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Irish Women's Soccer Team Ranked 10th In 2003 NSCAA Preseason Poll

Aug. 19, 2003

The Notre Dame women’s soccer team – with the bulk of its roster returning and a highly-touted freshman class in the fold – will head into the 2003 season ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll.

The Irish return 12 of their top 13 players from the 2002 roster (all but graduated defensive midfielder Ashley Dryer), with those returners including several who missed large chunks of the ’02 season due to injury (the games missed to injury totaled 64 for the entire season). The ’02 squad overcame the series of injuries by mounting a late-season run that ended in an NCAA Tournament third-round loss at top-ranked Stanford, with the Cardinal scoring in the 81st minute for the 1-0 win.

Soccer America – which will release its preseason poll on Aug. 26 – earlier listed Notre Dame’s group of 10 newcomers as the nation’s fifth-best incoming class.

Notre Dame joined Stanford, UCLA and Connecticut as the only schools to enter 2003 with both its men’s and women’s soccer teams ranked among the top 12 of the NSCAA polls (the Irish men are 12th). Only six other schools – Portland, Virginia, California, Clemson, SMU and Maryland – had both teams ranked somewhere in the NSCAA top 25.

Six of Notre Dame’s 2003 opponents are ranked in the preseason women’s soccer poll: Santa Clara (1st), Stanford (4th), Connecticut (8th), Michigan (17th) and West Virginia (18th). Two other Irish opponents – Arizona State and Rutgers – were among the five other teams that also received votes in the NSCAA preseason poll. The ACC and Pacific-10 were the only conferences with more teams in the preseason top 25 than the BIG EAST’s three.

The rest of the top 10 includes North Carolina and Portland (tied for 2nd), UCLA (5th), Texas A&M (6th), Penn State (7th) and Texas (9th).

Others in the top 25 included Virginia (11th), Nebraska (12th), Pepperdine (13th), Tennessee (14th), Florida State (15th), California (16th), USC (19th), Clemson (20th), Florida (21st), SMU (22nd), Maryland (23rd), BYU (24th) and Purdue (25th). Notre Dame now has been ranked in the top 10 of every NSCAA preseason poll since 1994.

A six-member senior class and junior All-America right back Candace Chapman lead the veteran core for the 2003 Irish squad. Senior frontrunners Amanda Guertin and Amy Warner could emerge as one of the nation’s top goal-scoring tandems while their fellow senior Randi Scheller is the leader of a deep midfield unit that also includes her classmate Kimberly Carpenter.

Fifth-year player Vanessa Pruzinsky – coming off a 2002-03 school year that saw her sidelined with an ankle injury before becoming the third Notre Dame chemical engineering major ever to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average – is nearing a return to action and could be used at central defender, outside back or even in a defensive midfielder role.

Chapman – who will miss some of the 2003 season while playing in the World Cup – combines with fellow Canadian Melissa Tancredi to form the backbone of the Irish defense, with Tancredi having the option of applying for a firth year of eligibility in 2004.

Other top returners include sophomore goalkeeper Erika Bohn, versatile junior Mary Boland, junior defender Gudrun Gunnarsdottir, sophomore forward Katie Thorlakson (who just returned from competition with Canada’s Under-19 National Team) and sophomore midfielder Annie Schefter – who missed all of the 2002 season with an ACL knee injury before making an impressive return last spring.

Three members of the freshman class – U.S. Under-19 National Team member Jen Buczkowski, Christie Shaner and Lizzie Reed – received high school All-America honors and each recently was part of a noteworthy winning team.

Buczkowski combined with fellow Notre Dame freshmen Kim Lorenzen and Jill Krivacek on the Illinois team that won the 2003 Olympic Development Program national title (with a 1-0 win over Reed and her New Jersey team).

Two other members of the freshman class – defender Kari Kennedy and defensive midfielder Claire Gallerano – helped lead the Dallas Texans to the under-18 national club championship (shortly before reporting to Notre Dame) while Shaner’s FC Bucks Challenge team reached the under-19 semifinals and narrowly missed a spot in the title game.

Check back to later in the preseason for a feature story on the Notre Dame freshmen.