Aug. 25, 2006
When Randy Waldrum arrived at Notre Dame in 1999, he coached his first Irish team all the way to the national championship game. One year later, his 2000 team claimed the No. 1 ranking and did not lose until the College Cup semifinals. Notre Dame’s postseason success then dropped off for a few years before returning in full force with the 2004 national championship season and a dominating 2005 campaign that ended with an NCAA quarterfinal loss to the eventual national champion Portland.
Now, with his eighth season on the horizon, Waldrum will be looking to guide his team to a third straight elite-level season. With eight starters leading the way for a group of 17 veterans, the Irish could be well-positioned to make another run at the program’s third national title.
Notre Dame lost four key regulars – All-Americans Katie Thorlakson (forward) and Candace Chapman (right back), along with the Academic All-America duo of goalkeeper Erika Bohn and midfielder Annie Schefter – from the 2005 team that went 22-3-0, led the nation in scoring (4.40 goals per game) and allowed just 54 shots on goal all season. Top returners include two other All-Americans, senior midfielder Jen Buczkowski and sophomore forward Kerri Hanks, who both were among the final-15 candidates for the 2005 Hermann M.A.C. Trophy.
Sophomore forward Kerri Hanks will be looking to build of her 28-goal All-America season in 2005 (photo by Matt Cashore).
Six others return who have received all-BIG EAST honors, among them: versatile senior defender Christie Shaner, senior midfielder Jill Krivacek, junior forward Amanda Cinalli, sophomore midfielder Brittany Bock, sophomore central defender Carrie Dew and senior utility player Lizzie Reed. The only returning starter who has yet to be honored by the BIG EAST is the highly underrated Kim Lorenzen, a senior center back who will serve as the team’s solo captain in 2006.
Top candidates to fill the open starting spots include three juniors: forward Susan Pinnick, outside back Ashley Jones and goalkeeper Lauren Karas. The netminder position is most up-for-grabs, with senior Nikki Westfall and freshman Kelsey Lysander also firmly in the mix.
Four of the other incoming freshmen figure to play key roles in the 2006 season, with that group including longtime teammates Michele Weissenhofer (forward) and Amanda Clark (defender/midfielder), battle-tested midfielder Courtney Rosen and versatile defender Haley Ford.
Hanks and Buczkowski again were among the 25 players named to the Hermann Trophy watch list, with Hanks also collecting various preseason All-America honors (plus BIG EAST preseason offensive player of the year). Those players were joined by Shaner (the league’s preseason defensive player of the year), Cinalli and Bock in comprising five of the 11 players who were named to the 2006 preseason all-BIG EAST team.
The Irish enter the 2006 season ranked fifth in the NSCAA coaches poll, fielding a roster that has tightened up a bit on its geographical reach. The team now includes six players from Texas (most notably Hanks, Ford and Karas) while six all hail from Chicago: the senior trio of Buczkowski, Krivacek and Lorenzen, plus the former Neuqua Valley High School teammates Bock, Clark and Weissenhofer. The roster also includes three players from southern California – Jones, Dew and Lysander – who all could find themselves in the starting lineup.
The eight-member senior class has set a leadership tone since their arrival early in the fall of 2003, combining to log 408 career games played while helping the Irish win nearly 90 percent of their games (67-7-2) during the past three seasons. As they look down upon the current freshman class, there could be a parallel to the 2003 season when four of the current seniors (Buczkowski, Krivacek, Lorenzen and Shaner) served as regulars on that talented team.
Senior central defender Kim Lorenzen will serve as the lone captain of the 2006 Irish squad (photo by Pete LaFleur).
Waldrum traditionally has recruited versatile players and has not been hesitant to utilize position shifts and altered formations in order to maximize the roster’s personnel. But to achieve the needed results, he knows that it requires the full commitment of the team.
“In this program, as with many of the other top teams, you will have stars come in and end up being reserves. The success of that situation is dependent on how both the coaches and players handle it,” says Waldrum.
“In the past few years, our players have done a great job of buying into this philosophy and the resulting success speaks for itself. Another byproduct of our great depth is that it keeps us fresh on a weekly basis and when the postseason rolls around, as you are less likely to see players breaking down at the end of the year.”
Notre Dame’s 2006 squad boasts three (Buczkowski, Cinalli and Hanks) who have played with the U.S. Under-21 National Team, two others – Bock and Dew – who will be reporting a couple weeks late after wrapping up play with Team USA at the Under-20 World Championship, and another (Rosen) who is a product of the Under-17 National Team.
The Irish also head into 2006 looking to maintain an academic tradition within the program that just keeps getting better and better, with the team’s 3.42 GPA in the 2006 semester representing the best among Notre Dame’s 26 varsity programs. Several players will be top candidates for Academic All-America honors, led by Jones and her 3.96 cumulative GPA as an accounting major.
Notre Dame takes several noteworthy streaks into the 2006 season, having scored in 36 straight games (second-longest in the program’s history) while winning 28 straight times at Alumni Field and going unbeaten at home versus BIG EAST teams in 66 straight (65-0-1, since 1995). The Irish also have not lost in 19 consecutive overtime games (14-0-5, since ’99) while the seniors have yet to play a game in which the Irish were outshot, a span of 76 games.
Here’s a look at the Irish, by position:
With the departures of Thorlakson and fellow 2006 graduate Maggie Manning (who was one of the top forward reserves in 2005), the Irish know that their forward alignment will have a new look in 2006. The 2005 group – namely Thorlakson and Hanks – put up some gaudy individual numbers, but the foundation of that success was due to the strong interplay between the two scoring stars.
“What is going to be a real key is how those three forwards play together,” says Waldrum, in reference to the group of frontrunners who all were part of Notre Dame’s 2004 signing class (Hanks delayed her admission due to the Under-19 World Championship that was held that fall).
Junior forward Amanda Cinalli ranks fifth nationally in assists during the 2005 season (17) and played with the U.S. Under-21 National Team at the 2006 Nordic Cup (photo by Joe Raymond).
“When you look at Hanks, Cinalli and Pinnick, they are three different type of players, which is what we always have wanted. We probably will see teams trying to focus on Hanks, so it will be even more important for the other players to complement her play and help take the pressure away from her.”
Hanks (Allen, Texas) came to Notre Dame with the reputation of being a pure goalscorer who had led Allen High School (47 goals in two seasons) and the U.S. Under-19 National Team (22 goals, in 30 games) in scoring while also earning the “Golden Boot” top scorer award at both the 2003 and ’05 USYS national club championships. She didn’t disappoint in 2005 either, ranking third nationally in goals (28, tying the ND record and fourth-most ever by a Division I freshman) while totaling 71 points (15A) to finish one shy of that Notre Dame mark.
The 2005 postseason awards for Hanks included Freshman All-America, NSCAA second team All-America, BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and a spot among the final-15 candidates for the prestigious M.A.C. Hermann Trophy – becoming the first freshman since 1999 to be on the final group of candidates. The Irish were 18-0-0 when Hanks scored a goal during the 2005 season and her record-setting shot total (135) was 11 more than the opponents’ combined total in games versus the Irish during the ’05 season (124).
“One thing that I was concerned about heading into last season was how Kerri would hold up with the physical play of college soccer but she obviously did just fine in that regard. And the rest from there was just an awesome display from a player who still has plenty of great soccer ahead of her,” says Waldrum of his fellow Texas native.
“The key now will be for Kerri to make another adjustment, as the primary marked player in every game she plays this season. But I expect her to rise to that challenge as well, because she is not just a great goalscorer but also has that knack for maneuvering around the field and putting herself into the right place. She’s one of those soccer junkies who watches the game all the time, and her dad played the game back in England – so it’s only natural that she has evolved into this type of player.”
Cinalli (Maple Heights, Ohio) has seen her stock soar after earning a spot on the U.S. Under-21 National Team that competed at the 2006 Nordic Cup. Already a member of Notre Dame’s 20-20 club (20G-22A), the two-time all-BIG EAST performer displayed her all-around skills in 2005 by scoring 10 goals and adding the fifth-highest assist total (17) in the nation. Her 33 points would have led many teams in the country but ranked just third on the 2005 Irish squad (also third in the entire BIG EAST), behind the matching 71 points posted by Thorlakson and Hanks.
“Amanda Cinalli probably is the one player on offense that we can’t afford to lose and she’s possibly the most technically gifted player on the entire team,” says Waldrum, who has seen Cinalli score several goals in big-game situations during her young career with the Irish.
“You can’t underestimate all the little things that she does for us and we might drop her in the midfield at times to get her a little bit more time on the ball. Amanda is so effective shielding the ball and is tough to knock off the ball, then she can turn on a dime and is by her defender. She has a great workrate and creates so much off the dribble – she has the makings of becoming one of the most complete players we’ve ever had here at Notre Dame.
Pinnick (South Bend, Ind.) – who made an inspiring return from the 2004 summer van accident with her club team – was part of the “shock troops” that came on in reserve roles during the 2005 season, when she ranked seventh on the team with 17 points (7G-3A) in 24 games played. With three years of eligibility still in front of her, the local product now sets her sights on becoming a regular member of the forward rotation.
“You could see last spring and then in the start of this preseason that Susan has a higher confidence level because she realizes she is one of the older players and is ready for that challenge,” says Waldrum.
“We’ve played her some at midfield during her career and that should continue to be the case this fall. Susan is such a tireless competitor and is so tough running at the defense, as well as making quick turns on the ball. She has really dedicated herself to improving her finishing so I would expect to see her become a great complement to Hanks and Cinalli.
Versatile senior Lizzie Reed has scored several key goals during her Notre Dame career (photo by Joe Raymond).
Reed (Franklin Lakes, N.J.) has been a classic utility player throughout her career with the Irish, appearing in 72 of the team’s 76 games while dividing her 21 starts between forward (7), midfielder (9) and outside back (5). One of several former prep All-Americans on the Irish squad, Reed received third team all-BIG EAST honors in 2005 after combining with Pinnick and Manning to form the dangerous second forward line.
“I know it’s been frustrating at times for Lizzie with playing so many positions, but she has handled that in a good way while filling a very valuable role for the team,” says Waldrum of Reed, who has totaled five goals and six assists in her career with the Irish.
“You get the feeling that this could be sort of a breakout year for Lizzie and she has that attacking mindset that could help overcome some of the scoring punch that we lost with the graduation of a couple top offensive players.”
Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill.) should bring instant excitement to the Notre Dame attack, as a proven goalscorer in both high school (team-best 26 for Neuqua Valley’s 2005 state-title team) and with the two-time national champion Eclipse Select. The 5-foot-4 sparkplug also could add another dimension to the offense with a flip throw-in that can sail with accuracy to the back post.
“I really think our fans at Alumni Field are going to love seeing Michele play her brand of soccer, which is an exciting and tenacious style that fits right in with our pressing mentality,” says Waldrum.
Freshman Michele Weissenhofer – pictured in action with the two-time national champion Eclipse Select – could add an exciting dimension to the Irish attach in the 2006 season.
“She has that great workrate on both sides of the ball, can finish goals a number of ways and has the added experience factor of having played for championship teams and also having attended Notre Dame over the summer. When you add that all together, I think she is ready for college soccer and won’t be intimidated by tough early-season games or anything like that.”
Ever-improving senior Molly Iarocci (Carefree, Ariz.) could develop into a spark off the bench, combining with the other veterans and Weissenhofer to put 90 minutes of pressure on the opposing defenses. The speedster – who played in 24 games during her first three seasons – can cause problems when she slips behind the defense and likely will show the benefits of playing last summer in the W-League, with the San Diego Gauchos.
Notre Dame’s veteran midfield starts with the senior tandem of Buczkowski and Krivacek, who have combined to log 144 career games played with the Irish and were key members of the 2004 national championship team.
Buczkowski (Elk Grove, Ill.) has yet to miss a game during her Notre Dame career, helping the Irish go 67-7-2 during the 2003-05 stretch in which Notre Dame never was outshot during a game. The two-time All-American and 2005 BIG EAST midfielder of the year could add Academic All-America honors (3.39 GPA, as marketing major) to her resume, as she looks to lead the Irish to another national title in her final season.
Defensive midfielder Jill Krivacek has reported in top physical condition for her final season with the Irish (photo by Joe Raymond).
“Jen is the engine of our team and she always has been that player who `pulls all the strings’ while doing so much of the dirty work,” says Waldrum of Buczkowski, a member of the U.S. Under-21 National Team whose career stats (19G-24A) include ranking as the sixth-leading scorer on the 2005 team (7G-7A).
“We have begun to see Jen become more of a vocal leader and she has worked herself into great physical condition for this final season. Jen is just so competitive, composed on the ball and never panics – it’s an infectious poise that makes such a key impact on the entire team. Anyone who doesn’t think she is one of the 10 best players in college soccer probably has not seen her play and can’t appreciate how valuable she is to our success.”
Krivacek (Geneva, Ill.) poses a major matchup problem for any opposing team, due to her imposing 5-foot-11 frame combined with quality skills on the ball. Any questions about her mobility should be put to rest quickly in 2006, as the former all-BIG EAST performer and defensive MVP of the 2005 BIG EAST Tournament has reported in tremendous physical condition for her farewell season.
“Jill is a rare commodity in the women’s college game because of that combination of size and skill,” says Waldrum. “There are some people who have seen us play and think she actually is the key player on our team because she sets the tone and is a classic holding midfielder. The way she is able to keep the ball under pressure and then distribute it effectively just means so much to everything we are trying to do.”
Sophomore midfielder Brittany Bock has been playing at an elite level throughout the 2006 calendar year, as a member of the U.S. Under-20 National Team (photo by Matt Cashore).
Krivacek’s offensive output with the Irish has been limited to 19 career points (5G-9A; 2G-4A in ’06) but she has delivered in several big-game situations – most notably the 90th minute corner-kick header that beat Wisconsin in the 2004 NCAAs and Notre Dame’s final penalty kick in the title-game shootout versus UCLA.
Bock (Naperville, Ill.) – a potential Academic All-American after compiling a 3.45 GPA during her freshman year – could take her game to an even higher level as a full-time starter in 2006, after totaling 33 points (12G-9A) as a second team all-BIG EAST performer and Freshman All-American in 2005 (only three Notre Dame freshman midfielders ever have scored more goals in a season).
“When Brittany comes back from the U-20 World Championship, I think you are going to see a player with tremendous confidence and even greater all-around ability,” says Waldrum.
“She is a multi-dimensional player and has a very unique body type – physical yet highly technical – to go along with a great shot and such toughness in the air. For her, scoring on a diving header is a normal thing. It might take her a while to get back in the flow with us but you’re probably going to see Brittany develop into an elite midfielder in the college game.”
Bock – who again could see some time at forward – has a wide-reaching soccer resume that includes playing for various elite youth teams, many times competing with players several years older than her (and even playing on the Black Magic boys club team in 2004.
Freshman Courtney Rosen is expected to provide a big boost to the Irish midfielder in 2006 (photo by Pete LaFleur).
The development of Rosen (Brecksville, Ohio) could give the Irish another talented four-player rotation among the three midfield spots. An All-American throughout her prep career, Rosen scored the first goal in the history of the U.S. Under-17 National Team (training alongside fellow Ohio native Cinalli) and could be the latest in a long line of midfielders who have made big impacts with the Irish during their freshman season.
“Courtney could be a top player for us over the next four years due to her many qualities,” says Waldrum. “She is very skillful on the ball, physically strong, sees the field well and can score some goals for you as well. She is just a classic creative midfielder who fits our 4-3-3 system so well. It’s important to have players in there centrally who can make the game go and we expect her to see significant playing time this season.”
Senior Claire Gallerano (Dallas, Texas) steadily has developed as a quality player at the defensive midfielder position, appearing in 36 games and making five starts during her first three seasons. The hard-nosed defender could be relied on for some key minutes in 2006 while competing with a midfield unit that may prove to be the deepest and most talented in Notre Dame history.
Sophomores Becca Mendoza (Garland, Texas) and Kerry Inglis (Fort Wayne, Ind.) could be valuable commodities to the 2006 midfield. Inglis came to Notre Dame as a prep All-American who already had played alongside collegiate-level competition, with the W-League’s Fort Wayne Fever (summer of ’04) and the WPSL’s F.C. Indiana (summer ’05) – but a nagging ankle injury limited her to playing a handful of games in the 2005 season.
“Kerry still is making her way back from ankle surgery but we are very anxious to get a look at her, primarily in the midfield but also possibly at outside back, where she played very well with those summer teams,” says Waldrum of Inglis, who finished her prep career as the second all-time leading scorer in Snider High School history (84G-47A).
“She is so skillful with the ball and has that athletic versatility that we love to have on the team. Even though she has been out of action for a while, she is type of player who already has met a lot of tough challenges from older players in various leagues.”
Mendoza – a member of the Mexican National Team – thrived during her career with the Dallas Sting club program and then was one of Notre Dame’s top reserve midfielders in 2005, appearing in 15 games. “Becca has so much ability with the ball and the real key for her this season will involve being in top form physically,” says Waldrum. “Last year was a bit of a learning curve for her but she is a very clever and exciting player who could play an important role in the midfield this season.”
Two freshman midfielders – Micaela Alvarez (Cranbury, N.J.) and Amber Lattner (Montrose, Pa.) – will miss the entire 2006 season following summer ACL knee surgery. Alvarez likely could have made the greatest impact among the five freshman walk-on players, due to her skill on the ball and quality playing background with the New Jersey ODP program and the Parsippany Mischief club team. Lattner did not have that benefit of regularly playing alongside top competitors but could fill a beneficial role on the team due to her tough-minded play and spirited leadership.
All four of Notre Dame’s probable starters in the defense Â¬Â¬- Lorenzen, Shaner, Jones and Dew – are strong Academic All-America candidates, with each owning a cumulative GPA above 3.30. Their soccer skills aren’t too shabby either, as each played lead roles for the 2005 defense that allowed just 15 goals and 54 shots on goal (2.2 per game) all season.
Lorenzen (Naperville, Ill.) – who carries a 3.43 GPA as a finance major – was elected to serve as the lone captain of the 2006 team, marking just the second time in the program’s history (and first time since the debut season in 1988) that the program has not featured multiple captains. If there were an award for the player most deserving of honors who somehow always gets left out, Lorenzen would win in a landslide.
“I’ve always said that Kim Lorenzen is the one player we couldn’t do without and anyone who truly appreciates the game of soccer can realize that by watching her play just a few games,” says Waldrum, who saw his 2005 team go 17-0-0 with Lorenzen in the lineup, prior to the season-ending loss to eventual NCAA champion Portland.
Senior Christie Shaner – who has started with the Irish as both a central and left back – combines with classmate Kim Lorenzen as the veteran leaders of the back line (photo by Matt Cashore).
“We used Kimmy earlier in her career as an outside back but she really has developed into a top player in that central role. It’s tough to beat her and she always has control of the situation – with the added bonus of being able to jump into the attack and serving such a good ball on set pieces. She is just such a great athlete and physical presence for our defense. I’ve also been very impressed with her leadership this fall. She always has set a great example through her work ethic but also sets the tone on the field, whether it be by encouraging or challenging her teammates to get the most out of every game.”
Shaner (Ambler, Pa.) also has split her career playing for the Irish as an outside and central back (appearing in 75 of the 76 games), with a natural fit from the left back spot due to her ability to get up and down the flank and her strong leftfooted service. The preseason BIG EAST defensive player of the year will be making the bid for a rare fourth all-BIG EAST season and also should be heavily in the mix for Academic All-America honors, due to her 3.44 GPA as a design major.
“If there’s a better tackler than Christie in the game of women’s college soccer, I’d like to see her play,” says Waldrum. “This is the time for our seniors like Christie to lead the team and I think she will do a great job in that role. We also expect her to continue being a big threat out of the back, with her ability to cover ground and be such a big threat in the air.”
Sophomore central defender Carrie Dew should return to the Irish on a high note after spending the past few months playing with the U.S. Under-20 Natonal Team (photo by Pete LaFleur).
Dew (Encinitas, Calif.) – a 3.33 student who is enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business – was selected as one of three captains for the U.S. Under-20 National Team and was expected to have made major strides in her all-around play after the extensive training with that elite youth team. An honorable mention all-BIG EAST selection during her freshman season, the 5-foot-9 Dew is on pace to be Notre Dame’s next great central defender.
“It took a while last season for Carrie to adapt to our zone system of defending but she became more relaxed and consistent later in the season and then played great all spring,” says Waldrum of Dew, who started all 25 games in 2005 while leading the team in minutes played (2,097).
“I think Carrie is the type of player where the sky is the limit in terms of what she can achieve. She is so talented and can be a dominant player in the air. One thing we might look for more from her this season is a little bit of an edge, maybe a bit more intensity to go along with her great soccer skills. But I really think you will see her develop into one of the nation’s best defenders.”
Jones (Westlake Village, Calif.) enters her first full season as an outside back and likely will fill Chapman’s vacated spot on the right side – although she easily could flip to the left, due to her strong ability to serve the ball with both feet. The spunky junior played in all 52 games during her first two seasons, starting 16 of them (2G-5A) while helping the Irish go 47-4-1 over that span. In addition to making a possible move into the starting lineup, the converted midfielder also should be one of the top contenders for Academic All-American of the Year honors in Division I women’s soccer – due to the accounting major’s 3.96 cumulative GPA that includes 17 A grades and a pair of A-minuses during her first two years at Notre Dame.
Junior outside back Ashley Jones – a converted midfielder – is one of several top Academic All-America candidates on the Irish squad, due to her 3.96 cumulative GPA as an accounting major (photo by Matt Cashore).
“Ashley is the type of person who you can always count on, whether it’s in soccer, school or her personal life. She is just a rock-solid individual,” says Waldrum of Jones, who won national titles during her senior year of high school with both her club (SoCal United) and ODP (Cal-South) teams.
“She always has been such a tireless worker and great competitor, with a wonderful grasp of the game of soccer. One thing that I really like is her willingness to learn and always get better. Being a primary defender is a new challenge for her but she has made quick strides in that area and has really done well learning the position of defending.”
The versatility of Notre Dame’s 2006 roster is well illustrated by two of the freshmen – Clark and Ford – who could fill multiple roles in the midfield or defense.
Clark (Naperville, Ill.) served primarily as a defensive midfielder during her All-America prep career but had played during the preseason at one of the central back positions, due to the absence of Lorenzen and Dew. A proven leader throughout her soccer career, Clark served as captain for both Neuqua Valley High School and with her Eclipse Select team that won national titles in the summer of 2004 and ’05.
Tenacious freshman Amanda Clark likely will fill a number of roles for the 2006 Irish squad (photo by Joe Raymond).
“Amanda is one of those kids that you have to watch for a couple of games to fully appreciate her, but I think she is going to be a tremendously valuable member of this program,” says Waldrum. “She plays very simple and within her abilities but she also brings physicality and a toughness element to our team. We needed to increase our depth at the defensive midfielder position and Amanda certainly will provide that, in addition to being a top option as a center or outside back.
Ford (Midland, Texas) likewise knows a little something about captaining teams to national titles, after helping her Dallas Texans squad win the 2006 USYS under-18 title (Clark, Weissenhofer and Lysander also were on hand that week in De Moines, Iowa, with their respective teams). The lanky, 5-foot-9 freshman headed to Notre Dame as a top candidate at one of the central defender spots but then played extensively at left back during the preseason.
“Haley was one of those players who did not blow you away with her stats or anything like that, but we always liked her as a great fit for our program and she was underrated on a national level until recently,” says Waldrum of Ford, who spent many years during her youth soccer career making a regular commute of nearly 12 hours roundtrip in order to train with club teams in the Dallas area.
“She is really good on the ball and in the air and has deceptive speed, with such long strides. Obviously, she is coming here riding a high after winning the title with the Texans but another thing that really strikes you about Haley is her maturity. She is a brilliant student and is on top of everything – just so mature for her age and a great all-around addition for our program.”
Freshman Haley Ford – who could play central or outside back with the Irish – captained her Dallas Texans cliub team to the 2006 national title (photo by Matt Cashore).
Waldrum predicts that freshman Ashley Galovic (Plano, Texas) could prove to be a “sleeper” at the outside back position, as she adjusts to Notre Dame’s system of zone defending. “Ashley is an intriguing player who we had seen at our summer camp,” says Waldrum. “She is fast and athletic but was used mostly as a man-marker with her club team, which is significantly different from our system. We are excited to see her emerge at that position and see could help give us some great depth at outside back.”
Two other newcomers – Rachel VanderGenutgen (Schereville, Ind.) and Mara Paz de Araujo (Colorado Springs, Colo.) – round out the many freshman additions to the back line. VanderGenutgen was recovering from a pre-existing foot injury but could join Galovic in developing into a contributor at outside back, due to her athleticism, competitiveness and quality club experience with the Carmel Cyclones (a Midwest rival of the Eclipse and Internationals).
Paz de Araujo also hails from a solid club program (Real Colorado) but likewise was slowed by an injury entering the 2006 preseason. Like many of the freshmen, her contributions ultimately will hinge on her ability to adapt to the speed and physical play within the college game.
The biggest question mark for the 2006 Notre Dame squad lies in the goalkeeping position, as the Irish look to replace the four-year starter and three-time Academic All-American Bohn. Early indications projected that all three ‘keepers were in the running for the open spot, with the 5-foot-9 Karas (Flower Mound, Texas) possibly owning the slight edge.
“Lauren has two years under her belt and now it’s time for her to step up to the challenge,” says Waldrum of Karas, who compiled a 0.78 goals-against-average and 12-1-0 record while logging nearly 1,300 minutes of games action (with 14 starts) in those first two seasons.
Junior Lauren Karas had a strong 2006 spring season as Notre Dame’s primary goalkeeper, allowing juyt one goal in six games (photo by Matt Cashore).
“The key thing for Lauren, and really for any goalkeeper, is consistency. She has all of the tools – shot-stopping, handling the ball with her feet, vocal leadership and reaction time – that put her into position to be a top ‘keeper at the collegiate level.”
Westfall (Waterville, Ohio) is the veteran member of the goalkeeper trio and has logged 18 career appearances, with a 0.31 GAA in nearly 500 minutes of action. The senior gained valuable experience during the 2004 preseason trip to Brazil and then in 2005 during Notre Dame’s spring season and later that summer as the top ‘keeper for the F.C. Indiana team that won the Open Cup title.
“Nikki is at a point where the door is more open for her than ever before and she wants to end her career with a strong showing for us. She always has been a great shot-stopper and has made some key strides in other areas, so we are excited to see what she can do this season,” says Waldrum. The 5-foot-10 Lysander (San Diego, Calif.) earned high school All-America honors while leading her San Diego Surf club team to the USYS national semifinals, where she faced three of her fellow incoming Notre Dame freshmen (Clark and Weissenhofer with the Eclipse and Ford with the Texans).
“Kelsey has really seen her confidence grow in the past few months and she is the type of player who brings great athleticism to the position of goalkeeper,” says Waldrum.
“At the end of the day, we will go with the goalkeeper who is performing most consistently – we need someone to be able to hold the fort and that will be one of the major things that we address during the preseason.”