Oct. 25, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Senior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit) had one against Boston College, and so did sophomore defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels). Freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) had two all by herself. Yet, for all the hard work of these individuals, the best assist from Thursday night's match (and quite possibly the best of the season) was truly a team effort.
Certainly, the 3-1 win over its Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) rival was special for No. 20/12 Notre Dame in terms of its significance in the league standings. However, the goal was much larger for the Fighting Irish players, coaches and fans on Thursday in the regular season home finale at Alumni Stadium, as the Notre Dame women's soccer program looked to help the next generation of athletes half a world away.
The Fighting Irish players stepped onto the pitch for warm-ups in special blue and pink t-shirts with the words "We Play 4 The Girls Who Can't." Just before kickoff, the team disappeared into its locker room, returning in special new white home jerseys, with block "NOTRE DAME" and numbers in the familiar Celtic font in blue and gold accents on the front, along with blue panels on the sides and shoulders.
These jerseys, which were a collaborative effort between the Fighting Irish and the University's official athletics apparel provider, adidas, were unique in that they were worn just for this one match against Boston College. They also would be the centerpieces in an online auction that began on Oct. 3 and continued through noon (ET) Friday through the official Notre Dame athletics web site, UND.com, with the auction proceeds from the autographed game-worn jerseys going to The SEGway Project, a non-profit organization founded by former Notre Dame forward Lindsay Brown ('13) in conjunction with two of her teammates and fellow alums, Courtney Barg ('12) and Liz McNeil ('13).
Through a remarkable combination of grassroots marketing by the Fighting Irish players and coaches, as well as a social media blitz, Notre Dame wound up raising more than $6,300 through its online jersey auction for The SEGway Project, easily exceeding its highest bid total for any similar event in the past for other charities. That figure is even more impressive considering the late flood of bids that came through in the final 24 hours of the auction, with all 33 jerseys (28 players, plus five additional blank uniforms) receiving at least the minimum bid of $50 and no fewer than five jerseys earning bids of more than $300, with a high bid total for one jersey of $915.
The SEGway Project's mission is to use the sport of soccer to empower girls in the developing world. Brown began formulating the concept of her organization after spending time with another non-profit called She's The First, using funds raised from a campus bake sale of tie-dyed cupcakes to help sponsor young girls at the Kopila Valley School in Surkhet, Nepal. Brown would visit those girls in the shadow of the Himalaya Mountains, discovering the oppressed conditions they lived in, and the second-class treatment they received as females in a male-dominated society.
Brown's organization further grew out of her work with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), which was created by former President Bill Clinton to encourage and spark the next generation of leaders on college campuses. Brown also was selected as the 2012 winner of Seventeen Magazine's "Pretty Amazing" Contest, receiving further financial assistance to help get her dream off the ground. She later joined forces with Barg and McNeil, and together, the trio worked to expand The SEGway Project to Africa, focusing on a team at the Kibera Girls' Soccer Academy near Nairobi, Kenya, a squad they hope to bring to the United States for a youth tournament in Minneapolis next summer, thanks to the gracious donations of Fighting Irish fans in this year's online jersey auction.
Speaking of behalf of her fellow SEGway Project founders, Brown was overwhelmed by the support of the Notre Dame women's soccer program and its fan base.
"We are absolutely amazed by the incredible amount of support Notre Dame soccer fans have shown The SEGway Project through the jersey auction," Brown said. "Because of your generosity, 60 girls in Kenya now have the opportunity to step onto the soccer field where they can learn to be leaders, challenge gender barriers and ultimately become empowered to break the cycle of poverty they were born into. Clearly, your support has given these girls so much more than a soccer jersey -- you have given them hope for a better future. As three former Irish soccer players, we would like to thank the coaching staff, players and fans for their continued support on and off the field!"
Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum noted the pride he felt for both his former players and his current team, indicating the Fighting Irish plan to continue working annually to help raise funds for The SEGway Project.
"I'm really excited about the money raised for the jersey auction and The SEGway Project," Waldrum said. "Lindsay has been such an amazing advocate for underprivileged children around the world, and she, Courtney and Liz all have poured their hearts into this organization. The money we've raised will go so far for so many young women to get to actually go to school and play soccer. We take for granted our lifestyles here in the U.S. without realizing that there are so many young children, and girls in particular, that don't get the opportunity to even attend a school.
"I'm really proud of all those who bid on the jerseys as this, by far, is the most we have ever raised," he added. "It's also a charity dear to our program's heart with some of our own alums heading up this worthwhile cause."
For more information on The SEGway Project, including ways you can help support the organization's mission, please visit its web site at www.segwayproject.org.
THAT WINNING FEELING
Waldrum understandably was pleased with his team's performance against Boston College, but also noted there was room to grow.
"We came out with some really good intensity, much more like the Notre Dame teams of years past," he said. "We didn't allow BC to get into any kind of playing rhythm, which is what we try to do all the time. I thought our midfield three were very good last night. Cari (Roccaro) was great in her defensive midfield role, organizing things and breaking up any BC attacks. Mandy (Laddish) and Morgan (Andrews) had one of their better attacking games, creating many chances for us. They defended higher up the field and connected much better with our forwards, which was exactly what we want to try to do. Katie Naughton and Sammy Scofield were really solid in handling (BC's Stephanie) McCaffrey, as she is a handful.
"My only disappointment was again we conceded a late goal, and had we not been up by three, we would have once again had a problem," Waldrum added. "We had a couple of young players that simply let their player run past them into the six-yard box. These mistakes late continue to be a problem for us, and we have to get this corrected."
The Tigers (7-6-4, 4-5-2 ACC) have been one of the feel-good stories in the ACC this season, already having far exceeded their win totals both overall and in conference from all of last year. Clemson also remains firmly in the mix for a top-eight finish in the ACC Championship, currently sitting in ninth place, one point behind Duke and Maryland for entry into the tournament.
Like Notre Dame, Clemson was in action on Thursday evening, dropping a 2-0 decision at No. 5/4 North Carolina. The Tigers battled valiantly all night, creating several opportunities and finding themselves down by just a goal into the final quarter-hour before the Tar Heels iced the match with a second score in the 79th minute.
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