Aug. 17, 2002
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Former Notre Dame forward Monica Gerardo – who ended her career in 1998 as the Irish all-time leader in goals (73) and total points (190) – has found her niche as a second-year midfielder in the Women’s United Soccer Association, with her goal in the 80th minute of Saturday’s semifinal showdown with the Philadelphia Charge sending the Washington Freedom on to next week’s Founder’s Cup championship game. That game will be played at Atlanta’s Herndon Stadium on Sat., Aug. 24, at 4:00 p.m., with PAX television providing a live telecast.
(Note: PAX TV is available on Direct TV channel 255, Dish Network channel 181 and Chicago’s WCPX-DT 43, among others. Consult www.wusa.com/pax for a listing of PAX affiliates, sorted by zip code.)
The Freedom – which finished tied for last in the 2001 standings of the eight-team WUSA – will face the other team that tied for last in 2001, the Carolina Courage, in next weekend’s title game. The regular-season champion Courage converted a penalty kick in the 89th minute and then scored early in overtime to defeat the Atlanta Beat, 2-1, in Saturday’s second semifinal.
Gerardo is one of three former Notre Dame players who play key roles for the Freedom, with defender Jen Grubb serving as the team captain while logging every minute of play in the last two seasons (3,870; with San Jose’s Thori Staples Bryan being the only other player in the league to play every minute of the 2001 and ’02 seasons). Another former Notre Dame All-American, 2000 player of the year Anne Makinen, has been slowed by injuries during her career with the Freedom but played the first half of Saturday’s game at the right-flank midfielder spot.
Gerardo’s fourth goal of the season occurred when midfielder Pu Wei dumped a pass into the penalty area for forward Jacqui Little, who had checked into the game along with Gerardo in the 59th minute. Little collected the ball with her back to the goal and spun to the right endline before slotting a pass to Gerardo, who hammered a seven-yard shot past ‘keeper Melissa Moore and into the left side of the net.
“(Jacqui and I) know that coming in, we have 30-35 minutes to make an impact,” said Gerardo, who checked into a game where the temperature on the field at Villanova Stadium had reached above 100 degrees. “I think we both did that today.”
Clutch postseason goalscoring is nothing new for Gerardo, who led Notre Dame’s 1995 NCAA championship team in scoring as a freshman (20G-11A) while still ranking as the program’s all-time leading scorer in NCAA tournament play (10G-4A) – with her four NCAA gamewinners including the decisive goal vs. Portland in the 1996 NCAA semifinals (3-2, after trailing 2-0). Grubb’s “ironwoman” status also is consistent with her college career, when she tied the Irish record for career games played (100).
Notre Dame again ranks among the college programs with the most players in the WUSA, as nine former Irish players competed in the league’s second season. Goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene (the starter on the U.S. National Team) and defender Kelly Lindsey again were starters with the Bay Area CyberRays, after leading the Rays to the 2001 WUSA title. Former Notre Dame forward Jenny Streiffer (who passed Gerardo as the Irish career scoring leader) just completed her second season with the San Diego Spirit, as did Gerardo’s classmate Shannon Boxx (considered one of the top defensive midfielders in the WUSA). U.S. National Team starter Kate Sobrero again anchored the defense for the Boston Breakers, where she was joined by recent Notre Dame graduate Monica Gonzalez.