Notre Dame adds to pile of NCAA tourney AQs

November, 8, 2009
11/08/09
10:25
PM ET
STORRS, Conn. -- Standing on the field after Sunday's Big East tournament final, a pair of midfielders offered ample visual evidence of both how long a season it has been for Notre Dame and why there is reason for the Irish to hope the campaign isn't even close to finished.

Fresh off scoring the game-winning goal in Notre Dame's 2-1 win against Marquette, senior Amanda Clark held the hardware signifying her place on the all-tournament team. Forced out of the game after a first-half injury, teammate Rose Augustin stood nearby with her arm in a sling, protecting a possible shoulder separation.

Conference tournament title No. 11 didn't come easily for a team that lost numerous key seniors from last season's national finalist, lost the first of many current players to injury before its first game this season and lost the first game in its new stadium by six goals.

"This team's made huge strides since that point," Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum said of a 6-0 loss at home to North Carolina in September. "We've really, really turned the corner. And I feel like we're finally playing the way Notre Dame can play, so I'm real confident about the way we're going into the postseason tournament. It's been difficult because we've done this with a lot of injuries."

It's also done it with a pair of forwards as good as any in the nation, Melissa Henderson and Lauren Fowlkes, who combined for the first goal Sunday. But as the season progressed, it also did it with players such as Clark, a stalwart defensive midfielder for much of her career, filling whatever role the flow of a game required.

"It seems like they've all found a way to do it at the right time," Waldrum said. "It was Amanda today with the big goal to get the winner. It was a defender [Jessica Schuveiller] Friday night to do it against St. John's, and it just seems like we've kind of had that."

And so, as is Notre Dame's way, November rolls on with the promise of more soccer.

BRACKETOLOGY
Notre Dame can rest easy. For many more teams, the remaining hours until Monday's NCAA tournament selection (ESPNews, 8 p.m. ET) will be a time of tension, apprehension and occasionally hopeful anticipation. Here's one prediction for how things unfold. The numbers included for bubble teams are far from the only factors the selection committee considers, but they annually prove a good cheat sheet.

Automatic: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Boise State, Boston University, Central Michigan, Colgate, Davidson, Dayton, Denver, Harvard, High Point, Illinois State, IUPUI, Kennesaw State, Loyola (Md.), Memphis, Monmouth, Murray State, North Carolina, Northern Arizona, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Portland, San Diego State, South Carolina, Southeastern Louisiana, Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, UNC-Wilmington, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Projected first 30 at-large teams: Auburn, Boston College, BYU, California, Central Florida, Connecticut, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Marquette, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio State, Oregon State, Purdue, Rutgers, Santa Clara, St. John's, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Last Four In:

San Diego
Record: 12-6-2 (5-2-0 in WCC)
No. 43 RPI
5-5-1 vs. RPI top 100
2-3-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Rutgers, Santa Clara; tied UCLA
Momentum: 6-3-1 in past 10 games

Minnesota
Record: 12-5-3 (5-3-2 in Big Ten)
No. 42 RPI
5-5-3 vs. RPI top 100
3-4-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana; tied Illinois
Momentum: 5-3-2 in past 10 games

Duke
Record: 8-8-4 (4-4-2 in ACC)
No. 38 RPI
5-8-3 vs. RPI top 100
3-7-3 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Auburn, Miami, Virginia Tech; tied Florida State, Wake Forest, LSU
Momentum: 4-4-2 in past 10 games

Michigan State
Record: 11-4-4 (4-4-2 in Big Ten)
No. 56 RPI
4-4-3 vs. RPI top 100
3-3-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota; tied Purdue
Momentum: 4-4-2 in past 10 games

First four out:

Colorado College
Record: 12-6-2 (8-2-1 in Conference USA)
No. 32 RPI
5-6-1 vs. RPI top 100
1-3-0 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Washington State; tied Kansas
Momentum: 6-3-1 in past 10 games

Kansas
Record: 12-8-2 (4-6-0 in Big 12)
No. 52 RPI
4-6-1 vs. RPI top 100
3-2-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat San Diego, Arizona State, Pepperdine, Missouri; tied Colorado College
Momentum: 4-5-1 in past 10 games

Indiana
Record: 10-7-2 (2-6-2 in Big Ten)
No. 36 RPI
4-7-2 vs. RPI top 100
1-6-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat Florida, Michigan State; tied Illinois
Momentum: 2-6-2 in past 10 games

Charlotte
Record: 16-3-2 (9-0-2 in Atlantic 10)
No. 53 RPI
2-3-1 vs. RPI top 100
0-1-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat William & Mary, NC State; tied Dayton
Momentum: 7-1-2 in past 10 games

Arizona State
Record: 9-7-3 (2-6-1 in Pac-10)
No. 37 RPI
5-6-3 vs. RPI top 100
3-6-1 vs. RPI top 50
Key results: Beat San Diego State, Oregon, Oregon State; tied Virginia
Momentum: 3-6-1 in past 10 games

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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