Notre Dame Women's Soccer 2007 Preview in PDF Format
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Aug. 23, 2007
By Pete LaFleur
The Notre Dame women's soccer team will celebrate the program's 20th season in 2007. The level of satisfaction from that season-long celebration ultimately will hinge on one primary goal: completing the program's third NCAA championship season, to go along with earlier titles won in 1995 and 2004.
Notre Dame - which compiled the best record in college soccer over the past three seasons (72-5-2, from 2004-06) - has been in the mix for the national title in eight of the past 13 seasons, advancing to the College Cup final weekend five times in the 1990s (1994-97, '99) and three more in the current decade (2000, '04 and '06; plus a 2005 season that is one of six when the Irish have been ranked number one). In addition to taking home the pair of first-place trophies, Notre Dame has been the NCAA runner-up four times ('94, '96, '99, '06) - so shooting for the top is now an annual rite of passage.
Waldrum - whose .773 career win percentage is third-best among active Division I coaches - welcomes back seven starters, four top reserves and 17 total veterans from the 2006 NCAA runner-up squad that went 25-1-1 and held the nation's top ranking for most of the season. The headline returners include junior forward Kerri Hanks, who in 2005 became the youngest player (female or male) ever to receive the prestigious Hermann Trophy player-of-the-year award - along with junior center back Carrie Dew (the BIG EAST's 2006 defensive player of the year, with Hanks earning the offensive award) and senior forward/midfielder Amanda Cinalli, a three-time all-BIG EAST performer who will serve as the 2007 team captain.
Hanks and Cinalli have been named to the 2007 Hermann Trophy preseason watch list while joining Dew, junior midfielder Brittany Bock and sophomore forward Michele Weissenhofer among the 13 players who received 2007 preseason first team all-BIG EAST honors. Each of those five also is a current member of the U.S. Under-21/U-23 National Team player pool, with Cinalli and Weissenhofer playing on the U-21 team that won the 2007 Nordic Cup.
Notre Dame returns plenty of firepower from the potent 2006 offense, including all four double-digit goalscorers from a year ago. Hanks (22G-22A in '06) and Weissenhofer (18G-17A) had a rare 1-2 teammate finish atop the national scoring charts in 2006 (66 and 53 points, respectively) while Cinalli posted her third straight double-digit goal season (11G-4A) and Bock added 12G-5A.
All told, the Notre Dame returners accounted for 87 percent of the team's goals in 2006 (74 of 85). The four players mentioned above are equally adept at setting up goals as they are at scoring them, with 96 career assists between them to go along with their 123 combined career goals.
Nonetheless, the Irish still must replace their primary playmaker - departed three-year All-America midfielder Jen Buczkowski, who served as the engine for a Notre Dame program that outscored the opposition 337-57 (+280) during her four-year career. Sophomore Courtney Rosen and junior Rebecca Mendoza could use their unique talents to help fill the void created by Buczkowski's departure.
The biggest question mark resides in the defensive third, as Notre Dame looks to rework its lineup following the graduation of three battle-tested veterans: defensive midfielder Jill Krivacek (a second team all-region performer and a member of the 2006 Hermann Trophy watch list), center back Kim Lorenzen ('06 team captain) and four-year all-BIG EAST performer Christie Shaner, who split time in her career as a starter at left back and at one of the center back spots.
Heir apparent to the 5-foot-11 Krivacek could be freshman Lauren Fowlkes, a prep All-American and U.S. Under-17 National Team member who packs plenty of diverse talents into her own 5-11 frame. Tenacious sophomore Amanda Clark also has prototypical defensive midfielder skills but she may be needed more on the back line, where she can serve as a center or right back.
Possibly the one defensive certainty entering the 2007 season is that sophomore Haley Ford will anchor one of the central back positions, a role she filled with veteran-like poise in the 2006 postseason (when Dew was sidelined due to an ACL knee injury). Dew - a first team all-region performer and Hermann Trophy watch list honoree in 2006 - was nearing the completion of her rehabilitation late in the summer of 2007 and, if healthy, could combine with Ford to form an impressive pair of center backs.
Both outside back spots could feature new starters, as senior Academic All-American Ashley Jones (the starting right back in '06) may return to her natural position of midfielder. Potential candidates to emerge at outside back include an intriguing junior pair of Elise Weber and Kerry Inglis, both of whom are more than competent leftside players. Weber is a rare transfer to the Notre Dame women's soccer program (after starting the past two years at Wisconsin) while Inglis has played a total of only 224 minutes in her Irish career, due to a chronic ankle injury.
Notre Dame could enjoy the best three-goalkeeper depth in the program's history, with senior Lauren Karas returning as the starter while freshman Nikki Weiss should be in the mix, following a prep All-America career and experience with U.S. youth national team programs.
Notre Dame's 2007 roster includes seven Texas natives - four of them (namely Karas, Hanks and Ford) products of the elite Dallas Texans club - while six others played for the Chicago-based Eclipse Select club that recently has matched the Texans in racking up national titles. Most notably, Bock, Weissenhofer, Clark and Weber all played for the Eclipse before joining the Irish.
Here's a look at the Irish, by position:
Notre Dame's primary 4-3-3 formation in 2006 featured four players who saw significant minutes at forward, with Cinalli playing on the front line in the first half of the season before flipping with Bock and playing mostly as a midfielder for the second half. Most teams would be ecstatic to have even one member of Notre Dame's "fantastic four" - but the Irish have the luxury of sending a diverse group of frontrunners at their opponents, making defensive gameplans a challenge.
"We've always wanted to play an entertaining, and attractive brand of attacking soccer," says Waldrum. "We like to add creative players who have flair. If you have those types of players, the scoring chances will come. We encourage the offensive players to have the freedom to create - and they can be tough to stop when they are clicking as a unit."
Hanks (Allen, Texas) already has compiled a career resume that compares with the top players in women's soccer history. The owner of an assortment of nearly 50 Notre Dame records, she enters 2007 with a career point total (137; 50G-37) that has been bested by only two previous Division I players at the end of their sophomore seasons. As a freshman, Hanks tied the Irish record for goals in a season (28G-15A) and ended up one point shy (71) of tying another team record. And following her rare 20-20 season in 2006 (22G-22A), she joined former UNC great Mia Hamm as the only Division I players ever to finish a season as the national leader in both goals and assists. She is the only Notre Dame player ever to post both a hat trick and a three-assist game during NCAA Tournament play.
"Kerri gets all the recognition for scoring goals and she's been a pure goalscorer all her life," says Waldrum. "But what also should be realized is the fact that she always is playing with those expectations and a lot of pressure. Her role simply is to score goals - and that's why she takes such great pride and responsibility in always trying to improve her game.
"I've said it before, but one of the subtle aspects to Kerri's play is her uncanny ability to maneuver around the field and always put herself into the right place. She grew up a soccer junkie, watching the game with her father - who played the game back in England. It's really not a surprise that she has evolved into such a dominating player."
Cinalli (Maple Heights, Ohio) - who joins K.T. Sullivan ('88) and Lorenzen ('06) as the program's only solo captains - has developed into one of the nation's top attacking players, as seen by her inclusion on the Hermann Trophy preseason watch list. A second team all-region selection in 2006, Cinalli will be looking to close her career with a fourth straight all-BIG EAST season (a feat turned in by only four previous Irish players). She has yet to miss a game (79 GP/68 GS) and is just four assists shy of becoming the program's 12th all-time player with 30-plus career goals and 30-plus assists (31G-26A; with her 17A in 2005 ranking fifth in the nation that season).
"Amanda is our most technically-gifted player and one of the most complete players we've ever had. More importantly, if you looked up `team player' in the dictionary, it would have a picture of her - because of all she does on and off the field" says Waldrum. "She is an emerging leader and has all the personality traits you'd want in someone who represents Notre Dame."
Cinalli was honored by the Notre Dame athletics department as a 2007 recipient of the Francis Patrick O'Connor Award, presented in recognition of traits such as inspiration and team spirit. The perennial double-digit goalscorer (11G-4A in '06) - who already ranks sixth on the Notre Dame list for career NCAA Tournament points (18; 8G-2A) - could break Buczkowski's team record for career games played (103).
"Amanda has been overshadowed in her career by some of her teammates, but she is a driven competitor who does so many little things vital to our success," adds Waldrum. "She is so effective shielding for possession, is tough to knock off the ball and can make quick turns to lose her defender - just a player with a great workrate who creates so much off the dribble."
The leftfooted Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill.) thrilled fans - at home and on the road - throughout the 2006 season, due to her exciting play highlighted by a flip throw-in that she can sail with accuracy to the back post. Named the 2006 Soccer America national freshman of the year and a second team all-region player, Weissenhofer also collected first team all-BIG EAST Conference honors and was named conference rookie of the year, en route to totaling the second-most points (53) in the nation (her 17 assists also were second behind Hanks while her 18 goals ranked sixth in the nation).
Following that impressive freshman season, Weissenhofer was called into various youth national-team events and ultimately joined Cinalli on the U-21 team that won the Nordic Cup in Finland. The 5-foot-4 sparkplug was one of the three youngest players (rising sophomores) on that elite 18-player squad and scored on a header to cap the final win over Germany (4-0).
"Michele had no previous involvement with youth national teams but she now is starting to cash in her tremendous upside," says Waldrum. "She is a very competitive player who combines deceptive speed and strength.
"With such a tenacious workrate, Michele has that toughness to absorb harassing defenses. She also can pull goals out of thin air, with the power to score from all sorts of angles. One thing we're hoping to improve is her overall fitness, so she can become more of a 90-minute player."
Weissenhofer played alongside Clark on two national-title teams with the Eclipse and was the top scorer (26 goals) for Neuqua Valley High School's team that won the 2006 Illinois state title (Clark and Bock also were key members of that squad). Her first season with the Irish produced the fifth-most points ever by a Notre Dame freshman (53) and she either scored (5) or assisted (6) on 11 game-winning goals while setting the Irish record for GWGs in one postseason (4). Weissenhofer also became just the third Notre Dame freshman ever to post a hat trick in the NCAAs, in the quarterfinal round against 8th-ranked Penn State (4-0).
Senior Susan Pinnick (South Bend, Ind.) will be looking to rediscover her offensive productivity from 2005 (7G-3A, in 24 GP), when she combined with former players Maggie Manning and Lizzie Reed for a strong second wave of forwards that quickly put games out of reach. With two years of eligibility remaining - due to injuries suffered in a 2004 summer van accident with her club team - the local product will be focused on closing her career with two strong seasons.
"Susan made an inspiring return from the accident and you can see the passion she has for the game," says Waldrum of Pinnick, who totaled 2G-6A while appearing in all but one game of the 2006 season (with three starts).
"She always has been a tireless competitor who is so tough running at the defense and using moves to create or spin out of trouble. Susan is coming off a great spring and is looking to improve her finishing while also creating more chances for her teammates. She again could be used as an attacking midfielder if needed and in general could help make our offense even more efficient."
Freshman Rose Augustin (Silver Lake, Ohio) could add yet another dimension to the attack. The prep All-American was named state player of the year at Walsh Jesuit High School while finishing her career as that school's third-leading career scorer (152 pts; 52G-48A). Augustin already has plenty of experience competing alongside college players, after spending the past three summers with the W-League's Cleveland Internationals (featuring her future ND teammates Cinalli and Rosen).
"Rose is so strong on the ball, what we would call very `clean' from a technical standpoint," says Waldrum. "She is a poised player who can deliver passes and shots with either foot. Rose also is very coachable and has a deep understanding of soccer tactics. She needs to boost her workrate but she should have a quick impact, possibly at times as an attacking midfielder."
Augustin and fellow freshman frontrunner Taylor Knaack (Arlington, Texas) both should benefit from the unique experience of attending classes and living on-campus at Notre Dame during the 2007 summer session, as part of the early-entry program (Bock was the program's first to do so in the summer of '05, followed by Clark and Weissenhofer in '06). Knaack - who twice advanced to nationals (final-four) with her Dallas Texans squad - was expected to make a big push for playing time before suffering an ACL knee injury in the spring.
"Taylor is a very athletic and quick forward who is constantly in motion and very good running at people with the ball. She is a creative playmaker who can put herself in position to score a lot of goals," says Waldrum. "Taylor needs to improve playing with her back to the goal and get more efficient in her scoring, but she will be a great complement to our other forwards - most of whom will be back in 2008. She is making quick strides in her rehab and we will be excited to add her to the lineup, most likely not until the 2008 spring season."
Notre Dame boasted a veteran 2006 midfield but that unit likely will feature two new starters (one, if Cinalli drops back) in 2007. Gone are the skilled duo of longtime teammates Buczkowski and Krivacek, who combined for 198 career games played and 169 starts.
Bock (Naperville, Ill.) - whose midseason positional flip with Cinalli sparked the 2006 Irish offense - likely will be featured in 2007 at her traditional midfield role. As Notre Dame's top all-around offensive player, Bock could be primed for a blockbuster season after earning NSCAA second team all-region and second team all-BIG EAST honors as a sophomore. She finished third on the 2006 team in scoring with 31 points (12G-7A) while tying for the team lead with six game-winning goals. Her 15 points (6G-3A) in the nine postseason games included four goals scored on headers, to go along with three other header goals in the 2006 regular season.
A member of various U.S. youth national teams throughout her career, Bock was one of the top players for the U.S. side that competed in Russia at the 2006 U-20 World Championship. She even had the chance to join Hanks at a full National Team camp shortly after the end of the 2006 college season.
"Brittany is a classic multi-dimensional player whose most special attribute may be her play in the air - you won't find a better player in the nation when it comes to that," says Waldrum of Bock, who impressively has scored half of her career goals (12 of 24) on headers, to go along with four rare header assists during her career.
"She is fearless when leaving her feet, whether it be going strong over an opposing player or having the courage to dive low where you might get kicked in the face."
The 5-foot-9 Bock has a wide-reaching soccer resume that includes playing for various elite youth teams, many times competing with players several years older than her (and even playing on the Chicago Magic boys club team in 2004). Her first year with the Irish produced one of the highest point totals (33; 12G-9A) ever by a Notre Dame freshman midfielder.
"Brittany has a very unique body type - physical, yet highly technical - to go along with a tremendous understanding of the game's tactics," adds Waldrum. "She is great off the dribble and can spring teammates with a wide assortment of passes, in addition to having a rocket shot. Brittany continues to mature into the college game and I think she will take that next step in becoming an elite-level midfielder."
Rosen (Brecksville, Ohio) - who again could see some time as a forward target player - will be looking to shake the lingering effects of a foot injury that sidelined her for seven games early in the 2006 season. A prep All-American and founding member of the U.S. U-17 National Team program (alongside Cinalli and Pinnick), Rosen got the most out of both her goals in 2006 - as one proved to be the gamewinner at 9th-ranked Villanova (4-2) while the other was blasted from 20 yards out to open the scoring in the NCAA semifinal win over 5th-ranked Florida State (2-1). She added four assists in '06 while making five starts among her 20 games played.
"People were not able to see Courtney at her best, due to the injury, but she is a very talented and creative player who combines great soccer ability with a classic `soccer brain'," says Waldrum.
"Courtney is well-suited to our attacking midfielder role, due to her comfort level on the ball and field vision. She also is physically strong and can crack her shot like nobody else on the team. It will be key to have her healthy on a consistent basis and we hope to improve her fitness level as a 90-minute player."
Mendoza (Garland, Texas) had a minimal impact on the deep midfield in her first two seasons (1G-1A; 33 GP/4 HS) but the Mexican national teamer is expected to make a more significant impact in 2007 - following a strong spring season in which she graded out as Notre Dame's most improved player. Mendoza's specialty lies in her clever play on the ball and a steady focus on the key possession game.
"Becca has taken care of herself physically and that higher fitness level has led to extended playing time," says Waldrum. "She is so good with the ball and can help your team keep possession while creating quality offensive buildup.
"We want her to become more of a physical presence but she has worked on that area while also improving her play in the air and her toughness. We're excited about Becca's development and she will play a unique role for our midfield this season."
Fowlkes (Lee's Summit, Mo.) could single-handedly help lessen the midfield's graduation losses - due to a combination of skills that make her seemingly a hybrid of Buczkowski and Krivacek.
"Lauren's size, physical presence and defensive skills will remind fans of Jill Krivacek, but she also plays with the finesse and creativity of Buczkowski," says Waldrum.
"We could have a dilemma in terms of where to play Lauren, due to her great versatility. She sees the game very well, has a great touch on the ball and makes her teammates better, due to a composed demeanor and solid leadership. We expect great things from Lauren throughout her career."
Fowlkes is one of many Notre Dame players with youth national championships on their soccer resume, after scoring the decisive goal that gave the Kansas City Dynamos the 2001 U-14 national title (the first ever for a team from Kansas). She also earned Missouri state player-of-the-year honors while helping St. Teresa's Academy win a pair of state titles.
Another freshman, Brittany Johnson (Pleasant Prairie, Wis.), brings a similar size element to the midfield due to her 5-10 frame. As captain of the Eclipse Select team that won the 2006 U-17 national title, Johnson displayed the leadership and all-around skills that should mesh well with Notre Dame's system.
"Brittany Johnson also reminds us of Krivacek in several ways, due to her size, body type, quickness in tight spaces, ability to maintain possession under pressure and the vision to find others with her passing. She also is a strong technical player and in general should be in the mix of the midfield, where playing time will be at a premium," says Waldrum.
Sophomore Micaela Alvarez (Cranbury, N.J.) was Notre Dame's top walk-on addition in 2006 but she missed the entire season due to summer ACL surgery. Alvarez returned to play all five games in the 2007 spring season while making steady progress in returning to the form that saw her star for the New Jersey ODP team and the Parsippany Mischief club.
"Micaela is a skillful player with great field vision," says Waldrum. "We want to improve her quickness and mobility by getting her more touches in the midfield. Micaela has a great personality and has molded well into the team, even though she missed all of last fall. She could help us this year if her fitness level and full return from the injury are in order."
Freshman Erica Iantorno (Hinsdale, Ill.) - a teammate of Johnson's on the 2006 national championship Eclipse team - has played all over the field during her club-soccer career but likely will serve as a midfielder with the Irish.
"Erica is a very consistent and competitive player who does a great job keeping her play simple and on-task," says Waldrum. "She started as a forward with the Eclipse, then played as an outside back - and we might even end up trying her at a number of positions in order to get her more playing time."
The departed defensive standouts - Krivacek, Lorenzen and Shaner - will be sorely missed for their all-around talent level and leadership, plus an unquestioned physical presence.
"We are going to be talented in the back but thin on experience, and we will need some players to help set the tone," says Waldrum. "Over the past few years, our defensive players have taken a lot of pride in allowing very few shots on goal. We know the current players - veterans and newcomers - will help maintain that tradition of defensive pride and setting of the physical tone."
The 5-foot-9 Dew (Encinitas, Calif.) - who joined Bock in starring for the U.S. at the 2006 U-20 World Championship - has become the leader of the relatively young defensive unit, with her former state ODP teammate Jones set for a possible return to the midfield. Viewed by many as one of the top young central defenders in the world, Dew will be looking to get back on track as she completes rehabilitation from a knee injury suffered in a lateseason 2006 makeup game.
Despite missing all of the 2006 postseason, Dew was named BIG EAST defensive player of the year and first team all-region honors while being included on the Hermann Trophy watch list. She joined recent All-America right back Candace Chapman as the only Notre Dame players to receive a BIG EAST offensive or defensive player-of-the-year award as a sophomore.
"Carrie has tremendous composure and is very good with the ball, something you typically don't see with a central back. She is comfortable with pressure, reads the game well and can playmake with excellent distribution out of the back. On top of that, Carrie has the physical presence, is a great tackler and is dominant in the air. She's the whole package," says Waldrum of Dew, who scored five goals and added an assist while appearing in 39 games during her first two seasons (37 starts, including all 25 games of her freshman season while leading the team with 2,097 minutes played).
"It may take a couple weeks for Carrie to get her quickness and explosiveness back, as she catches up in her fitness and works out the rust. But we really see her as an emerging leader and our next great central defender."
Jones (Westlake Village, Calif.) is among the leading candidates for the 2007 Division I women's soccer Academic All-American of the Year honor, thanks to her 3.975 cumulative GPA as an accounting major. Her first three years at Notre Dame included four 4.0 semesters, 26 A grades and a pair of A-minuses.
The converted midfielder can play effectively on either side due to her strong left foot. She appeared in all 79 games of the 2004-06 seasons (41 GS; 4G-10A) and heads into 2007 as one of the leading members of the nation's winningest senior class, after starting 25 games for the 2006 NCAA runner-up squad (2G-5A).
"Ashley was slowed by injuries in the spring but should be back up to speed, allowing us to use her at either outside back spot or in the midfield," says Waldrum of Jones, who was one of only three non-seniors to receive 2006 first team Academic All-America honors.
"With Ashley, we always are going to get a smart and focused player, and a tireless worker who leaves it all out on the field. She is a great competitor and rock-solid individual in all aspects of her life."
The 5-foot-9 Ford (Midland, Texas) appeared in all 27 games as a freshman, with several of her 14 starts coming early as an outside back. The former captain of the Dallas Texans 2006 national champions then stepped into Dew's spot for all of the nine-game postseason run, making steady progress while playing with veteran poise.
"Haley flew under the radar in the recruiting process but we always were very high on her and felt she was a great fit for our system," says Waldrum, in reference to the player who spent many years commuting nearly 12 hours roundtrip to train with clubs in the Dallas area.
"She is very good on the ball and in the air, with deceptive speed and able to chase down opponents with her long strides. Haley also is much stronger than she looks - she is a tough marker and tackler who is hard to beat due to her combination of skills. On top of everything else, she is a very bright kid and mature beyond her years.
"Haley was our best defender at the College Cup final weekend, going against great players from Florida State and UNC. The weeks before that, Colorado and Penn State hardly had any chances, in large part due to Haley's great play. We expect great things from her over the next three years."
The versatile, hard-nosed Clark (Naperville, Ill.) likewise appeared in all 27 of the 2006 games, with 14 spot starts including stints at center back, defensive midfield and right back (highlighted by starts in the first three NCAA Tournament games). A prep All-American who captained the Eclipse to a pair of national titles (in addition to serving as captain for Neuqua Valley's 2006 state-title team), Clark quickly has become Notre Dame's defensive enforcer.
"There's no question that Amanda Clark brings intensity and toughness to the team. In training, we have to calm her down - because she just sees the ball, hunts and seeks," says Waldrum. "Every team needs a player who can be disruptive to the opposition. She is a 'lunchpail' type of player who won't get the limelight, but her intensity even helps make her teammates better prepared for the weekend battles.
"We likely will continue to use Claek on the back line and at defensive midfielder. She has improved on the ball and still needs to become cleaner in her technical ability - but her physical presence and defensive impact are invaluable."
The junior duo of Weber and Inglis could step into key roles at the outside back positions.
Weber (Elk Grove, Ill.) is yet another product of the Eclipse (she helped her 2006 team reach the national title game) and thus has familiarity with some of her new teammates. She also played one season as a prep alongside Johnson while helping St. Viator High School (Arlington Hts., Ill.) win three state titles. Weber's ties to Notre Dame even include playing at Wisconsin with Marissa Sarkesian (sister of former ND midfielder/captain Mia Sarkesian) while her own sister, Laura Weber, recently played BIG EAST soccer at Marquette.
A two-year starter at Wisconsin who served mostly as a flank midfielder, Weber is seen as a natural to convert to outside back. She totaled 8G-6A in her two seasons with the Badgers while playing in all 43 games (38 starts) and being named the team's 2005 freshman of the year.
"Elise should fit well into our system, due to her attacking flair and ability to take on opponents in wide areas," says Waldrum. "She has great athleticism and pace, and is a tenacious player to add to the outside back mix.
"We don't often add transfers and it only made sense if she had the ability to contribute right away. Our players were supportive of adding Elise and the Chicago kids thought she would be a great fit due to her playing style and personality."
Inglis (Fort Wayne, Ind.) will be hoping for a change of fortune, after seeing her first two years hampered by a nagging ankle injury that has required multiple surgeries. A prep All-American who was the second all-time leading scorer at Snider High School (84G-47A), Inglis played as a reserve during eight games in the second half of the 2005 season but she did not see any game action as a sophomore and likewise was sidelined for the 2007 spring and summer seasons. She was cleared to resume playing late in the summer of '07 and started training for a couple weeks with her hometown Fort Wayne Fever of the W-League.
"We all feel bad for Kerry and what she has gone through with the injury, and hopefully she can put that all behind her while becoming a great contributor for the team," says Waldrum of Inglis, who earlier showed she could play at a high level alongside collegiate-level competition, with both the Fort Wayne Fever (summer 2004) and the WPSL's F.C. Indiana (summer '05).
"Kerry played very well as an outside back with the Fever and F.C. Indiana - and we'd love to see how she does in our system. She is very skillful with the ball and provides great service from either flank. If fully healthy, Kerry could help eliminate a lot of our concerns at outside back."
Freshmen Stephanie Sohn and Julie Scheidler could play key roles in the 2007 defense, with Sohn able to play anywhere on the back line while Scheidler is more suited for outside back (or even midfield).
Sohn (Ronkonkoma, N.Y./Sachem High School East) - a member of the U-17 National Team player pool and captain of the Eastern New York team that won the 2005 ODP national title - is smaller than most of Notre Dame's recent center backs, but she makes up for that with excellent positioning and tactical discipline.
"Stephanie is a very smart player who maintains her defensive shape, which is very important in our system. She reads the game very well, rarely is caught out of position, makes good decisions and is very coachable. She basically plays very simple and within both herself and the system," says Waldrum of Sohn, who nearly led her Albertson Fury club team to the 2007 Region I title and earlier played for the Long Island-based ISA Magic.
"You have to watch Stephanie over time to truly appreciate her. We have so many highlight-type players but she is one who will do all the `dirty' work while others get the spotlight. She reminds us of Kimmy Lorenzen when she was starting her career - and we certainly hope Stephanie can have the type of impact over her four years."
Scheidler (Indianapolis, Ind.) stayed in state to play for the Irish while following in the footsteps of 12 direct relatives who have attended Notre Dame (plus eight more at nearby Saint Mary's). A prep All-American who is noted for her strong technical play and service from the flanks, Scheidler was the Indiana state player of the year as a senior while setting the school record for career points at Bishop Chatard High School (183; 73G-37A) and starring for the Carmel Crossfire club team.
"Julie has tremendous athleticism and loves to get forward from the outside back position, which is a key part of our attacking mentality. She also is very talented on the ball and has a strong desire to learn, as a true student of the game. Julie appears ready to make the transition and could help us a lot this season," says Waldrum.
Notre Dame's returning defenders include two sophomore outside backs - Ashley Galovic (Plano, Texas) and Rachel VanderGenutgen (Schererville, Ind.) - who both found themselves in Frisco, Texas, competing for different youth club titles at USYS nationals (summer 2007). Galovic's Solar Soccer Club advanced to the Under-18 nationals (after claiming the Solar program's first Region III title) while VanderGenutgen and her Carmel Cyclones club had the special thrill of winning the Under-19 national title.
"Ashley is an athletic and quick player who could become a good contributor, with key improvements," says Waldrum of Galovic, who appeared in seven games during the 2006 season.
"She has great upside but we want Ashley to become more physical, improve her tackling and make better decisions with the ball. In our system, the outside backs have to be able to handle the ball effectively."
VanderGenutgen played in six games as a freshman while battling a nagging foot injury that also hampered her in the spring and has required multiple surgeries.
"Rachel's status with the injury is a big question and we have not been able to see her in many games. She has ground to make up but we know she has the athleticism, competitiveness and quality club experience to be an effective college player," says Waldrum.
The Irish also added a veteran walk-on - fifth-year senior Jennie Bireley (Plano, Texas) - following her solid play in the 2007 spring season. A high school teammate of recent ND midfielder Claire Gallerano (with powerhouse Ursuline Academy), Bireley logged 19 total games in two seasons at Iowa State before playing in 2005 at the University of Texas-Dallas. She transferred to Notre Dame in the 2006 fall semester and converted from midfielder to outside back during what amounted to a tryout with the Irish in the 2007 spring season.
"Jennie has the skill and understanding of the game, plus she has a strong left foot and we always are in need of players at left back," says Waldrum of Bireley, who was an all-state performer as a prep and played for the Andromeda club.
"The biggest thing for Jennie will be putting the work in so she can catch up to college soccer at this level. She will need to continue developing in our system and work on her ability to get forward from the outside back position."
Early indications projected that all three 'keepers were in the running for the starting spot, with Karas possibly owning the slight edge.
"We will use the preseason and possibly the first couple weeks of the season to evaluate the goalkeeper situation," says Waldrum. "We are excited to have great depth at the position and ultimately will go with the 'keeper who is performing most consistently, in both training and game situations."
The 5-foot-9 Karas (Flower Mound, Texas) - whose 0.55 career goals-against average puts her on pace to challenge the Irish record held by fellow Texas native Liz Wagner (0.57) - should benefit from three years of college experience, including a 2006 season that saw her log nearly 90 percent of the minutes while ranking fourth among the nation's GAA leaders (0.41; third in ND history) and tying the program record for solo shutouts in one season (13; with 11 goals allowed and 46 saves). Her 24-1-1 record in '06 produced the best single-season win percentage ever by a Notre Dame goalkeeper (.942).
Karas bookended a pair of 483-minute shutout streaks around the middle of the 2006 season and allowed multiple goals only twice (never more than two). Her top games included a career-best nine saves versus fellow top-ranked team Santa Clara and a strong second half to hold off 5th-ranked Florida State in the NCAA semifinals (2-1).
"Lauren has been battle-tested versus some top teams and has some quality performances in those games. She reported this year to preseason at a top fitness level and could be poised for a strong final season," says Waldrum of Karas, whose 36-2-1 career record (in 52 GP/39 GS) represents a .936 win percentage that would best Jen Renola's record of .903 (87-8-3).
"We say this every year: the key for all goalkeepers is consistency. Lauren has all of the tools - shot-stopping, reaction time, handling the ball with her feet and vocal leadership - and she could be on the verge of being one of the nation's top 'keepers."
Sophomore Kelsey Lysander (San Diego, Calif.) also returns after logging 281 minutes in a rookie season that included two starts among her eight appearances (0.32 GAA, 4 SV, 1 GA). The 5-foot-10 'keeper was a prep All-American and gained quality club experience with her San Diego Surf squad that advanced to the 2006 nationals.
"Kelsey has great athleticism but needs to complement that with mental toughness and consistency," says Waldrum. "I'd be disappointed if she does not make a strong push to play this year. Kelsey has a great body type for the position and is a hard worker. She had a strong spring and I would look for her to keep making that steady progress this fall."
The 5-foot-11 Weiss (Redding, Conn.) appears to have the combination of skills to step directly into the college game. A prep All-American who was a four-time state champion at Immaculate High School and three-time state champ with the CUFC Wolves club, Weiss is a former member of the U.S. U-15 National Team and recently played in Brazil with the ODP Region I team. Her dominance at the 2006 high school state tournament was verified when she was named MVP of that event, a rarity for the goalkeeper position.
"Nikki is a tremendous athlete with an imposing presence and the ability to dominate the 18-yard box," says Waldrum of Weiss, who also was an all-state basketball player. "She has great potential and we expect Nikki to make a push to crack the lineup. Like all young players, she will have areas to adjust o the college game - namely in dealing with crosses and reading the speed of the game."
Notre Dame Women's Soccer 2007 Quick Facts Capsule
2006 Records - 25-1-1 (NCAA runner-up; BIG EAST regular-season champions/10-0-1 and tournament champions)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 16/8 (7 starters returning) ... returners scored 87% of team's goals in 2006 (74 of 85)
#2 Kerri Hanks (F; Jr.; Allen, TX) - '06: 22G-22A (66 pts), 27 GS ... career: 50G-37A (137 pts), 12 GWG, 12 GWA, 52 GS ... '06 national player of the year (Hermann Trophy), one of five finalists for ESPN "ESPY" (top female college athlete) ... joined Mia Hamm (UNC, in '92) as only D-I players ever to finish season as national leader in goals and assists ... her 137 career pts are 3rd-most ever by D-I player in freshman/sophomore seasons ... owns/shares 47 ND records, including career pts/gm (2.64) and goals/gm (0.96), points in one NCAA Tournament (16/4G-8A, '06) and goals in a game (4) ... ranked 3rd nationally with 28 goals in '05 (tied ND record; her 71 pts were one shy of ND record) ... top scorer in '04 with U-19 national team (12G-2A, 12 GP), also has played with U.S. U-21s ... '04 signee who did not play for ND in '04 due to U-19 World Championship ... earned USYS Golden Boot Award with Dallas Texans '03 national champs and '05 runner-up.
#7 Amanda Cinalli (F/M, Sr.; Maple Hts., OH) - '06: 11G-4A (26 pts), 27 GP/24 GS ... career: 31G-26A (88 pts), 9 GWG, 79 GP/76 GS ... clever frontrunner with scoring flair ... her strong play after shifting to midfield sparked team in second half of '06 ... three-time all-BIG EAST pick (1st team '04; 3rd team '05; 2nd team '06) ... member of U-21 National Team ('06 Nordic Cup runner-up and '07 champs) ... 19th on ND career points list (88), needs 4A to become 12th with 30G-30A ... clutch player with most postseason first goals (6) in ND history ... ranked 5th among '06 BIG EAST players in goals (11), 7th in pts (26) ... national player of the week after 2G-1A in '06 comeback over fellow #1 Santa Clara (3-1) ... 5th among nation's '05 assist leaders (17), also 3rd that season in BIG EAST with 37 pts (10G) ... leader of nation's winningest senior class (72-5-2/.924; '04-'06).
#10 Brittany Bock (M, Jr.; Naperville, IL) - '06: 12G-7A (31 pts), 22 GP/19 GS ... career: 24G-16A (64 pts), 6 GWG, 46 GP/36 GS ... combines physical play with great poise on the ball and passing ability, plus rocket shot and domination in the air (12 career goals on headers, plus four rare header assists) ... longtime member of U.S. youth soccer national teams (currently U-21s) ... NSCAA second team all-region in 2006 ... second team all-BIG EAST in '05 (12G-9A, 24 GP/17 GS) and '06 ... already 10th at ND in career postseason points (27/10G-7A) ... Academic All-America candidate (3.24 cumulative GPA; marketing major).
#17 Carrie Dew (D, Jr.; Encinitas, CA) - '06: 2G-1A (5 pts), 14 GP/12 GS (injured) ... career: 5G-1A (11 pts), 3 GWG, 39 GP/37 GS ... 5-foot-9 player with strong play in the air ... one of world's top young defenders who will be looking to return from ACL knee injury ... starting center back with U.S. Under-20 National Team that played in Russia at the 2006 U-20 World Championship (current U-21 player) ... '06 honors included BIG EAST defensive player of the year (also one of 33 named to midseason Hermann Trophy watch list) ... '05 honorable mention all-BIG EAST pick (led team with 2,097 minutes /avg. 84 per game; started all 25) ... won national titles as captain with San Diego Surf and Cal-South ODP team.
#11 Michele Weissenhofer (F, So.; Naperville, IL) - '06: 18G-17A (53 pts), 5 GWG, 6 GWA, 27 GP/23 GS ... exciting presence with equal ability as a scorer and setup player (including highly effective "flip" style throw-in) ... named 2006 national freshman of the year (Soccer America) and first team all-BIG EAST (also conference rookie of the year) ... finished behind only her teammate Hanks among nation's points leaders (53; also 2nd to Hanks in assists and 6th in goals) ... current member of U.S. U-21 National Team ('07 Nordic Cup champs) ... first ND player ever to score four GWGs in one postseason ... third ND freshman ever to post a hat trick in the NCAAs (vs. #8 Penn State) ... prep All-American who was top scorer for Eclipse Select club (two-time national champs).
Lauren Fowlkes (M, Fr.; Lee's Summit, MO) - 5-11 standout with great field vision, technical ability, playmaking and leadership ... prep All-American, member of U.S. U-17 National Team ... helped K.C. Dynamos win '01 national title ... 38G-14A in career at St. Teresa's Academy ('05 and '06 state champs).
Nikki Weiss (G, Fr.; Redding, CT) - athletic competitor who can dominate penalty area ... imposing presence (5-11) with strong technical skills ... prep All-American and member of U.S. U-15 National Team ... led CUFC Wolves club to three state titles ... four-time state champ at Immaculate HS (no goals allowed in '05/'06 postseasons).
Elise Weber (D, Jr.; Elk Grove, IL) - transfer who was two-year starter at Wisconsin (8G-5A; 43 GP/38 GS) ... top candidate at outside back ... national runner-up with Eclipse Select ('06) ... three-time state champ at St. Viator Academy.
Top Players Lost (all seniors):
Jen Buczkowski (M) - composed central midfielder who directed dominating possession ... '06: 1G-13A (15 pts), 27 GP/26 GS ... career: 20G-37A (77 pts), 6 GWG, 103 GP (ND record)/97 GS ... three -year All-American ... among final-15 candidates for Hermann Trophy in '05 and '06 ... U.S. U-21 National Team ... led class with 92-8-3 career record.
Christie Shaner (D) - strong tackling presence who split time at left and central back ...'06: 1A, 25 GP/23 GS ... career: 3G-9A (15 pts), 100 GP (4th ND history)/90 GS ... four-time all-BIG EAST selection.
Jill Krivacek (M) - 5-foot-10 defensive midfielder ... '06: 5G-6A (16 pts), 27 GP/24 GS ... career: 10G-15A (35 pts), 5 GWG, 95 GP/65 GS ... named to midseason Hermann Trophy watch list ('06) ... NSCAA second team all-region ('06), third team all-BIG EAST ('04) ... defensive MVP of '05 BIG EAST Championship.
Kim Lorenzen (D) - defensive leader as four-year starter at right/center back ... '06: 26 GS ... career: 3G-11A (17 pts), 95 GP/85 GS ... '06 team captain ... defensive MVP of 2006 BIG EAST Championship.