Aug. 23, 2004

The Notre Dame women’s soccer team – fresh off a successful preseason training trip to Brazil – has returned near the top of the 2004 preseason polls, checking in as the preseason No. 2 team according to the Soccer Buzz website and third in the Soccer America poll. Defending national champion North Carolina holds the top spot in both polls while Santa Clara (which plays at Notre Dame on Sept. 5) is No. 2 in the Soccer America poll and third according to Soccer Buzz. The NSCAA and Soccer Times coaches polls are expected to be released in the upcoming week (the full SA and SB preseason polls follow at end of release). The rest of the Soccer America preseason top 10 includes (4th-10th): Texas, Florida State, Portland, Virginia, Tennessee, Penn State and UCLA. The Soccer Buzz preseason top 10 also includes Florida State (5th), Portland (7th) and Texas (8th), plus Texas A&M (4th), Florida (6th), Connecticut (9th) and Ohio State (10th). Eight teams on Notre Dame’s 2004 schedule are ranked in at least one of the polls: Santa Clara, UConn (also 13th per SA), Stanford (14th SA), Arizona State (14th SB, 20th SA), Michigan (15th SB), West Virginia (20th SB, 24th SA), Boston College (21st SA, 30th SB) and Villanova (25th SB). Southern Methodist – which will join SCU and Stanford at the Notre Dame Adidas Classic (Sept 3 and 5) – is 21st in the Soccer Buzz poll (the Mustangs will face the Broncos and Cardinal but will not play the Irish at that elite tournament). Notre Dame opens its season at home next weekend (Aug. 27 vs. Baylor at 7:30, then Aug. 29 vs. Eastern Illinois at 1:00) and will be looking to build off a 5-0-1 record during the exhibitions in Campinas, Brazil, versus local semi-professional teams. The Irish racked up a 16-3 scoring edge in those six games, with leading scorers including senior Candace Chapman (4 goals) and the freshman duo of Jannica Tjeder (3 goals, 2 assists) and Ashley Jones (2G-3A). The 2004 Notre Dame roster includes 23 former letterwinners, led by fifth-year All-America central defender Melissa Tancredi and several other top players from the dominant 2003 Irish squad that was ranked No. 2 for most of the season and finished 20-3-1 (after an 18-0-1 start). Chapman – who could return to her right back spot or see time at midfield/forward – is looking to return to her All-America form after missing the 2003 season due to an ACL knee injury. The tremendous depth on the 2004 roster could result in Chapman shifting from her right back spot to a more attacking role during the upcoming season (she totaled her four goals in Brazil during just a handful of minutes after moving up to forward). Two veteran members of the Notre Dame program – sophomore midfielder Jen Buczkowski (U.S.) and junior forward Katie Thorlakson (Canada) – have been active in recent months with their respective under-19 national teams, as have 2004 signees Kerri Hanks (U.S.) and Jannica Tjeder (Finland). The Under-19 World Championship will be held during the college season (Nov. 10-27 in Thailand) and the U.S. team’s pre-tournament residency camp has required its college-age players to sit out the entire 2004 college season (Hanks will enroll at Notre Dame in the 2005 spring semester). Buczkowski had been a starting defender with the U.S. Under-19 squad but announced to her teammates at the team banquet (following the ’04 spring semester) that she had decided to remain at Notre Dame in the 2004 fall semester and play for the Irish. Canada is allowing its college players to remain on campus for most of the 2004 season, with Thorlakson set to play with the Irish throughout the entire regular season and BIG EAST Tournament before returning for a potential NCAA quarterfinal game in late November. Tjeder intended to play for Notre Dame this fall even before Finland failed to qualify for the Under-19 World Championship. Hanks – ranked by Soccer America as the nation’s No. 4 signee for 2004 – is one of three freshmen (plus one veteran) who will not play for the Irish during the upcoming season. Her classmate Susan Pinnick was involved in a van accident with her summer club team and plans to join the Irish program for the 2005 spring season (she still is set to begin her studies this fall). Defensive midfielder Kelly Simon, a recruited walk-on addition who starred with the powerhouse Busch Soccer Club in St. Louis, recently had shoulder surgery and will not play with the Irish this fall. Notre Dame fans have eagerly awaited the return of spirited midfielder Randi Scheller, who missed all of her senior season in 2003 due to a nagging hip condition. Scheller, like Tancredi, had been approved for a fifth year of eligibility in 2004 but again will miss the season as she continnues with her rehabilitation under the care of a top specialist in the Pittsburgh area. Scheller is set to return to Notre Dame for the 2005 spring semester and has applied to the NCAA for a “hardship” sixth year of eligibility in the fall of 2005. Several other Irish players have the option of applying for fifth years of eligibility, including Chapman (in ’05), midfielder Annie Schefter (in ’06) and defender Jenny Walz (in ’06), with Hanks, Pinnick and Simon each likely to play four seasons with the Irish from 2005-08. SOCCER AMERICA COLLEGE WOMEN’S 2004 PRESEASON TOP 25 (with conference and 2003 record)

1. North Carolina … Atlantic Coast … 27-0-0

2. Santa Clara … West Coast … 14-4-6

3. Notre Dame … Big East … 20-3-1

4. Texas … Big 12 … 12-9-0

5. Florida State … Atlantic Coast … 17-8-1

6. Portland … West Coast … 18-3-2

7. Virginia … Atlantic Coast … 12-5-4

8. Tennessee … Southeastern … 17-5-2

9. Penn State … Big Ten … 19-3-3

10. UCLA … Pacific-10 … 20-2-3

11. Texas A&M … Big 12 … 13-6-3

12. Clemson … Atlantic Coast … 11-7-2

13. Connecticut … Big East … 15-6-3

14. Stanford … Pacific-10 … 10-9-2

15. Utah … Mountain West … 16-2-2

16. Florida … Southeastern … 19-4-2

17. Colorado … Big 12 … 15-4-1

18. Ohio State … Big Ten … 13-5-3

19. Kansas … Big 12 … 18-6-1

20. Arizona State … Pacific-10 … 13-5-3

21. Boston College … Big East … 15-3-3

22. Pepperdine … West Coast … 14-6-1

23. Auburn … Southeastern … 14-4-3

24. West Virginia … Big East … 17-4-2

25. Nebraska … Big 12 … 13-8-1

Soccer Buzz 2004 Preseason Women’s Soccer Poll

1. North Carolina (27-0)

2. Notre Dame (20-3-1)

3. Santa Clara (14-4-6)

4. Texas A&M (13-6-3)

5. Florida State (17-8-1)

6. Florida (19-4-2)

7. Portland (18-3-2)

8. Texas (12-9)

9. Connecticut (15-6-3)

10. Ohio State (13-5-3)

11. Kansas (18-6-1)

12. Penn State (19-3-3)

13. Virginia (12-5-4)

14. Arizona State (13-5-3)

15. Michigan (11-8-6)

16. UCLA (20-2-3)

17. Colorado (15-4-1)

18. Utah (16-2-2)

19. Illinois (16-4-2)

20. West Virginia (17-4-2)

21. SMU (17-3-2)

22. Cal Poly (18-2-2)

23. Tennessee (17-5-2)

24. Duke (14-7-1)

25. Villanova (15-5-5)

26. Nebraska (13-8-1)

27. Princeton (11-3-3)

28. Auburn (14-4-3)

29. Pepperdine (14-6-1)

30. Boston College (15-3-3)

Also receiving votes (alphabetical order): Central Florida (16-5-1), Clemson (11-7-2), Stanford (10-9-2).