Notre Dame soccer captain combines athletic and academic excellence in distinctive fashion
Vanessa Pruzinsky is the classic definition of a student-athlete, and the epitome of a Notre Dame scholar. On the pitch as a defender with the Fighting Irish women's soccer team, Pruzinsky started in 94 of 96 matches, and started in all 24 postseason games that she played in, amassing 39 shots on goal and 14 points in the process. She missed her senior season in 2002 with an ankle injury, and returned for a fifth year in 2003. In that final season, she was a key cog for the Notre Dame defense that ranked fifth in the nation with a 0.49 goals-against average, had a 10-match shutout streak and went 16 consecutive matches without a deficit, setting a Notre Dame record in the process. A strong defender, known for exhibiting true domination in the air with speed, strength, and good ball distribution, Pruzinsky helped the Fighting Irish to an 82-12-4 record in her four healthy seasons, and demonstrated her leadership capabilities both on and off the pitch by participating in Notre Dame's prestigious Academic Honors for Student-Athletes program, which pairs gifted student-athletes with faculty mentors in their chosen field of study.
Pruzinsky received numerous awards across various platforms during her time at Notre Dame. She was the Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year in '03, and was a three-time first-team Academic All-America® choice in 2000, 2001 and 2003. She also twice earned all-BIG EAST honors, taking first-team accolades in 2001 and second-team plaudits in 2000. She started her college career in 1999 by copping BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2003, Pruzinsky received postgraduate scholarships from the NCAA and BIG EAST Conference, and was one of eight finalists for the Socrates Award, presented by Sporting News Radio. She was considered for the NCAA Walter Byers Scholarship, and was in contention to be named the NCAA Woman of the Year.
The quintessential student-athlete, Pruzinsky graduated from Notre Dame in 2003 with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. She was one of only three students in her graduating class to walk with a perfect 4.0, and was one of only three students in the College of Engineering to achieve that level of academic success (the first since 1974 to do so). What's more, Pruzinsky was the first female student to receive an "A" in introduction to chemical engineering, and the first female 4.0 graduate within her field. She went on to become a chemical engineer at Merck Pharmaceuticals in Rahway, N.J., in the spring of 2004.