Solid nucleus gives Irish optimism

[NOTRE DAME WOMEN] A season that featured a humiliating 6-0 loss at home to North Carolina early in the campaign and a rash of injuries didn't turn out too badly. The Irish won their 11th Big East title and  advanced to the Women's College Cup for the fourth consecutive season in 2009. With a solid nucleus back, Notre Dame have an excellent chance of playing in December for a fifth straight year.

The Irish return nine starters, led by Soccer America MVP Melissa Henderson, who scored 18 goals and five assists to lead the Big East.

Senior Lauren Fowlkes returns to center back, where she will team up with junior Jessica Schuveiller to form the nation's top duo.

Henderson, Fowlkes and Schuveiller spent the summer playing together on the U.S. under-23 women's national team that won the Four Nations Tournament last month in England.

Junior Courtney Barg will again lead the midfield.

A 4-1 loss to Virginia in their annual preseason exhibition showed the Irish are not yet a finished product, but Coach Randy Waldrum said it served a purpose.

Notre Dame has been working hard this week to prepare for this weekend's openers against a good Minnesota team and high-scoring Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

SCHEDULE:
Aug. 20 vs. Minnesota 5:30 p.m. ET
Aug. 22 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2:30 p.m. ET
Inn at Saint Mary's Soccer Classic
Sept. 3 vs. Santa Clara 7:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 5 vs. Texas Tech 1:30 p.m. ET
UCLA Women's Cup
Sept. 10 at UCLA 7:00 p.m. PT
Sept. 12 at Loyola Marymount  11:00 a.m. PT
Sept. 17 at DePaul *  4:00 p.m. CT
Sept. 19 at Northwestern 4:30 p.m. CT
Sept. 24 vs. Cincinnati *  7:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 26 at Louisville *1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 1 vs. Syracuse *  7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 3 vs. St. John's *  1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 8 vs. Seton Hall *   7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 10 vs. Rutgers *    1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 15 at Connecticut * 4:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 17 at Providence * 1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 22 at Villanova * 3:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 24 at Georgetown * 1:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 28-11/7 Big East Tournament (semifinals and final in Piscataway, N.J.)
*Big East game.

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