DURHAM, N.C. – Christie McDonald sat down with GoDuke.com on Tuesday to talk about the last two weeks of the NCAA College Cup and the upcoming match on Friday at Notre Dame. McDonald, a junior defender from Newnan, Ga., and the Blue Devils have knocked off three opponents, including two ranked squads, to advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history and the first since 1994. The Blue Devils will play in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 30 at 7:00 p.m.
GoDuke.com: How does it feel, this new adventure for the soccer team, and making it to the Elite Eight?
Christie McDonald: It’s definitely a nice change from where we were a few weeks ago. As you know, we weren’t sure if we were going to make the tournament. We just wanted the chance because we thought we could do something great and we have so far. We’re hoping to continue on and beat Notre Dame this Friday.
GD: What has the team done in this new second chance that has really lifted you over three excellent teams?
CM: I think that we’ve shown a great fighting spirit throughout the year, but I think that having to fight for our lives every game—I mean, there’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it—if we lose a game, we’re going home; our season is done. I think knowing that has added to our consistency with fighting and playing hard for as long as possible.
GD: With the defense that you play on, it has allowed only one goal so far in the tournament, is it something that the communication has just clicked for you guys?
CM: I think defensively, the back four, we have started communicating better and reading each other’s play. But also I have to give credit to the forwards and midfielders because they really have worked extremely hard the entire game and when they have pressure on the ball it makes our lives so much easier.
GD: What was it like in Indiana? I heard it was brutally cold—rainy—and just nasty.
CM: It was very cold. IU just doesn’t play the prettiest soccer and I was just really proud of all of our girls. We fought really hard and didn’t really ever give them a great chance on goal and put our chances away.
GD: What does the team need to do this week against the very good Notre Dame team?
CM: I think, number one, we cannot worry about the weather. We can’t control it; it’s going to be cold. Hopefully it won’t be wet, but if it is, that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with. And I think to not overestimate Notre Dame. We’re obviously going to have a lot of respect for them coming in, but, we are playing our best soccer right now and we need to keep playing aggressively in order to win.
GD: How important is it, over the last three games, that, for a while there, you were allowing a goal early and having to come from behind. How much of a confidence booster is it to get that first goal?
CM: It’s huge, obviously. It’s very difficult to come back from a goal down. Defensively you know that all you have to do is keep a goal from getting in to win the game. That’s all you’re focused on. Getting the first goal is huge, always, from a psychological standpoint.
GD: What about Allison Lipsher as a senior and her play and two straight shutouts in goal?
CM: To be honest, she’s been absolutely unbelievable all year long. I wish that we had more shutouts to show for that, but just the fact that she’s been able to take this program to the Elite Eight, which we haven’t done in thirteen or so years, I don’t think could have happened to a more deserving person or a better player. I’m very, very happy for her.
GD: Let’s talk about the penalty kick game versus South Carolina. Evidently, she jumped in the huddle right before penalty kick started. Did you see something in her eyes that she was ready?
CM: Very much so. Last year, we obviously got into two penalty kick matches, one of them went in our favor and one of them did not. Penalty kicks, for players, are never the most exciting thing because you’re supposed to make yours. If you miss it, you lose it for your team. When she came into the huddle, it really lifted everyone up and gave everyone a sense confidence that we were going to come out and win this. And we knew that she was going to save one. And she did.
GD: Let’s talk about Head Coach Robbie Church. Have you seen a different level from him as far as just excitement and thrill of what you are accomplishing in this tournament?
CM: Robbie is always a very enthusiastic coach and I think that he’s done an excellent job of understanding that this is our 23rd game of the season. He knows that a lot of what he says we already know. He knows that we’re ready to play at a time of year like this and helps get us pumped up but still leaves it to ourselves to really just enjoy the moment.
GD: What kind of lift for this program is this, to get to the Elite Eight? And then you only lose two seniors this year, to have next year to look forward to too? I know you’re focused on this year but the future looks bright.
CM: It’s really exciting. Obviously Ali and Andrea both bring enormous amounts to this team and they will be a huge loss even though there are only two of them. But I know we have a large freshman class coming in who are supposed to be very talented. I think that if we can keep the chemistry as it is this year, then we should be very excited about next year.