Aug. 29, 2001

Notre Dame’s upcoming KeyBank Classic again will include some of the nation’s top-ranked women’s soccer teams, with the 2001 field to include the fourth-ranked Irish, No. 8 Penn State, 10th-ranked Connecticut and No. 25 Hartford.

The four KeyBank participants combined for a 79-14-4 record in 2000. Three of the teams-Notre Dame, UConn and Penn State-each advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2000 NCAA tournament (ND went on to the semifinals) while Hartford was upset by Harvard in the second round of the 2000 NCAAs.

The tournament opens at Alumni Field on Friday, Aug. 31, with Hartford and UConn playing in the 5:00 p.m. game while ND and PSU will meet at approximately 7:30. The action continues on Sunday, Sept. 2, with the 11:00 a.m. PSU-UConn game to be immediately followed by the ND-Hartford matchup.

Notre Dame returns 13 of its top 18 players from the 2000 squad that posted a 23-1-1 record and advanced to the NCAA semifinals while occupying the No. 1 spot in the national polls for most of the season. Top losses from 2000 include four graduates who were regular members of the starting lineup, among them the 2000 team’s top scorers-midfielder Anne Makinen (the consensus 2000 national player of the year) and forward Meotis Erikson-plus marking backs Kelly Lindsey and Kerri Bakker.

Nine returners have starting experience with the Irish, including four who play in the defensive third: senior goalkeeper Liz Wagner, fifth-year left outside back Monica Gonzalez, senior right back Lindsey Jones and junior marking back Vanessa Pruzinsky.

Senior Mia Sarkesian and junior Ashley Dryer return to Notre Dame’s unique formation of three central-based midfielders, with sophomore Randi Scheller set to fill Makinen’s attacking midfielder role. There are plenty of options at the forward position, with the returners including junior Ali Lovelace and sophomores Amy Warner and Amanda Guertin.

Notre Dame’s freshman class also should make an immediate impact, with versatile players Candace Chapman and Mary Boland expected to contend for starting roles. Chapman has experience at forward and flank midfielder but also could see time as an outside back while Boland has the all-around skill to play forward, midfield or even central back. Freshman Gudrun Gunnarsdottir-who is working back into form after a summer injury-also is a top candidate to fill the open central back spot adjacent to Pruzinsky.

IRISH ON VERGE OF TEAM RECORD FOR HOME WINNING STREAK – A win over Hartford in the 2001 opener would mark Notre Dame’s 27th consecutive home victory-matching the Irish record set from ’92-’95 (fifth in NCAA history) … the Irish have won 94.1 pct. of their games at Alumni Field (118-7-1), including 94-3-1 in the last 98 and an 82-1-0 all-time record at Alumni Field vs. unranked teams (75 straight wins).

FIRST-TIME VISITORS – Since the start of the 1993 season, Notre Dame opponents that were making their first visit to Alumni Field have lost to the Irish 27 times, with one win for the opposition and one tie (Hartford and Penn State both will be making their series debut vs. ND at the KeyBank Classic) … Notre Dame’s all-time record in series openers is 57-23-2 (.707), including 24-3-0 since 1993 and 37-6-0 in series openers played at home (12-1-0 since ’93).

SCOUTING THE HAWKS – Hartford returns 17 of 24 letterwinners-led by junior forward Katharina Lindner, who was a first team All-American in 2000 (when she had four goals and 12 assists) … the Hawks’ top returning scorer is junior midfielder Susie Woodson (14G -3A in 2000) … Hartford posted 10 shutouts last season and was ranked No. 22 in the final 2000 NSCAA coaches poll (17-3-0 overall record), after dropping a 3-0 game to Harvard in the second round of the NCAAs … Hartford, which lost just one starter from its 2000 squad, has qualified for the NCAAs in seven of the last eight seasons and 11 of the last 13 … former Hartford coach Mark Krikorian now is head coach of the Philadelphia Charge in the Women’s United Soccer Association (which just completed its first season).

SCOUTING THE NITTANY LIONS – Penn State returns 18 of 27 letterwinners and nine starters from its 2000 team that went 22-3-1 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals (losing to Portland, 1-0 in OT) … PSU senior forward Christie Welsh is a top candidate for national player of the year (she had 17G-8A last season and was a national player-of-the-year finalist) … the Nittany Lions were the No. 7 seed in the 2000 NCAAs but played at home in the quarterfinals, thanks to Portland’s 1-0 upset of 2nd-seeded Washington … among teams that have played at least seven seasons on the varsity level, Penn State owns the nation’s 7th-best winning percentage since 1990 (.770, 123-34-8), with Notre Dame ranking second on that list (.872, 219-27-12) and Connecticut ranking sixth (.776, 201-55-9) … former PSU coach Patrick Farmer now is head coach of the WUSA’s New York Power.

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES – UConn has been picked to repeat as BIG EAST northeast division champions, returning 18 of 23 letterwinners and eight starters from its 2000 team that went 17-7-2 overall (including a 1-0 NCAA quarterfinal win at Nebraska before losing 3-0 at North Carolina in the semifinals) … the Huskies will be without All-America forward Mary-Francis Monroe, who transferred to UCLA … senior Casey Zimny joined ND’s Vanessa Pruzinsky as the 2001 BIG EAST preseason co-defensive players of the year … Zimny was a member of the U.S. under-21 national team that won the Nordic Cup last summer … senior forward Mary-Beth Bowie joined Zimny on the preseason all-BIG EAST team (Bowie was a member of Canada’s 2000 national team … UConn has added two key transfers, including Jessica Gjertsen (who scored 18 goals at Memphis, as the 2000 Conference USA freshman of the year ) … fifth-year player Ciara McCormack has joined the Huskies after sitting out the 2000 season at Yale due to injury … UConn has advanced to 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, reaching the quarterfinals eighth straight seasons and 15 times overall … UConn and North Carolina are the only schools to make the NCAAs every year since ’82 … Len Tsintaris owns a 344-88-22 career record, ranking second in Division I women’s soccer history.