Sophomore forward Melissa Henderson, the 2009 BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and a preseason candidate for the Hermann Trophy, will lead No. 3/5 Notre Dame into its season opener Friday at 7:30 p.m. (ET) against Wisconsin at old Alumni Field.

Irish Kick Off Spring Schedule This Weekend

March 20, 2009

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following its memorable run to the NCAA national championship game in 2008, the Notre Dame women’s soccer team returns to the pitch on Saturday with a 2 p.m. (CT) closed scrimmage against St. Louis Athletica, a member of the new Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league, at Edwardsville High School in Edwardsville, Ill. All told, the Irish will play a six-game training schedule this spring, head coach Randy Waldrum announced Friday.

Saturday’s match will have added significance for Notre Dame fans, as four former Irish greats currently are on the Athletica roster, including two-time Hermann Trophy recipient and four-time All-America forward Kerri Hanks (2005-08), who was the franchise’s first-ever draft pick with the sixth overall selection in January’s inaugural WPS College Draft. Other former Notre Dame players now in St. Louis include All-America forward Amanda Cinalli (2004-07), all-Great Lakes Region defender Elise Weber (2007-08) and two-time All-America defender Melissa Tancredi (2003-04) — Tancredi has not yet arrived in camp due to her ongoing commitments with the Canadian National Team program.

The match with St. Louis is the first of two for Notre Dame against WPS teams, with the Irish slated to take on the Chicago Red Stars on March 28 at 7 p.m. (CT) from Wedgbury Stadium at Sportscore Two, located at 8800 E. Riverside Blvd in Loves Park, Ill., just outside of Rockford, Ill. Admission is free, although fans are encouraged to call the Red Stars’ ticket office at (866) WPS-2009 to reserve their spots in advance. A $5 donation also is suggested, with the proceeds to benefit the Chicago Red Stars Charitable Foundation, which works to provide opportunities that will benefit girls and women, provides grants to organizations who work with underprivileged youth and works to improve the health and education of girls and women in the Chicagoland area.

Notre Dame continues its spring schedule on April 4, traveling to Fort Wayne, Ind., for the fourth annual University of Saint Francis Spring Fling at USF’s Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. The Irish will face Michigan State at 5 p.m. (ET) in the final game of the day’s tripleheader, providing a rematch of last season’s NCAA Championship second-round game in South Bend won by Notre Dame, 1-0 on a second-half goal by midfielder Rose Augustin. There is a $5 donation per ticket to attend the tournament, with all proceeds going to Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do, a one-week residential camp for children surviving cancer. Tickets can be purchased in advance through the USF Women’s Soccer Office (260-399-7700, ext. 6229) or the offices of Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do (260-609-3155).

The Irish will play their lone home game of the spring 2009 season on April 18, as they welcome Iowa to town for a 1 p.m. (ET) match that will take place on the soccer practice field located directly south of Notre Dame’s now-former home, Alumni Field. Admission for that contest is free, although fans wishing to attend are cautioned that traffic on campus will be heavy that afternoon because of the Blue-Gold Spring Football Festival.

Notre Dame wraps up its spring season on April 26, playing a pair of games at Chicago’s historic Soldier Field on the banks of Lake Michigan in the inaugural Kicks Against Breast Cancer Women’s Soccer Invitational. The Irish will take on Northern Illinois at 11 a.m. (CT) before coming back to compete in the finale of the seven-game, day-long event against Illinois at 5:05 p.m. (CT). Tickets for the invitational are $10 each and include admission to the “Interactive Fan Zone,” which allows fans to test their skills, meet the players and obtain autographs. For more information on this event, go on-line to the tournament web site at http://www.kicksagainstbreastcancer.org.

Notre Dame is expected to have 22 monogram winners, including eight starters, returning from last season’s 26-1 squad that made its seventh trip to the NCAA title game and 10th appearance at the NCAA College Cup, while setting a school record for victories and longest winning streak in a single season. The Irish also will add another highly-gifted incoming freshman class next fall, with four players already having signed National Letters of Intent to attend Notre Dame.

2009 NOTRE DAME WOMEN’S SOCCER SPRING SCHEDULE

March 21 – 2 p.m. (CT)
vs. St. Louis Athletica (WPS) at Edwardsville (Ill.) High School – CLOSED SCRIMMAGE

March 28 – 7 p.m. (CT)
vs. Chicago Red Stars (WPS) at Wedgbury Stadium (Loves Park, Ill.)

April 4 – 5 p.m. (ET)
USF Spring Fling
vs. Michigan State at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

April 18 – 1 p.m. (ET)
vs. Iowa at Alumni Practice Field (Notre Dame, Ind.)

April 26
Kicks Against Breast Cancer Invitational (Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.)
11 a.m. (CT) — Northern Illinois
5:05 p.m. (CT) — Illinois

— ND —