Aug. 22, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Led by former Notre Dame women’s soccer All-Americans Kerri Hanks (`08) and Jen Buczkowski (`07), New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC capped off an amazing run through the inaugural Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) playoffs, winning the first league title with a 1-0 upset win over the WPS regular season champion Los Angeles Sol in the WPS Championship Game, presented by MedImmune, on Saturday afternoon at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Sky Blue FC won all three of its playoff games on the road in an eight-day span, something no league team was able to accomplish during the regular season.
Buczkowski started and played all 90 minutes at center back for Sky Blue FC in each of their three playoff victories, while Hanks started in the first two games before coming off the bench as a second-half substitute in the final against Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, two Fighting Irish alums — Brittany Bock (`09) and Shannon Boxx (`99) — started for Los Angeles in Saturday’s championship game. Bock (a first-round pick by the Sol back in January) opened up at center back and Boxx (a two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist) held down her customary midfield spot before both players moved up into the attack later in the game after Los Angeles went down a goal (Heather O’Reilly in the 17th minute) and then lost a player when Allison Falk was shown a red card 10 minutes later.
Even in defeat, Boxx arguably was the game’s Most Valuable Player, almost singlehandedly battling to bring her team from behind with numerous probing runs and a near-goal that was pushed wide of the left post by Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Jenni Branam in the 71st minute.
Another former Notre Dame player — Christie Shaner (`07) — was on the Los Angeles roster, ironically thanks to a midseason trade with Sky Blue FC. However, she was not able to suit up for this weekend’s final after suffering a season-ending leg injury back in early July.
With five players on the rosters of the two WPS championship game combatants, Notre Dame shared top honors in that category with North Carolina. The BIG EAST Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference also had seven participants each in Saturday’s final, although the BIG EAST actually fielded an eighth player if one counts Los Angeles goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc (who currently serves as an assistant coach at Rutgers).
For the season, the two-time Hermann Trophy-winning forward Hanks (who was traded from Saint Louis Athletica to Sky Blue FC in late June) appeared in 18 games, making eight starts while collecting two goals and one assist. Buczkowski also played in 18 games, starting 10 times.
On the other side of the field, Boxx was chosen as one of the team captains for Los Angeles prior to the season, and proudly carried that mantle of leadership all year long, expertly controlling the pace of play from her defensive midfield position while tallying three goals and three assists in 20 games (19 starts). She also was selected to the WPS All-Star Starting XI and will get the starting nod for the league’s first-ever All-Star Game on Aug. 30 at 5 p.m. (ET), when the WPS All-Stars take on Swedish powerhouse club UMEA IK at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. (Fox Soccer Channel will televise the game live).
In addition, Boxx helped to take Bock under her wing, as the recent Notre Dame graduate and two-time All-American blossomed into a versatile and valuable member of the Sol’s starting lineup, playing at all three field positions during the season. Although primarily seeing time at center back (a position she didn’t play in college), Bock registered two goals and also started 19 of 20 games in her rookie season.
Hanks and Buczkowski become the latest Notre Dame women’s soccer alums to win a American professional soccer title. In 2001, goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene (`00) and defender Kelly Lindsey (`01) helped the Bay Area CyberRays win the inaugural Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) Founders Cup championship. Two years later, Jen Grubb (`00) started and captained the Washington Freedom to the final WUSA crown.
For more information on all 11 Notre Dame players currently on WPS rosters, please check the Women’s Professional Soccer web site at www.womensprosoccer.com.
— ND —