Notre Dame was hit hard by graduation (two-time Hermann Trophy winner Kerri Hanks, U.S. national team defender Brittany Bock and Carrie Dew, among others) and then hurt badly because of injuries (most notably senior midfielder Courtney Rosen, lost for the season with a broken foot).
After starting 3-3, Notre Dame went unbeaten in its next 19 games before losing to North Carolina, 1-0, in the semifinals.
Waldrum said he believed in his team even after it lost 6-0 to the Tar Heels in in its third game of the season.
"It's been one of the most rewarding years I've had at Notre Dame, and that's including the national championship of 2004," he said. "This team really has come so far. If you'd have asked anyone who saw us play Carolina in the first two weeks of the year, no one would have guessed we'd be back here. It's taken a lot of hard work. This staff has done a great job of keeping the team focused and believing they could get back. A lot of the credit goes to the players for believing that we were good enough to get back."
SOCCER AMERICA WOMEN'S COACHES OF THE YEAR
2001 -- Jerry Smith (Santa Clara)
2002 -- Stephanie Erickson, Paul Sapsford (Stanford)
2003 -- Patrick Baker (Florida State)
2004 -- Dan Tobias (Arizona)
2005 -- Mark Krikorian (Florida State)
2006 -- Anson Dorrance (North Carolina)
2007 -- Ali Khosroshahin (USC)
2008 -- Paul Ratcliffe (Stanford)
2009 -- Randy Waldrum (Notre Dame)