Notre Dame soccer captain combines athletic and academic excellence in distinctive fashion
One of nation?s premier Academic All-Americans, graduating in May of 2003 with a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average as a chemical engineering major ? one of just three total 4.0 graduates in the entire class of ?03 ? has returned for fifth year of eligibility as leader of Irish defense, after playing just two early-season games in 2002 (providing option for extra year of eligibility) due
to nagging ankle injury that ultimately required surgery ? currently enrolled in chemical engineering master?s program ? became just the third Notre Dame chemical engineering major ? and first since 1974 ? ever to graduate with a 4.0 GPA ? also first female student ever to receive an "A" grade in the introduction to chemical engineering course ? first female 4.0 graduate in chemical engineering and recipient of Steiner Prize from College of Engineering (recognizing all-around excellence) ? under consideration for post-ND employment at several top pharmaceutical companies, including Merck (based in Whitehouse Station, N.J.) ? one of nation?s top defenders prior to her injury, after competing for a spot on U.S. under-21 national team and earning 2002 preseason BIG EAST defensive player-of-the-year honors ? second-year team captain who could be used at central defender (where she played in 2000 and ?01), outside back (where she played in ?99 and part of ?00) or even in the defensive midfielder role ? her skills could be well-suited for that midfield role, particularly if the Irish alter their central-based midfielder formation back to a system with two attacking midfielders and one in the defensive role (ND used that alignment in 1999 before playing with two recessed midfielders and one in the upper spot, from 2000-02) ? her defensive midfield skills include a dominating presence in the air, physical strength and good distribution ? played outside back during 2003 spring season, with that position allowing her greater mobility due to the vertical runs ? joined former basketball great Bob Arnzen (?67-?68) as only Notre Dame student-athletes named first team Academic All-America as a sophomore and junior (she was not eligible in ?02, due to the injury) ? hard-nosed player who has proven to be heart and soul of Irish defense, starting 71 of 72 games during her first three seasons ? natural fit at central back in 2000 and ?01, due to combination of speed, athleticism and strength ? imposing player with the power to win "50-50" balls ? emerging leader and second-year team captain who has unwavering practice ethic and tremendous "on-task" focus ? possible candidate for Rhodes Scholarship and several other national awards, including the NCAA?s Woman of the Year and Top Eight Award ? national high school player of the year as a forward (79 career goals, 59 assists), making transition to defense at Notre Dame ? invited to U.S. under-21 training camp during summers of 2001 and spring/summer of ?02.
AS A SENIOR: Received preseason billing as the BIG EAST Conference defensive player of the year before seeing her season limited to just two games played, due to nagging ankle injury that stretched back to the 2002 spring season ? played first 47 minutes in third game of the season versus defending NCAA champion Santa Clara, helping shut out the Broncos before leaving game early in the second half (SCU then went on to a 4-0 win) ? missed next three games before playing 60 minutes off the bench as key factor in 1-0 overtime win over Rutgers (she entered in the 37th minute and left late in the first 10-minute OT) ? made midseason decision to sit our remainder of 2002, thus preserving option for fifth year of eligibility in 2003.
AS A JUNIOR: Repeated as first team Academic All-American and second team NSCAA all-region selection, joining Candace Chapman and Monica Gonzalez as first trio of defenders from same squad to be first team all-BIG EAST ? started 20 games, missing Georgetown game (Sept. 23) due to injury ? scored first two goals of college career ? started alongside several teammates at central defense, including Lindsey Jones during first three weeks and Gonzalez for final 15-game stretch ? helped Irish post 0.82 goals-against average ? Key Bank Classic defensive MVP, playing lead role in wins over Penn State (2-1) and Hartford (2-0) ? combined with Gonzalez to dominate the middle in 1-0 win over Nebraska, limiting Huskers to two shots on goal ? closed to stop Katie Barnes breakaway in overtime of 2-1 win over West Virginia ? dribbled down center of field and surprised Rutgers ?keeper with strong shot from the top of the box, into far left corner of the net ? shifted to forward in second half of NCAA game vs. Cincinnati, dribbling in from 45 yards and unleashing a rising shot into far left side.
AS A SOPHOMORE: Earned NSCAA second team all-region and second team all-BIG EAST honors ? 11th Notre Dame student-athlete named Academic All-America as a sophomore (freshmen are not eligible) and fourth Irish sophomore named first team, joining Jenny Streiffer (?97, soccer), Joe Heap (?52, football) and Arnzen (?67) ? recognized through the former women?s fall/winter "at-large" program, honoring 46 student-athletes from nine sports (she and Irish forward Meotis Erikson were two of 10 women?s soccer players, with Pruzinsky one of two first-teamers) ? key member of defense that posted 16 shutouts, led nation in GAA (0.39), allowed only 161 shots (6.4/gm) and trailed just twice (35 minutes) ? started all 25 games (12 central, 13 outside back) ? her starts at central
back ? six each alongside Kelly Lindsey and Kerri Bakker ? came early in the season and in all seven postseason games ? her outlet pass assisted Amanda Guertin goal vs. Rutgers (2-0) ? opened Yale game at left back, moved to right back and played some forward in second half, as Irish tried to jumpstart offense (late flurry yielded 4-0 win) ?. did solid job marking speedy forward Maribel in 2001 spring exhibition win over Mexican National Team.
AS A FRESHMAN: BIG EAST rookie of the year and unanimous selection to BIG EAST all-rookie team ? major part of success converting to four-back system ? only freshman to start all 26 games ? recorded her first point with assist vs. Butler ? saved shot off goal line in first half of NCAA third-round win over Stanford (1-0) ? assisted on Anne Makinen goal against Seton Hall, Jenny Heft?s gamewinner vs. Georgetown and goals vs. Miami and Seton Hall in BIG EAST semifinals.
PREP & PERSONAL: NSCAA national high school player of the year ? two-time NSCAA Youth All-American ? New England regional player of the year in ?97 and ?98 ? four-year veteran of Olympic Development Region I team ? led Weston Wild Things to 1998 national title and Trumbull High School to three state titles (65-8-3 four-year record) ?. her senior year team (20-0) did not allow a goal ? two-time captain, three-time MVP ? finished prep career as school?s all-time leading scorer (79G-59A) ? member of National Honor Society ? father Ken Pruzinsky played football at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy ?. daughter of Ken and Phyllis Pruzinsky ? full name is Vanessa Marie Pruzinsky ? born Dec. 11, 1981, in Bridgeport, Conn. ? graduated in May, 2003, with a 4.0 cumulative GPA as a chemical engineering major.