ND, Stanford relish College Cup experiences
An unexpected visitor arrived in Cary, N.C. yesterday afternoon as almost half an inch of snow covered the soccer fields of the WakeMed Soccer Park. For the Stanford women's team, the precipitation was a fun and welcomed surprise. Taking a break from both the rigors of preparing to play in the national championship today against Notre Dame as well as studying for final exams, which will begin for the Cardinal players tomorrow, they hit the snow. Junior midfielder Kristy Zurmuhlen was crowned 'best snow angel,' after her creation even included a halo. The New Hampshire native might've had an advantage, given her roots. The women conducted impromptu snowball fights, laughing and relishing in the realization of an undefeated (thus far) season.
Meanwhile, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish found their own ways to relax before the title game, listening to some of their favorite team tunes (popular numbers from the hit TV show "Glee") and enjoying some down time. As noted by their media relations staff, they spent a good deal of the day resting and focusing on the one game left. As Notre Dame junior Ellen Bartindale told us yesterday in her blog for ESPN.com, "When we began our journey to the College Cup back in November, Coach told us, "Six games. Six games and you've won a national championship we are now going to the national championship."
Both teams have had their share of experiences in arriving to the College Cup, from Stanford's airline travel delays on Tuesday evening to Notre Dame's arrival in three different groups. They've also both had to spend a good deal of their non-playing time hitting the books, as Stanford's finals commence upon their return home. Win or lose, both schools remind that their educations are the primary focus, though admit that it's sometimes hard to focus on studying given the exciting distractions of sport.
Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum has Tweeted throughout the week about the joyful experiences in Cary and the Fighting Irish family that has followed them here. As Bartindale noted, a crowd of Notre Dame alumni organized a congratulatory dinner and gathering for the team on Friday night at a local restaurant, giving the squad a feel of 'home' even when they're far away.
Family has been ever-present as well, such as our interview with Fighting Irish junior Melissa Henderson's proud mother on Friday night. And though Stanford's campus may be over 2,000 miles away, family and friends arrived to cheer the undefeated, No. 1-ranked team. After Friday night's victory, Christen Press had her parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins surrounding her post-game. As the media relations staff tried to encourage her toward the press conference, her own cousins asked for her autograph. One boy cousin, about 10 years old, even asked her to sign his forehead. Press refused, probably on account of his parent's eventual disproval, but the star player did note that her cousin was yelling for her the WHOLE game -- and probably annoyed the other fans around her.