Aug. 15, 2000
After advancing to its fourth NCAA championship game in the last six years, the Notre Dame women's soccer team reloads following the departure of its most talented class in Irish history.
"The group of seniors that we had is almost irreplaceable," says head coach Randy Waldrum.
"Even though we have a talented group of freshmen coming in, they don't have the national team experience or four years of collegiate soccer that those seniors had. It is going to be critical that our freshmen really are able to step in."
Gone from the 1999 team that won Notre Dame's fifth consecutive BIG EAST championship are three All-Americans and the program's all-time leading goal scorer. Despite these holes in the lineup, Waldrum enters his second year as head coach at Notre Dame with the 2000 Irish geared to continue the standard of success set as the second winningest team of the 1990s.
"One of the things I think we have going for us this year is that a lot people don't think we'll be as good after losing what we did," says the 1999 BIG EAST coach of the year.
"I think on paper I'd have to agree with them, but I'm really excited with who we have on this team."
Senior All-American and national-player-of-the-year candidate Anne Makinen (Helsinki, Finland) headlines a perennially strong Irish midfield, and senior national team veteran Kelly Lindsey (Omaha, Neb.) anchors Notre Dame's backline. Senior forward Meotis Erikson (Kennewick, Wash.) is the top-returning scorer, while junior Elizabeth Wagner (Spring, Texas) and sophomore Sani Post (Davis, Calif.) will battle for the goalkeeper duties.
Lindsey will captain the Irish for the second consecutive season, while Makinen and senior defender Kerri Bakker (Washington, N.J.) join her as the three Irish captains for the season.
Waldrum's second season at Notre Dame begins with a first as the Irish will travel to Brazil for preseason training in their first foreign trip. The Irish will spend 11 days in Brazil, preparing for the 2000 season and playing games against various Brazilian club teams that include players from the Brazilian national team. Notre Dame returns Aug. 20, and opens the season against Detroit on Aug. 27.
"One of the reasons we chose to go to Brazil is that after losing six seniors, it's important that we integrate the freshmen into games as quickly as we can," says Waldrum.
"The quality of the games and length of training will help us with our young players, since we are going to have quite a few of them make an impact on the program right away."
The differences from the 1999 Irish to the 2000 team will be most evident in Notre Dame's forwards. Senior and Mexican national team member Monica Gonzalez (Richardson, Texas), sophomore Ali Lovelace (Dallas, Ga.), freshmen Amanda Guertin (Grapevine, Texas), Melissa Tancredi (Ancaster, Ontario) and Amy Warner (Albuquerque, N.M.) look to join Erikson in giving the Irish a new look up front. This group will help to replace Jenny Heft and Jenny Streiffer, the only four-year teammates in NCAA Division I history to score at least 70 goals each. They combined to outscore Notre Dame's 1999 opponents 39-24.
"Our forwards are going to be a lot of fun because we'll be different than we've been in the past," says Waldrum.
"We've had great talent in the past but we haven't had that breakaway speed and athleticism. We've got five or six legitimate starters this year. We are going to be able to do some things we haven't done in the past. There is going to be a whole different look up front for us."
Erikson will be Notre Dame's most experienced forward with 63 starting appearances and 46 goals in her career. The powerful forward plays well with her back to the goal and is a veteran of the U.S. under-20 national team. The Irish will look for Erikson to assume a larger role among the forwards in her senior season, as she has compiled 53 more starts than the other forwards on the roster combined.
Gonzalez enters the season back in top form after missing all of 1998 recovering from surgery. In her return in the opening game of the 1999 season, she scored the game's first goal against North Carolina. She played in 25 games in a reserve role last season and once again trained with the Mexican national team during the 2000 summer.
Lovelace enters her sophomore season after an impressive spring in which she regularly displayed the flashes of greatness she showed as a freshman. The speedy forward scored one of the most memorable of the 1052 goals in Irish women's soccer history. Her 75th minute score -- just her fourth of the season -- against top-ranked and undefeated Santa Clara sent Notre Dame into the NCAA title game with a 1-0 victory.
Guertin has been in the national team pool since she was 16 and brings great technique to the field. She was named to the Parade All-America team and the player of the year by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a junior. Guertin comes to Notre Dame as the latest in a line of talented players from Texas, a list that also includes Gonzalez and Wagner.
Warner, who led New Mexico with 33 goals and 26 assists as a senior, will be tough for opposing defenders to catch with speed that helped her win the state 100-meter title twice during high school. The Albuquerque Tribune selected her as the female athlete of the year as a junior and a senior, only third person to repeat as winner. The Albuquerque Journal also chose her as the female athlete of the year as a senior.
Tancredi has been a member of the Canadian national team and boasts the combination of size and speed. She helped her club team win the Canadian national championship and was the league's MVP in 1999. Tancredi will be forced to sit out the season as she recovers from injury.
The Irish perennially have put together one of the best midfields in the country, with at least one All-America midfielder in each of the last eight years. The 2000 midfield expects to live up to the high standards with the return of all three starters from 1999, led by three-time All-American Makinen and complemented by junior Mia Sarkesian (Canton, Mich.) and sophomores Nancy Mikacenic (Seattle, Wash.) and Ashley Dryer (Salt Lake City, Utah). The addition of freshman Randi Scheller (Kutztown, Pa.) should make the Irish midfield even more talented than last season.
"Having Randi Scheller come in and compete with our returners will give us great depth in the midfield," says Waldrum. "I think we are loaded in the midfield. We have five legitimate starters there. That is going to be a great battle to see who is going to step in there and win those spots."
Makinen has proven to be one of the top midfielders in the country in her three seasons as a finalist for the Hermann Trophy each of those years. Her playmaking and goal-scoring abilities from long range have made her again one of the favorites to win national-player-of-the-year honors. Makinen has shown the ability to come up with the big goal -- with five gamewinners last year, including one in double overtime against Connecticut.
Sarkesian undertook a large role in the success of the Irish midfield in 1999 by playing in 25 of 26 games and making 12 starting appearances, including starts in the final three games of the season in the NCAA championship. Two of her three goals last year came in crucial situations, the goal in a 1-0 Irish win over Stanford in the 81st minute of the NCAA third round and one against North Carolina in the season opener. She made her first start in 23 days against Nebraska in the NCAA quarterfinals and slipped a pass through the backline to set up Jenny Streiffer's second-minute goal of the 1-1, four-overtime tie.
One of the more pleasant Irish surprises last season came from the play of Dryer. She started the year in a reserve role and concluded the year after starting 15 games and playing in 24 games with six assists. Dryer plays taller than her 5-4 height on the strength of her solid play in the air and tenacity on the ball.
Mikacenic stepped in and gave the Irish immediate results in her first year, playing in all 26 games and starting 21. She sometimes was able to play centrally in the back, a spot where she might see more time as a sophomore. Mikacenic brings a strong presence to the field and boasts excellent technical and distribution skills.
Junior Kelly Tulisiak (Medina, Ohio), senior Caroline Marino (Snohomish, Wash.) and sophomore Kate Morrel (Carmel, Ind.) also should contribute in the midfield. The speedy Tulisiak saw action in seven games, scoring against Duke and recording two assists, while Marino played in three games. Morrel had a goal and an assist in the five games in which she played.
Scheller, a two-time Parade Magazine All-American, should give the Irish an immediate boost in the midfield. She brings great playmaking ability and great vision to the field. Scheller also has talent to effectively utilize the long ball and change the point of attack.
Freshmen Lizzy Coghill (Orland Park, Ill.), Erin Hayden (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Megan Rogers (Syracuse, N.Y.) also should give the Irish depth in the midfield, but all three will benefit from gaining collegiate experience. Coghill has played all over the field and with great intensity, while Hayden has been a solid player in the central midfield. Rogers, daughter of Irish football offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers, will be a versatile player for Notre Dame with all-around skills.
The loss of four-time All-American and two-time BIG EAST defensive player-of-the-year Jen Grubb marks the biggest challenge for the Irish defensive unit. The continued solid play of Lindsey and the return of 1999 BIG EAST rookie-of-the-year Vanessa Pruzinsky (Trumbull, Conn.) should provide Notre Dame with a strong foundation for the backline. Junior Lindsey Jones (South Bend, Ind.) looks to move into a starting role after serving as a more than competent reserve in 25 games last year. Bakker should challenge for a starting spot as well as Mikacenic, who saw time at defender as a freshman.
"Where we are probably a little thin is in the back, and the big question mark is losing Grubb centrally in the back," says Waldrum.
"Kelly Lindsey really has to take on the organization responsibility that Jen had which Kelly did quite a bit anyway. Vanessa will be back in her spot. She has the potential to be an All-American if she continues to develop the way she has. Lindsey Jones could have started for us last year. Kerri Bakker lacks experience a little bit but in the last year she has made some big strides. We'll also toy with Nancy back there which we did some in the spring. We probably have a few questions in the back more than anywhere else on the field."
Lindsey returns to Notre Dame after spending part of her offseason training with the U.S. national team. She played every minute in helping the U.S. win the Australia Cup in January and later practiced with the team during camp. The two-time captain has used her speed and athleticism effectively throughout her career and helped the Irish shut out both Santa Clara and Stanford in the NCAA tournament.
Pruzinsky made a spectacular transition from the forward position she played in high school to defender as a freshman at Notre Dame. The unanimous BIG EAST all-rookie team selection was the only Irish freshman to start all 26 games and was effective at moving forward in addition to her marking skills. After a year of collegiate soccer and gaining the experience of defending some of the best forwards in the country, Pruzinsky looks to be one of the country's top defenders.
As one of the team's most effective reserves last year, Jones stands ready to claim a starting role on defense. She played in 25 games last year in relief of Pruzinsky and Kara Brown, providing depth that was especially important when she played all four overtime periods against Nebraska. Her ability to contribute in the back after playing in the midfield marked a large part of the success of Notre Dame's four-back system in 2000.
Nominal sensibilities make Bakker a natural for the defense after playing further up the field in her first two seasons. She made the transition last year and played 21 games, making her first three career starting appearances. Her hard work and strong leadership skills have helped her earn the role as one of three captains and have her in the running for a starting spot on the backline.
Sophomore Maryn Necel as well as freshmen Kim Carpenter and Jennifer Carter also should help the Irish defensively. Necel saw action in three games last year and benefited from a year of collegiate experience. Carpenter, having a great understanding of the game, and Carter, a physically strong central defender, both should help the Irish in the future after gaining experience.
The Irish will point to a pair of upperclassmen to make up for the departure of All-American LaKeysia Beene in goal. The choice between Wagner and Post will provide Notre Dame with its successor to Beene, who left the net after setting the school record for career goals-against average at 0.63 but will serve as a volunteer coach in 2000.
"Liz is big and strong and has the height to get in on crosses," says Waldrum.
"Sani has good footwork and the agility to get to the corners and pull some out and is a little bit more athletic coming off her line and playing with her feet. They are quite different and both have something different to offer. I think we are going to have a great battle in goal. Lauren Kent will probably learn from the other two this year and will have more of an impact later in her career."
Wagner has benefited greatly from training with Beene in her first two years at Notre Dame. The former Parade All-American has played 377 minutes in 16 games in her career. She has allowed only one goal and paired with Beene to share 11 shutouts.
Post showed the athleticism and quickness -- which also earned her a spot on the Parade list -- in her first appearance at Notre Dame, making a diving save to her upper right side against Duke. She played in five games and did not allow a goal in 174 minutes. Post shared two shutouts with Beene before an injury sidelined her for the final third of the season, including Notre Dame's postseason run to the NCAA final.
Kent will provide the Irish with depth in the net and come to Notre Dame with a strong background from her club team. She has good size for a goalkeeper but will need experience on the collegiate level so that she can contribute in future years.