Nov. 8, 2007
Notre Dame women's soccer junior Brittany Bock (Naperville, Ill.) has been named the BIG EAST Conference co-offensive player of the year, sharing that honor with West Virginia senior forward Ashley Banks. Bock - a converted midfielder who was shifted to forward midway through the 2007 season - was joined on the all-BIG EAST first team by Irish junior forward Kerri Hanks (Allen, Texas) while junior left back Elise Weber (Elk Grove, Ill.) was a third-team selection.
The BIG EAST has recognized Notre Dame players with the top offensive honor in each of the past four years, as Katie Thorlakson was tabbed for the award in 2004 and '05 while Hanks was the 2006 recipient. This marks the first time in BIG EAST women's soccer history that two different offensive players of the year (Hanks and Bock) are competing on the same team.
Bock's midseason shift to forward sparked the Irish on their current 11-game winning streak, delivering several clutch goals in games when Notre Dame's postseason fate was hanging in the balance. She was named national player of the week in consecutive weeks (for Oct. 1-7 and 8-14), after totaling four goals and an assist in each of those weeks. In the 3-1 win at Syracuse on Oct. 5, Bock became the sixth Notre Dame player ever to score the first three goals in a game. Her five-game goal streak from Sept. 30-Oct. 14 is the longest by an Irish player this season. Two days after that goal streak ended, Bock scored one of the most important goals of the season - heading in a left-flank service from Weber for the 2-1 overtime win over 13th-ranked Connecticut.
Bock - who did not play in last week's BIG EAST quarterfinal win over Rutgers (due to a minor injury) - led the BIG EAST during the regular season with 10 goals in league action while her 23 points in BIG EAST play (10G-3A) narrowly trailed Hanks (25) and Banks (24). Bock currently ranks third in the BIG EAST with 11 toal goals, behind Banks (13) and Hanks (12). Her team-best five gamewinning goals are tied for the most by a BIG EAST player this season (as are her 4 GWGs in league play).
Notre Dame's early forecasts for the 2007 season included plenty of depth at the forward position, but that depth gradually eroded due to injuries suffered by several players (including former all-BIG EAST selections Amanda Cinalli and Michele Weissenhofer). Promising incoming freshman Taylor Knaack was injured late in her club season during the spring of '07 and has missed all of the current season following ACL knee surgery. Cinalli suffered a hamstring injury in late September and the senior captain only recently returned to her stellar all-around form, after missing five games and playing on a limited basis in several others. Weissenhofer - the team's flip-throw specialist who ranked second behind Hanks among the nation's 2006 scoring leaders (18G-17A) - has been slowed for most of the season by an ankle injury suffered in mid-September.
Even the early hamstring injury suffered by sophomore center back Haley Ford (who has been sidelined for 15 straight games) has impacted the Notre Dame attack, as freshman Lauren Fowlkes (a natural midfielder) logged some quality minutes as a forward during the first few weeks of the season. Instead, Fowlkes has spent the past 13 games as one of the starting center backs, taking her own scoring prowess out of the equation for the Notre Dame offense.
With Weissenhofer (4), Cinalli (3) and Fowlkes (2) combining for only nine goals all season, Bock's timely scoring in the second half of the season has taken on even greater significance. During Notre Dame's 3-4-1 start to the season (with Bock playing primarily at her natural midfield spot), the Irish were outscored 15-14 and were outshot in three of those eight games while trailing for 157 minutes (22% of the time). Bock's full-time switch to forward coincided with the second game of the win streak (Sept. 30, vs. Cincinnati) and has helped produce the dominating six-week stretch that has seen the Irish rattle off 11 straight wins. Notre Dame owns a 36-5 scoring edge during the win streak, has not been outshot in any of those games and has trailed for only 72 minutes (7% of the time) since losing to Penn State on Sept. 23.
Bock followed up her hat trick at Syracuse by posting a goal and assist later that weekend in the 3-0 win at St. John's. One week later, she turned in a pair of two-goal games in wins over Villanova (5-0) and Georgetown (3-0), adding an assist versus the Wildcats for her second straight nine-point week (4G-1A in each). Nearly half of Bock's goals this season (5 of 11) and in her career (17 of 35) have come on headers, in addition to four rare header assists during her three seasons with the Irish. She is on the verge of reaching the 20G-20A milestone for her career (35G-19A, including 3A in '07).
Despite not repeating as BIG EAST offensive player of the year, Hanks did play a key role in her teammate Bock receiving the honor. Hanks (12G-14A) recently became the nation's first player with double-digit goals this season and - as the reigning Hermann Trophy recipient (national player of the year) - typically is the player that opposing defenses try to target, due to her equal danger as a scorer and set-up player. Now, with the heart of the postseason approaching, the Irish boast a pair of potent forwards who present a tough matchup dilemma for any opposing team.
Hanks - one of seven Notre Dame players ever named first team all-BIG EAST in three or more seasons (also '05 and '06) - is one of three players in NCAA Division I women's soccer history ever to reach 50 career goals (62) and 50 assists (51) prior to her senior year while her 36 points are most in the BIG EAST this season. She is riding a 10-game point streak and has scored (2) or assisted (5) on seven of Notre Dame's past nine goals. Her impressive success on set-play/dead-ball situations has included making 4-of-4 penalty kicks while providing three free-kick assists, a pair of free-kick goals, a corner-kick assist and a goal directly off a corner (forging a late tie in the UConn game).
Weber's 10 points (2G-6A; including the cross on Bock's header that Beat UConn in OT) make her one of the top-scoring defenders in the BIG EAST this season and in Notre Dame women's soccer history. A transfer from Wisconsin who was a top flank midfielder with the Badgers, Weber joins Hanks as two of four Irish players to start all 19 games this season. She has played a key role for a Notre Dame defense that has allowed only one opponent to score more than two goals in a game all season. Weber also has helped the Irish allow only five goals in the current win streak while limiting the opposition to 24 shots on goals (2.2/gm) and 20 corner kicks (1.8/gm) during that 11-game span.
Notre Dame and West Virginia now share the most BIG EAST offensive player-of-the-year selections, with four each (UConn and Seton Hall have three). That group does not include former Notre Dame midfielders Cindy Daws and Anne Makinen, who each earned the Hermann Trophy during their senior seasons (1996 and 2000, respectively) but failed to receive BIG EAST player of the year.
Bock was a second team all-BIG EAST pick in her first two seasons with the Irish and will have the chance in 2008 to become the sixth Notre Dame women's soccer player ever to be a four-year all-BIG EAST performer (since ND joined the league in 1995). Players who already own that distinction include defender Jen Grubb (1996-99), Makinen (1997-2000), forward Amy Warner (2000-03), D/F Candace Chapman (2001-02, '04-'05) and defender Christie Shaner (2003-06).
Hanks and Bock join the above five among 15 all-time Notre Dame players who have been named all-BIG EAST three-plus times. The other three-time honorees include: forward Monica Gerardo (1995-96,'98), midfielder Holly Manthei (1995-97), defender Kate Sobrero (1995-97), midfielder Shannon Boxx (1995-97), M/F Jenny Streiffer (1996, '98-'99), goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene (1997-99), midfielder Jen Buczkowski (2004-06) and Cinalli (2004-06).
Hanks joins four-time honorees Grubb and Makinen and four who have been three-time recipients (Manthei, Warner, Chapman and Buczkowski) as the Notre Dame players with the most career first team all-BIG EAST seasons.
Notre Dame now has produced a pair of first team all-BIG EAST forwards in each of the past five seasons, with the other recent dynamic duos including: Hanks and Weissenhofer in '06; Thorlakson and Hanks in '05; Thorlakson and Cinalli in '04; and Warner and Mary Boland in '03.
A total of 25 Notre Dame players now have combined for 48 first team all-BIG EAST honors since '95, with that group including eight defenders combining for 15 first-team awards, four midfielders (13 awards), 11 forwards (17 awards) and two goalkeepers (three awards).