Aug. 29, 2006
The Notre Dame women’s soccer team – coming off week-one victories over Iowa State (9-0) and 24th-ranked Mississippi (2-1) – has moved up in the national rankings, highlighted by landing in the No. 1 spot for the Soccer Times coaches poll (after a preseason No. 4 ranking in that poll). The Irish also currently rank third per Soccer America (moving up three spots) and have remained third in the rankings by the Soccer Buzz women’s soccer website.
Notre Dame likely would be ranked No. 1 this week by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America but the unusual structure of that poll does not include an update following the first week of action. The Irish were ranked fifth in the NSCAA preseason poll but three of the teams ranked higher (Portland, UCLA and North Carolina) each lost once on opening week (Portland also had a tie) while Penn State – ranked third in the NSCAA preseason poll – beat UCLA but tied a Tennessee team ranked 14th in the NSCAA poll.
Sophomore forward Kerri Hanks – who already has totaled 31 goals in 27 career games with the Irish – is one of eight returning starters from the 2005 team that led the nation in scoring with 4.40 goals per game (photo by Matt Cashore).
During an opening weekend that saw many of the other top teams stumble, Notre Dame overcame the absence of two starters (in Russia with the U.S. Under-20 team) to post a pair of noteworthy wins over teams that had competed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The season opener saw Notre Dame top Iowa State 9-0 before winning the next day at Mississippi (2-1). It was the first time in a decade that a Notre Dame women’s soccer team had faced the task of playing on back-to-back days and marked the first time any Irish women’s soccer team had to play back-to-back in cities that weren’t within a 200-mile radius (the five previous times all included short bus rides from the first to second game).
Iowa State returned seven starters from its 2005 team that was the Big 12 Conference runner-up while Ole Miss (ranked as high as 23rd this week in the national polls) returns all 11 starters from its 2005 squad that won its Southeasteern Conference divisional title.
This marks the third straight season that the Notre Dame women’s soccer program has achieved a No. 1 national ranking. Notre Dame was No. 1 in the NSCAA poll during five of the previous 12 seasons (1994, ’96, 2000, ’04 and ’05).
The Soccer Times listing is the only true national poll among the four national rankings, as the 10-year-old Soccer Times poll utilizes weekly voting from 16 of the nation’s premier coaches – among them UNC’s Anson Dorrance, ND’s Randy Waldrum, UCLA’s Jillian Ellis, PSU’s Paula Wilkins, Texas A&M’s G Guerrieri and UConn’s Len Tsantiris (see link for full listing of voters). The NSCAA poll is created based on regional rankings while the SA and SB listings typically are a ranking (as opposed to a wider-reaching poll) compiled by one member of those respective staffs.
Jill Krivacek is part of the battle-tested senior class (photo by Matt Cashore).
Soccer America currenty lists Florida State as the nation’s top-ranked team (the Seminoles played just once last week, edging Portland 2-1) while Soccer Buzz moved Santa Clara into the top spot, after their 1-0 wins over Wake Forest and Utah. Portland – which opened with a 1-1 tie versus Florida and the loss to FSU – technically still holds the No. 1 ranking in the NSCAA poll, meaning that four different teams currently own claims to the No. 1 ranking.
The split nature of the polls all could change this week at Notre Dame’s Alumni Field, after the Irish face Santa Clara on Sunday, Sept. 3, in the final game of the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic.
Notre Dame received half of the first-place votes (8) and 369 total voting points in this week’s Soccer Times poll, followed by Penn State (368; 1 first-place vote), Santa Clara (366; 4), Florida State (351; 3), Texas A&M, UCLA, UNC, Portland and Virginia (which lost a 3-0 preseason game to the Irish).
The top teams in the most recent Soccer America rankings include: FSU, SCU, ND, A&M, PSU, Virginia, UCLA, Portland and UNC. The top of the Soccer America rankings now feature: SCU, FSU, ND, PSU, UCLA, Uva, A&M, UNC and Portland. The top teams in the NSCAA preseason rankings were: Portland, UCLA, PSU, UNC, ND, FSU, SCU and UVa.
Here are links to the most updated versions of all four rankings:
In addition to Santa Clara and Virginia, several other teams on Notre Dame’s 2006 schedule currently are among the national rankings. West Virginia is 13th per ST and 12th in both the SA and SBrankings (plus 18th on the NSCAA preseason list). Fellow BIG EAST team Connecticut currently checks in at 15th per ST, plus 12th in SA and 25 per SB (16th NSCAA). Upcoming opponent USC is 22nd in the SA rankings and 19th per SB (also received votes in NSCAA preseason rankings). The Mississippi team that Notre Dame defeated last weekend is ranked 23rd by Soccer Buzz. A BIG EAST team – Marquette – that Notre Dame will not face in the 2006 regular season is in the top 25 of all four rankings (16th in ST, 11th in SA, 14th in SB and 25th in NSCAA).
Freshman forward Michele Weissenhofer led the Irish with seven points (2G-3A) during the opening weekend (photo by Matt Cashore).
Four other teams on Notre Dame’s 2006 schedule – Michigan, Villanova, Rutgers and SMU – are among teams that also received votes in this week’s Soccer Times poll but are outside the top 25. Soccer Buzz has Rutgers 28th in its rankigs (which extend to 30 teams), with SMU listed among teams that also received consideration but were not in the top-30.
Notre Dame’s first game at the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic will be on Friday, Sept. 1, versus top-25 foe USC (7:30), following the 5:00 game between Santa Clara and Harvard.
The Irish are in quest of the program’s third national title and second in the past three years, with North Carolina being the only Division I women’s soccer program that has won more than two NCAA titles. The teams 17 returning letterwinners include eight who were starters during the 2005 season.
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.
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.
Senior Christie Shaner – the 2006 preseason BIG EAST defensive player of the year – has plenty of experience playing both centrally and at left back with the Irish (photo by Matt Cashore).
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 for the 2006 season, 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 entered the 2006 season 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 the Chicago area: 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 420 career games played while helping the Irish win 90 percent of their games (69-7-2) during the past three-plus 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.
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.
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 two more (Pinnick and Rosen) who are products 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 (her 19 classes so far have produced 17 A grades and a pair of A-minuses).
Notre Dame took several noteworthy streaks into the 2006 season, currently having scored in 38 straight games (second-longest in the program’s history) while winning 29 straight times at Alumni Field – tying the longest home unbeaten streak in the program’s history – 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.