June 23, 1997
Women's Soccer Begins a New Era
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame's women's soccer program begins a new era in its brief, yet nonetheless storied history despite the consistency of appearing in three consecutive NCAA championship games. Gone from the program that has posted an 87-8-3 record the last four years are two-time captains Cindy Daws and Jen Renola.
The duo that came to a Notre Dame program in 1993 that had never qualified for the NCAA championship propelled it to the No. 1 ranking in 1994, won the NCAA championship in 1995 and claimed the No. 1 ranking again in 1996. The Hermann Trophy, Missouri Athletic Club player of the year and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America player of the year awards showered upon these two players commemorate the exclusive echelon to which Daws and Renola have elevated Notre Dame women's soccer team.
"The talent and leadership we lose from Jen Renola and Cindy Daws is something that we need to overcome but we certainly have the talent to be able to do that," says head coach Chris Petrucelli who also will have to replace four-year defender Kate Fisher and the 31 goals scored by forward Amy VanLaecke over the last two seasons.
Entering his seventh year as coach, Petrucelli will point to senior co-captains Holly Manthei (Burnsville, Minn.), Julie Maund (La Jolla, Calif.) and Kate Sobrero (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) to supply the team's leadership. The three seniors now look to demonstrate their leadership skills that have yet to be tapped.
"Our captains are really ready to step up in 1997 after maybe being in the shadows because of the strong personalities we have been fortunate to have had on the team in the past," says Petrucelli.
The 1997 schedule will afford the captains little time to adjust to their new roles. Notre Dame will face its 1996 NCAA semifinal and final opponents in the first seven games of the season. The Irish travel to Portland on Sept. 7, and play host to North Carolina on Sept. 19. The BIG EAST schedule is highlighted by Connecticut's trip to Alumni Field on Oct. 26, while Notre Dame will make its first trip to new BIG EAST women's soccer members Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
"We are going to be a quality team and a little deeper than we have in the past," says Petrucelli. "We are going to be able to score goals and we are going to be more athletic. I think we are as good as anyone. Whether or not that means we win a national championship, I don't know. That is our goal once again and I have a feeling that we are going to be in the hunt."
Notre Dame will field its deepest and talented group of forwards yet in 1997 after scoring a school record 140 goals last year. The arrival of freshmen Meotis Erikson (Kennewick, Wash.) and Monica Gonzalez (Richardson, Texas) should more than offset the loss of VanLaecke while junior Monica Gerardo (Simi Valley, Calif.) and sophomore Jenny Streiffer (Baton Rouge, La.) should continue to lead as the veterans of the group.
"We are deeper at forward going into this season than we ever have been," says Petrucelli. "We have a pretty dynamic group of forwards each with her own strengths that will complement each other."
Gerardo has been the team's most consistent scorer of the past two seasons, evidenced by her 43 goals in her first two years, the most ever in a two-year span at Notre Dame. She provided the Irish with a key goal in numerous situations with game-winning goals against Maryland in the NCAA third round, Portland in the NCAA semifinals and Connecticut in the regular season. Her four goals against Seton Hall tied her own school record for most goals in a game which she set as a freshman.
"Monica is going to have another great year for us," says Petrucelli. "She is as talented with the ball and at finishing as anyone around."
Streiffer made the switch from midfield to forward and from high school to college flawlessly, scoring 22 goals with recording 22 assists for 66 points, second only to Daws. After being named an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team, she made quite a debut in her first collegiate game as she poured in a school-record nine points against Providence to open the season. She won the BIG EAST rookie of the year award and was one of just two freshmen midfielders to earn NSCAA All-America honors. Streiffer scored both goals in Notre Dame's 2-1 win over North Carolina during a stretch of the season in which she recorded at least one point in 11 consecutive games. Her crafty footwork with the ball and ability to change positions have posed problems for the opposition. Streiffer's skills with the ball enable her to break down defenses by dribbling through defenders.
"Jenny is going to be a little more experienced at forward," says Petrucelli. "I think we are going to see a big jump in the number of goals she scores because she will be more familiar with the position."
Sophomore Jenny Heft (Germantown, Wis.) came off the bench as a freshman and burned defenders with her speed. She chipped in the fifth-most goals on the team with 12, including the game-winning goal in Notre Dame's 4-3 win over Connecticut in the BIG EAST championship game. Heft followed up the goal with a hat trick in the NCAA first round against Indiana, tying an NCAA championship mark for goals in a game.
"Jenny Heft gives us another dimension with her speed," Petrucelli says. "When she comes off the bench fresh, she causes a lot of problems for the defense with her quickness."
Erikson brings a physical presence to the field in addition to her soccer skills which matured while she trained with the U.S. Under-20 national team during the spring of 1997. The NSCAA high school player of the year and three-time Parade All-American plays very well with her back to the goal and should be a proficient goal scorer for the Irish.
"Meotis is going to have a major impact on our program for the next four years," says Petrucelli. "I think she is going to score goals for us right away."
Gonzalez led her club team the Dallas Sting to the national championship in 1995 and scored 17 goals with 14 assists in 12 games in the spring of 1997. The 5-10 forward should use her height particularly well in the box as the tallest player on the team.
"Monica also can score right away," says Petrucelli. "She strikes the ball very well and will be a force for us in the air."
Two other freshmen should add depth at the forward position. Lindsay Goodwin (Puyallup, Wash.), played on the club team FC Royals with Erikson which won the under-17 national championship. Kristin Danielson (Granger, Ind.) comes to Notre Dame just as another Granger, Ind., forward, Amy VanLaecke, has graduated.
Notre Dame has been regarded as having one of the best midfields in the country and the 1997 season should be no different despite the loss of Daws. The Irish have the rare combination of talent and depth in the midfield.
"We are becoming a team known for our quality midfield," says Petrucelli. "Cindy started that tradition and now Holly is taking over. It is a midfield that can be considered one of the best in the country. It seems like its been that way for the past three years."
Fifth in the balloting for the 1996 MAC player of the year, Manthei is the top returning midfielder from that vote and is coming off a season which saw her break three of Mia Hamm's college women's soccer records. In just three seasons, Manthei's 95 career assists top the four-year total of 72 Hamm recorded from 1989-90 and 1992-93. Manthei dished off 44 assists in 1996, bettering Hamm's 33 in 1992.
In NCAA championship games, the speedy left midfielder has recorded 10 career assists in 13 career games while Hamm had nine assists over her career. She also owns the record for assists in a single championship with five, breaking the record of four held by eight other people. While statistical improvement might be near impossible for Manthei, Petrucelli is looking for her to refine her role in the midfield.
"Holly is going to have to take over games more," says Petrucelli. "In the past she has taken over games here and there. In the spring she was the most dominant player on the field for us in every game we played. She is going to have to do that in every game we play and I think she will. Holly is playing better now than she ever has before. She has really matured and is a lot more committed to the game. I think she is going to have a great year. It will be hard for her to have more assists but I think she will take over games more."
Junior Shannon Boxx (Torrance, Calif.) should continue the solid play that she has given the Irish in the central midfield as one of the team's most underrated players. She has been equally adept at scoring and passing the ball with 19 goals and 26 assists in her two years while also possessing the ability to drop back on defense with her physical play. With Notre Dame's losing Daws' 26 goals in 1996 from the center midfielder, Notre Dame will look for Boxx to step up her scoring.
"We need to get Shannon to the point of where she is scoring goals," says Petrucelli. "She is capable of scoring more goals than she has and is better at striking the ball than we have seen. We may see Shannon take a step up in the number of goals she has scored. She will become more of a dominant player in the air for us without Cindy and will be the player we look to play the ball to in the air. I think she'll do real well for us yet again."
Sophomore Kara Brown (Avon, Conn.), the third of Notre Dame's three returning midfielders, will look to continue the impressive performances she turned in during the 1996 post-season. The fiercely competitive midfielder tied an NCAA championship mark with three assists in the NCAA first round against Indiana and her five assists in the tournament set the record before Manthei tied her with five later in the championships.
"Kara really blossomed at the NCAA semifinals and final," says Petrucelli. "A lot of people really noticed her intensity but beyond that she is a quality soccer player. The year of experience is going to make a big difference for her. We'd like to see Kara become more involved with our attack, score more goals and create more plays."
Freshman Anne Makinen (pronounced AHN-nay) has played in 40 international games with the Finnish national team and is a dazzling playmaker in the central midfield. Makinen, who most recently trained at the adidas Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla., will focus on her distribution skills. The Helsinki, Finland, native should have an immediate impact with her international experience and playmaking abilities.
"Anne is going to be the engine of the midfield," says Petrucelli. "She is going to see the ball a lot and we are going to play through her a lot. Anne is exactly what we need in a dominant central midfielder who can come in and replace Cindy Daws. She is one of the most talented incoming players that I have seen in a long time. She will team with Holly, Shannon and Kara to allow us to maintain the quality midfield that we have had the past few years. With Anne, our midfield should be as strong as ever."
In addition to her crucial role as co-captain, Maund will be needed in specialized situations to help the team offensively.
"Julie's role will be the same it has been over the last couple of years," says Petrucelli. "She is someone we can put in when we need a goal because she strikes the ball really well. She is going to be the emotional leader of our team, picking up the leadership role that Jen Renola had."
Junior Laura Vanderberg (Kalamazoo, Mich.) played in 24 games last year as a key reserve midfielder. She recorded an assist against Washington in her first career start.
"Laura had a very good spring," says Petrucelli. "She is a very feisty player and gets up and down the field really well. With her good speed, Laura will see a significant amount of playing time once again."
Senior Jean McGregor (Longwood, Fla.) will be another key reserve for the Irish off the bench. She saw action in 13 games in 1996 and dished off an assist against Rutgers.
Freshman Stacey Tullock (Phoenix, Ariz.) could also step in and give the Irish contributions off the bench. Tullock gives the Irish a versatile midfielder with her ability to play at left midfielder. She is very tricky with the ball and is adept at creating offensive opportunities.
"Stacey will be a left-sided midfielder which will allow us to be a little more flexible with our midfield," says Petrucelli. "We used Holly in the center midfield in the spring and Stacey gives us the opportunity to do that because Stacey can play on the left side. She has pretty good speed and can get up and down the field and cause some problems."
Seniors Nicole Hinostro (Olivehain, Calif.) and Ingrid Soens (South Bend, Ind.) and sophomore Iris Lancaster (Waiahae, HI) should also provide Notre Dame with depth in the midfield. Freshmen Kerri Bakker (Washington, N.J.), Caroline Marino (Snohomish, Wash.) and Katie Miller (South Bend, Ind.) could also see action.
If Notre Dame's forwards are more talented than ever and the midfield is the deepest ever, then the defense is the most athletic it has been in Irish history. The trio of Sobrero, sophomore Jen Grubb (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) and freshman Kelly Lindsey (Omaha, Neb.) should form a formidable back line for opponents, who managed just 17 goals in 26 games in 1996 and were shut out in 16 games.
"We are going to be able to match up with people like crazy in the back because we are going to be so athletic," says Petrucelli. "We are going to be incredibly athletic in the back."
Three-time All-American Kate Sobrero has anchored the three best defenses in Notre Dame history which have never allowed more than 0.64 goals per game in her three years. Sobrero has anchored the best defense in the BIG EAST which has allowed just 0.31 goals per game in BIG EAST contests in 1995 and 1996. Throughout her career she has been at her best in the big games, scoring Notre Dame's only goal in a 1-0 win over Portland in the 1994 NCAA semifinals and being voted defensive MVP of the 1995 NCAA semifinals and final. Sobrero also helped shut out North Carolina in 1996 NCAA final while she was in the game before she left the game at the 67-minute mark with a knee injury.
"Kate is as good as any marking back not only in the BIG EAST but in the country," says Petrucelli. "She has improved a great deal since she's been at Notre Dame. She came in as a great athlete and now she is a great soccer player. I expect a huge year from Kate."
Sobrero's suffocating defense comprises only part of her game as she is also an offensive threat and has been especially effective against Connecticut. In both of Notre Dame's one-goal wins over the Huskies in 1996, Sobrero assisted on the game-winning goals with pin-point passes each time. She also had an assist against Connecticut in Notre Dame's 2-0 win in the 1995 NCAA quarterfinals.
Grubb enters her sophomore season after being voted the only freshman defender on the 1996 NSCAA All-America list. She was named to the NCAA all-tournament team after turning in one of the best performances of the season by thwarting numerous attacks in the NCAA final. Grubb also assisted on Notre Dame's first goal in the 2-1 win over North Carolina. Her combination of speed and power proved difficult for opposing attackers to crack and should be even better after her first season of collegiate soccer.
"With another year of experience, Jen should be outstanding," says Petrucelli. "She had some great games last year and she is continuing to learn the game and is getting better and better. Jen adds so much physically and there are very few people who can match her physically."
Like Grubb in 1996, Lindsey may be the best incoming defender in the country. She trained with the U.S. Under-20 team in the spring and was named a Parade High School All-American. Lindsey will switch to defender after playing forward in high school.
"Kelly is as good as anybody coming in as a freshman," says Petrucelli. "She is outstanding athletically. She is strong, fast, good in the air and can run forever. Kelly is also pretty talented with the ball."
Sophomore Mary Boerner (Orting, Wash.) should help the Irish off the bench after making the transition from forward to defender a year ago. She came off the bench and played in 12 games as a freshman.
"Mary has taken a step forward in her ability to play in the back," says Petrucelli. "She is starting to learn the position a little bit better."
Sophomore Courtney Banks (Elkhart, Ind.) and freshman Liz Zanoni (Kalamazoo, Mich.) should also give the Irish depth on defense.
The departure of Renola, the best goalkeeper in Notre Dame history with a career 0.69 goals against average and 47 shutouts, leaves the goalkeeping duties to sophomore LaKeysia Beene (Gold River, Calif.), who has received high praise from Renola herself.
"LaKeysia will become the best goalkeeper Notre Dame has ever had," says Renola.
Beene scored as many goals as she allowed in 1996. She played in the field at the BIG EAST championship semifinal to help keep the starters fresh for the finals and netted her first career goal. As goalkeeper, she played in 14 games in 1996 and allowed just one goal for a 0.17 goals against average while sharing 13 shutouts with Renola. Beene benefited from a season of playing behind Renola and trained with the U.S. Under-20 national team in the spring.
"LaKeysia has improved greatly since she came here," says Petrucelli. "She is an extremely hard worker and is only going to get better. Last year helped her a lot because she got a chance to improve and train without having a lot of pressure. What LaKeysia lacks in experience she makes up for in athletic ability because she is very gifted athletically."