Aug. 26, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The Notre Dame women’s soccer team heads into its 2000 season opener versus Detroit as the nation’s No. 4-ranked team, according to the recently-released preseason poll by Soccer America magazine.
Notre Dame-which faces Detroit on Sunday at Alumni Field (1:00 p.m.)-returns six of 11 starters from its team that advanced to the 1999 NCAA title game and posted a 21-4-1 overall record. The Irish hold the fourth spot in the 2000 SA poll, behind ’99 NCAA champion North Carolina, Penn State and Santa Clara.
The rest of SA’s preseason top 10 includes fifth-ranked Nebraska, Florida, Stanford, Connecticut, Clemson and Hartford. Notre Dame’s KeyBank Classic (Sept. 8, 10) ranks as the nation’s premier regular-season women’s soccer tournament and is the only Division I tournament in the 2000 season that features four teams from SA’s preseason top 20: Notre Dame, Santa Clara, Stanford and Connecticut.
Notre Dame returned on Aug. 21 from a 10-day tour of Brazil, with the trip including five games versus local professional clubs. The tour provided the Irish with a chance to evaluate different options as they pertain to replacing five starters lost to graduation.
“The trip was of tremendous value in terms of evaluating new players and seeing how they fit into the team,” said second-year Irish head coach randy Waldrum. “We still are concerned after replacing the kind of players-particularly goalscorers-that we lost to graduation. Somebody, or a group of players, needs to step up and pick up the slack in that area. This was a great year to do the tour and it eases our minds a little bit heading into the season. Having three games before the big KeyBank Classic games versus Santa Clara and Stanford also is helpful because that will allow us time to answer some of the personnel questions we have and help the new players ease into college soccer.”
One of the primary questions marks heading into the 2000 opener lies in replacing four-time All-American Jen Grubb, who anchored the Irish from 1996-99 at central defender. The team’s primary options include inserting senior Kerri Bakker into that spot (she has appeared in 38 career games, with three starts) or shifting sophomore Vanessa Pruzinsky-the ’99 BIG EAST rookie of the year-over from the flank, with versatile senior Monica Gonzales then potentially moving from forward to the defense.
“We are going to experiment with both options,” said Waldrum. “Kerri is more used to playing centrally in the back and in more comfortable reading the game from that position and adjusting defensively in that part of the field. On the other hand, Vanessa is one of the quickest players and best all-around athletics on the team-in terms of strength, power and physical play. We will look at both options and make the decision that is best for the team, as it impacts that position and others on the field.”
Senior captain Kelly Lindsey returns at the other central defender spot while junior Lindsey Jones is the likely starter at the outside spot vacated by graduate Kara Brown.
The Irish return plenty of experience in the midfield, led by three-time All-American and leading national player-of-the year candidate Anne Makinen. Top candidates on the outside include junior Mia Sarkesian and sophomores Ashley Dryer and Nancy Mikacenic while promising freshman Randi Scheller should be in the mix as well.
Notre Dame will play during the 2000 season without the services of freshman Melissa Tancredi, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament during the summer (she was being considered as a candidate in the back).
One of Notre Dame’s primary tasks will be replacing the firepower lost in graduates Jenny Heft (80 career goals, 20 in ’99) and Jenny Streiffer (70, 19 in ’99)-with Makinen (51, 13 in ’99) and senior Meotis Erikson (46, 14 in ’99) among the top candidates to boost their goalscoring.
“Meotis is capable of a big season and we’ve talked to Anne about being more selfish with her play, because she is a very dangerous and unique goalscorer due to the combination of her finesse play, powerful shot and sense of where she is on the field,” said Waldrum of Makinen, who found the net 23 times as a freshman in ’97. “Anne has done a great job setting up other players during her career but now it’s time for her to be more of a go-to scorer.”
The “triple-A combination”-sophomore Ali Lovelace and freshmen Amanda Guertin and Amy Warner-join Erikson, and potentially Gonzales, as the other top candidates up front. “The combination of Ali, Amy and Amanda up front gives our offense a new dimension due to their speed,” said Waldrum. ” The key thing is that they develop into more consistent finishers. One thing that often was overlooked about Jenny Heft was that she simply found ways to score goals and we need our young speedsters to cash in their ability by consistently putting goals on the board.”
Three-year starter and Notre Dame career goals-against average leader (0.63) LaKeysia Beene has moved on to the coaching ranks as a current Irish graduate assistant, leaving the goalkeeping position open to three capable players. Junior Liz Wagner is the likely opening-day starter while sophomore Sani Post is day-to-day as she returns from a stress fracture in her leg. Freshman Lauren Kent showed surprising development during the Brazil trip and could see some game time in the earlygoing.
SOCCER AMERICA PRESEASON WOMEN’S TOP 20
|1. North Carolina||(24-2-0)|
|2. Penn State||(21-3-1)|
|3. Santa Clara||(23-1-0)|
|4. Notre Dame||(21-4-1)|
|12. Wake Forest||(16-6-1)|
|13. Texas A&M||(17-5-1)|
|14. William & Mary||(19-4-0)|