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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

ND Women's Soccer: Karas, Bock pace squad in Big East

On paper, Lauren Karas has it easy.

In seven Big East games this year - all Notre Dame wins - the senior goalkeeper has saved exactly seven shots. She is the proud owner of a 1.000 winning percentage and a 0.00 goals-against average against conference opponents. Heading into this weekend's games against Providence and No. 15 Connecticut, the No. 22 Irish are 7-0-0 in conference play and 9-4-1 overall.

But for Karas, a senior, the stat lines don't reveal what makes her job difficult.

"Its not that I don't see any action," Karas said. "I do a lot of moving around in the box or I'll come pick [the ball] up in the top of the box. It's frustrating for me because the shots are not ... all I do; I do a lot of other stuff."

Irish coach Randy Waldrum said early in the season that his starting keeper would be the player who was aggressive, attacked crosses and corner kicks and directed the defense. Karas has done all of that of late, saying her duties are "more preventative than anything else."

Although she struggled early to match her performance from last season - she allowed six goals in her first five games - Karas has not allowed a goal during Notre Dame's six-game win streak. She said she has fully regained the confidence she lost after Notre Dame's 7-1 loss to Santa Clara on Sept. 7.

"I mean, I've done it for three years," she said. "It's just kind of getting back into the flow and knowing that I can do it because I've done it in the past."

The team seems to have followed suit. During the streak, the Irish have out-scored their opponents 22-2 and allowed only 11 shots on goal, or 1.8 per game. In the eight games before the streak, they allowed 1.9 goals per game and 3.25 shots on goal per game.

"We're finally clicking. We have [freshman defender] Lauren [Fowlkes] and [junior defender Carrie] Dew in the back and that's huge for us. ... We're playing better," Karas said, noting the team's new sense of consistency and confidence.

The Irish have scored 3.6 goals per game during the streak and led the Big East in points, goals, goals per game, assists and assists per game. They currently lead the Big East National Division by six points and have clinched a spot in the Big East tournament.

Their recent scoring frenzy is due in part to the offensive explosion of junior forward Brittany Bock, the national and Big East player of the week for two weeks running. Bock leads the Big East in goals (10, also good for 15th in the nation) and goals per game (0.71). She ranks second in the conference in points and points per game and falls behind her teammate, junior forward Kerri Hanks, in both categories. Bock had four goals and an assist in wins over Georgetown and Villanova last weekend.

The Irish, who face the Friars at 7:30 tonight at Alumni field, should handle Providence easily. Providence is 3-10-1 (2-5 Big East), has allowed 28 goals, while scoring only five, and is winless on the road.

Connecticut, however, at 10-2-1 (6-0-1 Big East) is tied with Louisville for the lead in the Big East in goals allowed. Opponents have scored only six goals against them this season.

Junior keeper Stephanie Labbe ranks second in the Big East in goals against, with 0.45 per game. The Huskies last lost on Sept. 6 to Penn State and have a 10-game unbeaten streak

The Irish have some streaks of their own to protect this weekend. They have not lost to a Big East opponent at home since 1995 and have a 31-game overall unbeaten streak against Big East opponents.

Karas said the Irish were focusing on themselves rather than the competition.

"It's not really about anyone else. Despite our ranking, we're still one of the top teams in the country," she said. "We just slipped up."