Nov. 1, 2012
HARTFORD, Conn. - Four Notre Dame players received honors during the 2012 BIG EAST Conference Women's Soccer Awards Banquet that was held Thursday night at the Marriott Hartford Downtown in Hartford, Conn.
Freshman forward/midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro (East Islip, N.Y./East Islip) took home three awards on Thursday, most notably the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year trophy, becoming the first Fighting Irish recipient of the award since Melissa Henderson in 2008. Roccaro also was a first-team all-BIG EAST and BIG EAST All-Rookie Team selection, according to a vote of the conference's 15 head coaches.
Freshman defender Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) and freshman forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy) were double honorees on Thursday, with both making the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team in addition to earning all-conference accolades (Thomas was a second-team choice, while Naughton was a third-team selection). Together with Roccaro, they gave Notre Dame three BIG EAST All-Rookie Team picks in the same year for the first time since 2000, when Amanda Guertin, Randi Scheller and Amy Warner represented the Fighting Irish on the BIG EAST's rookie squad.
Rounding out this year's Notre Dame honorees at the BIG EAST awards banquet was junior midfielder/tri-captain Mandy Laddish (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit), who garnered second-team all-conference status for the second consecutive season. As a group, the Fighting Irish had four all-conference selections, their best showing since 2010, when five Notre Dame players took home all-BIG EAST plaques.
Despite missing the first seven matches of the season (along with Laddish) as a member of the victorious United States Under-20 World Cup Team, Roccaro more than proved her value to Fighting Irish fortunes, playing all three field positions at various times in 2012. The Long Island product has started all 11 matches she has played in during her rookie season, registering five goals and an assist. Among those scores was the match-winning goal with 12:47 remaining in Notre Dame's 1-0 victory over Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals on Oct. 28 at Alumni Stadium, making Roccaro the first Fighting Irish freshman to score a goal in the BIG EAST tournament since 2008, when Henderson's golden goal defeated Connecticut in overtime. Coincidentally, Henderson's '08 season was the last time the Fighting Irish had a freshman earn first-team all-BIG EAST recognition.
Naughton has been one of the cornerstones of Notre Dame's blossoming defense, starting all 18 matches she has played in, helping the Fighting Irish hold their opponents to 14 goals all season (a 0.71 goals-against average) while recording nine shutouts. On the offensive end, Naughton has two goals this season, including what proved to be the match-winner in the first half of a 5-1 win over Seton Hall on Oct. 5 at Alumni Stadium.
Thomas has been at the forefront of a balanced Notre Dame offense that features 12 different goal scorers and 16 separate point scorers, including five players with at least five goals. Thomas leads the team and ranks among the top 10 in the BIG EAST in goals (tied-6th/8) and points (tied-8th/18), highlighted by a two-goal effort against Rutgers on Oct. 7 at Alumni Stadium, and a remarkable 40-yard dash against four Louisville defenders, culminating with a twisting 22-yard shot that gave the Fighting Irish the lead it would never relinquish in a nationally-televised 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Sept. 14, also at Alumni Stadium.
Once she returned from the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan, Laddish immediately stepped into the starting lineup for Notre Dame and proved to be a calming veteran presence in the midfield. She has started all 12 matches since her return, scoring one goal (in her second game back against Cincinnati on Sept. 16 at Alumni Stadium) and adding three assists, most recently on Roccaro's match-winning goal against Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals.
No. 25/20 Notre Dame will play No. 15/10 Marquette in the semifinals of the 2012 BIG EAST Championship at noon (ET) Friday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., with the match televised live to a national cable audience by CBS Sports Network. With a win, the Fighting Irish would advance to the conference title match at noon (ET) Sunday, also at Rentschler Field and also on CBS Sports Network (as well as the BIG EAST syndicated regional television package and on-line for free at bigeast.tv).
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