, we want to play our best and get after it, so we're not going to let anything stand in our way."

On Kelly O'Hara playing the whole 90 minutes...
"I always say that Kelly is an inspirational leader to this team year. She's a great competitor and her game has developed so much that she's creating great opportunities for others, and she's also capable of scoring at any time. Yes, she's been a fantastic player and I think she's probably the best college soccer player in the women's game."

UCLA

Jillian Ellis

Opening statement...
"We are thrilled to be here and excited to participate in another College Cup. We love this venue. This final group of teams is going to present an exciting weekend of soccer. Obviously, we're proud that two Pac-10 teams are here. Unfortunately, only one of us will advance. We are very proud of our conference and our progress through the season thus far."

On the feeling after losing at North Carolina in the season opener...
"I just felt the best way to prepare for Carolina is to play them. To just get them on the schedule, I was happy. It didn't go the way we planned. We were pretty young. I think we ran into the perfect storm. Leaving the field, for our team, was a gut check. We recognized we had a lot of work to do and a lot of growing, and we almost recommitted ourselves to the adage that it's not where you start, it's where you finish. This is one team for me that has definitely progressed through the season. This year we've grown a lot."

On making seven final fours in a row and looking for a title...
"I think everyone else thinks we're snake bit, but for me, every year and every team presents an opportunity to win. I guess I'd ask someone like [UNC Coach] Anson [Dorrance]. He's won so many, but I'm sure every year it's a different journey, and he's excited to be in that journey and that show. At the beginning, I wasn't sure of this team's potential, but my confidence in them has grown through the performances I've seen this year."

On this year's field...
"My experience has taught me that when you get here, it's anyone's game. I really truly believe that. I think we've been playing well. I think we have had a tough, tough journey, going through Virginia and Portland to get here. I told the players last night to imagine that this is the only time you'll get here. Relish the opportunity, soak it all in, and really make the most of your experience. Enjoy it and have fun. The players certainly put pressure on themselves, but I don't think we feel external pressure. It's about us performing to the best of our ability."

On matching up with Stanford...
"We've had tremendous history with them. They have had a fantastic year. Their confidence is high. They have dynamic attacking personalities. I do think we could have played better. They are a great team and obviously playing them on their home field made it more of a challenge for us. What we'll have to do is keep the ball. Their pace up top is a big asset for them, so we know our defense will be busy. That makes it even more important to our front-line players and our midfield to get the ball and take the pressure off our back line."



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