Aug 20, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Since the dawn of the 21st century, no women's soccer program in the country has produced more recipients of the Missouri Athletic Club's (MAC) Hermann Trophy than Notre Dame, with a Fighting Irish player earning the honor, which is presented annually to the nation's top player, three times in the past 13 seasons. With the 2013 season set to kick off this weekend, the MAC and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) believe sophomore forward/midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) is among the next in line to continue that storied Notre Dame tradition.
On Tuesday, the MAC and NSCAA unveiled this year's 31-player Hermann Trophy Watch List, with Roccaro one of only three sophomores appearing on the rundown. She also is among eight Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on the Hermann Trophy Watch List, by far the most representatives from one conference on the preseason chart.
"Cari is such a special talent and it's fitting that she's on the Hermann Trophy Watch List," Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. "She has the ability to impact the game from just about any position on the field and she makes everyone around her better. Even more than that, she's such a natural leader, carrying herself with maturity and poise both on and off the field, and I really think the best is yet to come for her."
"It's a great honor to be part of that group of so many talented players from around the country," Roccaro said. "I've also had the privilege of calling many of those players my teammates with the (U.S. Soccer) U-20s, including a few who played with us at the World Cup last fall. Of course, while it's a thrill to be part of this list, it's more important to me to do anything I can to help Notre Dame succeed and reach our goals as a team in 2013."
Near the end of the regular season, NCAA Division I coaches who are NSCAA members will vote on their top choices for the Hermann Trophy, with the preseason list trimmed to 15 semifinalists. Fans then will be brought into the selection process, with the chance to vote for their favorite semifinalists beginning in November at the MAC Hermann Trophy web site (machermanntrophy.lockerdome.com). In December, three finalists will be chosen, with the 2013 Hermann Trophy to be presented Jan. 10, 2014, during a gala ceremony at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis.
The Fighting Irish have had four Hermann Trophy recipients in the award's 25-year history, second-most among any NCAA Division I school. Cindy Daws was the first to take home the crystal soccer ball trophy in 1996, followed by Anne Makinen in 2000. Kerri Hanks then earn the award twice, first as a sophomore in 2006, and again as a senior in 2008, becoming one of only four players to receive the trophy twice, and the lone recipient to do so in non-consecutive seasons. What's more, Hanks is the only sophomore to garner the Hermann Trophy since it was first presented to a women's player in 1988.
Notre Dame has had three other National Player of the Year selections in its history -- Jen Renola was chosen as the NSCAA Player of the Year in 1996 (before that award merged with the Hermann Trophy three years later), Katie Thorlakson was selected as the 2004 Soccer America Player of the Year (after a bizarre turn saw her not named a Hermann Trophy finalist that season) and Melissa Henderson was tapped as the 2010 Honda Sports Award recipient (joining Daws in 1996 as the only two Fighting Irish players to take home that honor).
TUCKER IS ALL CLASS
Roccaro isn't the only Notre Dame player garnering preseason accolades. Senior midfielder Elizabeth Tucker (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny) has been nominated for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award, which is presented each year to the nation's outstanding senior student-athlete in 10 NCAA Division I sports. The award recognizes the best attributes of Division I senior student-athlete in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition.
Tucker is vying to become the second Fighting Irish women's soccer player to earn the Senior CLASS Award since 2007, when the award was expanded to include men's and women's soccer. In 2008, Hanks was the first Notre Dame player to receive the honor, coupling the Senior CLASS Award with her second Hermann Trophy, while Lauren Fowlkes was a finalist for the award in 2010.
Looking at Tucker's resume, one would think she's a prime candidate for this year's Senior CLASS Award. She maintains a perfect 4.0 grade-point average (GPA) as an accounting major in Notre Dame's top-ranked Mendoza College of Business and has made the Dean's List each semester she has been on campus. What's more, she is the Fighting Irish active career leader in goals, assists and points (15 goals, 11 assists), and she has appeared in all 70 matches of her college career to date, starting 65 times.
In addition to being a factor on Notre Dame's 2010 national championship team as a freshman, scoring nine goals (including five match-winners), she has emerged as a leader on the current youthful Fighting Irish squad that reached the NCAA Championship quarterfinals last year and returns 20 veterans and 10 starters this season.
"I don't know anyone who better exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete than Elizabeth," Waldrum said. "She works so hard to be perfect in everything she does, and she is the consummate example of what this award is all about."
Not only have the Fighting Irish players been working hard on the practice pitch during the preseason, but they also took time out on Monday evening to participate in the team's annual media training session, conducted by Randy Minkoff from The Speaking Specialists, a Chicago-based media training company.
During the lively hour-long presentation, Minkoff outlined some basic interview tips and techniques for Notre Dame players, who not only are entering their first season in the ACC, but also will be playing 17 of their 18 regular-season matches on television (either commercial or web stream). Another focus of the session was social media, including some of the dangers that go along with irresponsible use of Twitter and Facebook, among the many social media avenues.
However, it wasn't all serious for the Fighting Irish players, who had the chance to interview some of their teammates during a mock press conference. The "reporters" didn't disappoint, grilling their subjects on a variety of topics, the most hard-hitting questions centering on freshman midfielder Cindy Pineda and finding out what is in the mysterious bag/satchel she carries around campus (and for those wondering, at the time of the press conference, she had an apple and her ID in the bag, and not much else).
Fans are encouraged to tune in to ESPN at 8 p.m. (ET) Tuesday for the debut of the ESPN Films and espnW Nine for IX documentary entitled "The 99ers," which reunites many players from the 1999 U.S. National Team that won the FIFA World Cup in stirring fashion, defeating China on penalties before more than 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Notre Dame has a tie-in with that team, as Fighting Irish All-America defender Kate Sobrero (now Markgraf) was a starter on that squad that many credit with changing the face of women's sports forever. Sobrero appeared on the cover of Time the week after the U.S. won the World Cup final over China, the second time in four years she made the cover of a national publication after winning a championship (she was on the cover of Soccer America as a sophomore in 1995, shortly after Notre Dame won its first NCAA title, defeating Portland 1-0 in triple overtime).
Earlier on Tuesday, Sobrero tweeted her thoughts on the debut of "The 99ers" (a documentary that will be replayed many times in the coming weeks on numerous ESPN platforms) and that World Cup championship squad:
"Watch because it's told through the eyes of the pioneers. It's their story. I was along for the ride."
PLAYOFF TIME IN THE PROS
The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is entering its inaugural postseason, with three Notre Dame alums among the four semifinalist teams.
Henderson and All-America midfielder Jen Buczkowski have been mainstays in the lineup for FC Kansas City, with Henderson starting 13 of the 17 matches she played in, and Buczkowski (two assists) being one of just three players in the eight-team NWSL to play every minute of every match this season.
FC Kansas City finished in a three-way tie for first place in the NWSL regular-season standing on 38 points (11-6-5 record), but wound up seeded second for the playoffs based on their worse head-to-head record against top-seeded Western New York Flash. Still, the Blues earned a home semifinal match against Portland Thorns FC, to be played at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday at Verizon Wireless Stadium in Overland Park, Kan.
Meanwhile, All-America midfielder/forward Brittany Bock has had to navigate a series of injuries this season, but has played in seven matches (starting five) for Sky Blue FC, which finished fourth on the NWSL ladder with 36 points (10-6-6 record). Sky Blue FC will travel to Western New York for the second NWSL semifinal at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday from Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.
Both NWSL semifinals and the league's inaugural championship match (Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET at a site to be determined) will be televised live on Fox Sports 2, the sister channel of the recently-debuted Fox Sports 1. The second Fox Sports channel actually is the relaunched version of the channel formerly known as Fuel TV, which was found on many cable systems nationwide, as well as on satellite providers DirecTV (Channel 618) and Dish Network (Channel 398).
Tickets remain available for Notre Dame's season opener at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Friday against Illinois at Alumni Stadium, as well as all 11 Fighting Irish regular-season home matches in 2013.
Season ticket packages and single-match tickets may be purchased through the University's Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office by calling (574) 631-7356 or visiting the ticket windows at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion weekdays from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Tickets also can be ordered on-line 24 hours a day with a major credit card through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets. Groups wishing to attend Fighting Irish soccer matches also can receive a discounted ticket rate -- contact Rita Baxter in the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office to learn more.
For more information on the Fighting Irish women's soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDsoccernews or @NDsoccer), like the Fighting Irish on Facebook (facebook.com/NDWomenSoccer) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director