June 14, 2005
By Pete LaFleur
Editor’s Note: The Notre Dame Monogram Club today introduces a new weekly feature, unique to the club’s official website at www.ndmonogramclub.com and also linked via www.und.com. Every Tuesday, members of the Monogram Club will share thoughts and pay tribute to their experience as a Notre Dame student-athlete. These “Tuesday Testimonials” will be unique to each individual, some focusing on a particular season or memory, others taking a broader look back at their undergraduate days. Some also will pass on their experiences as a member of the Notre Dame alumni family and – more specifically – as one of the few who comprise the special group that is the Notre Dame Monogram Club. Look for a tentative schedule included with next week’s Tuesday Testimonial (ultimately, the entries will be grouped in a convenient archive and a collection of top quotes from the testimonials also will be compiled).
Former Notre Dame soccer standout Rosella Guerrero Kelly has the honor of providing the Monogram Club’s first “Tuesday Testimonial” entry, specifically reflecting back on the 1995 national championship season during her senior year (note that this entry now includes additional comments provided by Guerrero, in additional to her initial testimonial provided last April during the weekend of the ’95 team’s reunion).
Guerrero grew up in Sacramento, Calif., as the youngest of 12 children in a family that could field its own soccer team. A talented high school soccer player who was a member of the U.S. Youth National Team, she had plenty of college options in her home state and throughout the west coast but took the challenge of signing with a promising – but unproven – Notre Dame program located in the nation’s heartland. Prior to the recruiting process, Guerrero did not know that Notre Dame was located in Indiana but she headed across the country in the fall of ’91 to join two other top offensive players – St. Louis native Michelle McCarthy and Ragen Coyne of Livonia, Mich. – in forming what would become the first top recruiting class in the young history of the Notre Dame soccer program.
Rosella Guerrero met the challenge of leaving her native California and joining the fledgling women’s soccer program at Notre Dame, where she helped form the first top recruiting class for the future NCAA champs.
Notre Dame entered the 1991 season looking to overcome the injury absence of four key veterans – including top scorer Stephanie Porter – but Guerrero filled the void in impressive fashion, scoring all three Irish goals in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to 5th-ranked North Carolina State (she remains the only ND freshman ever to score a hat trick in a season opener). She added two goals and an assist in the next game vs. Butler (3-1) and went on to rank 13th in the nation with 33 points (13 goals-7 assists) during that ’92 debut season.
Guerrero – known as a clever frontrunner who combined speed, technical ability and steady finishing skills – went on to repeat as a first team all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference performer in 1993 (13G-11A), highlighted by another hat trick in a span of just 12 minutes during a game vs. SMU.
An All-America season and record-setting goal total (21) did nothing to dull the pain for Rosella Guerrero and her 1994 teammates, whose stellar season ended with a loss in the NCAA title game.
Her breakthrough season came in 1994, earning NSCAA second team All-America honors after setting the Notre Dame record for goals in a season (21, now 8th all-time). The MCC player of the year helped halt North Carolina’s NCAA-record 92-game winning streak during that ’94 season that featured a 23-1-1 final record (capped by a loss to UNC in the NCAA title game). Her eight game-winning goals in ’94 have yet to be bettered in the Notre Dame program’s storied history (Katie Thorlakson tied that record in ’04), with her ’94 GWGs including the score that beat George Mason (1-0) and the decisive goal vs. William & Mary in the NCAAs (2-1).
Guerrero went on to play all 25 games (14 starts; 8G-5A) for the 1995 NCAA championship team (8G-5A) and finished her career as Notre Dame’s all-time leading goalscorer. She still ranks 9th in ND history for career goals (55) and 10th in points (142) while only three Irish players have totaled more career GWGs than her 16. Guerrero also is part of an elite group of nine players who have appeared in every game of their Notre Dame career.
Members of the 1995 national championship squad were missing their teammate Rosella Guerrero during their recent reunion at Notre Dame (photo by Pete LaFleur).
A 1996 Notre Dame graduate with a degree in psychology, she worked for Anderson Consulting in Chicago and played indoor soccer in the FSA league with the national runner-up team. She went on to work in the IT department at Silicon Valley Bank in San Jose and now is a regional sales manager for Professional Diagnostic Management in her native Sacramento.
Guerrero – who recently ran the San Diego marathon and has trained four select soccer teams in the Sacramento area (ages 10-16) – married Kevin Kelly in 2004 and the couple welcomed their son Adam to their family on March 1, 2005. The new mother was one of the more noteworthy players from the 1995 team who were unable to attend the team’s special reunion weekend back on the Notre Dame campus (held during the Blue-Gold football weekend, in late April), but she was able to send along her testimonial, paying tribute to that special championship season (note that this testimonial also now includes additional comments from Guerrero, provided recently in addition to her April e-mail):
Tuesday Testimonial – Entry #1, Rosella Guerrero Kelly (women’s soccer, ’96); June 14, 2005
“I wish so much that I could have attended the 1995 reunion. I have been kept busy with my son, Adam Thomas Kelly (not a bad Irish last name!) and am teaching him the ND fight song and singing to him all the time. I hope he will be the next ND superstar whether it be soccer, football, baseball, what have you. I am getting him ready!
“Growing up as the youngest of 12 children, I was a pretty independent kid and actually was the first from my family to do something like venturing outside the state for college. There were so many schools in California that I could have attended but there were a combination of things at Notre Dame that made it so attractive to me. There is such a prestige about the school and I really liked the team dynamic and how everyone got along and what a great coach the team had in Chris Petrucelli. It was a big difference than if I had gone to one of the closer schools like Santa Clara or Stanford – it just didn’t have that same feeling of family. When I went out to Notre Dame, I just fell in love with the school, the players and the coaches.
“There was such a great team unity at Notre Dame. The first day I got there, the players welcomed me with open arms and I instantly had 30 friends. That team dynamic and unity naturally made us play so well together. And everyone challenged each other but we also were always there for each other – there always was someone to help pick you up during a tough time.
“My experience as a member of the 1995 national championship team taught me was how to overcome and beat adversity. What I mean by beating and overcoming adversity was the year before during my junior year we made it to the finals, with a near-perfect record. We beat everyone in our path to the point where we were ranked No. 1 going into the finals, with North Carolina who was ranked No. 2. That was noteworthy in itself because UNC was always ranked No. 1 going into finals.
“When we got to the 1994 finals and played North Carolina, we got slaughtered 5-0. It wasn’t pretty and definitely a humbling experience. We felt what it was like to get so close to your goal but unable to secure it. Like dangling a carrot….
Rosella Guerrero and her Irish teammates closed the deal in 1995, knocking off UNC in the NCAA semifinals and Portland in the title game to complete their national championship season.
“Fast forwarding to my senior year, we faced major adversity during the season. We were barely beating teams we should have walked over and losing to teams we should have destroyed. We started off very slow, with several loses and ties and it all was difficult for us to deal with – being that the year before we obtained success very quickly and kept it throughout the season.
“We hit a team slump and faced much adversity. We had tried everything to overcome this slump – from team meditating to sports psychology and team bonding classes, to personal counseling sessions, etc., etc. … nothing seemed to click for us.
“It just seemed like the harder we tried, the worse it was. Finding a way to crawl out of the hole we dug for ourselves was not easy. By never giving up and working harder than we have ever worked before as a team, we prevailed.
“We defeated our nemesis UNC in the semifinals on their home turf, which broke many records on top of that, and then we beat Portland in the finals and became national champs. Going from a huge team slump to national champs truly was an experience and an accomplishment to remember.
“We didn’t really have many different players in 1995 than in ’94 but we just had hit a slump. In ’94, we peaked too early and were exhausted and tired at the end. In ’95 it was quite the opposite. We didn’t peak too early and instead we came on at the end. You can’t see all of that when it’s happening, only now when you look back on it.
“Being a forward, it was a great experience playing with such awesome midfielders like Cindy Daws and Holly Manthei, with all the assists they tallied up. Their passes were so perfect and sometimes you still would have to work hard for the goal but it all was so much easier with players like them setting you up for those chances.
“I apply these experiences to my life today and continue to teach these lessons to future soccer generations, through coaching and training. The bond of coming together and losing many battles but winning the war is what made the 1995 team so special.
Guerrero has carried on the lessons from her college career into her current coaching and training of youth soccer players.
“We did not fall into the trap of over-thinking but instead focused on relaxing and playing our game to our potential – that was the turning point. Lending a hand, a shoulder to lean on, or a hug to help your teammates when they were down was another turning point. That is what made the 1995 national championship season so amazing and unforgettable.
“When I talk to people about Notre Dame, I always tell them that if I had it to do over again I would always pick Notre Dame. I am just so happy with that decision and it truly is a wonderful place. What made it so special was how family-oriented it was, especially on the team. The other players helped me when I was homesick and with the transition of being away from home. They also helped me feel so confident and played a big part in the success that I had.
“All of us former players still keep in regular contact. Just the other day I was talking to Kate Fisher about her baby and I talk to Michelle McCarthy once a week. I e-mail Jody Hartwig every week and talk regularly with Tasha Strawbridge. Stacia Masters was in my wedding and I talk to Cindy Daws all of the time – it’s so funny, now we are sending each other photos of our kids.
“I am very honored and proud to be a Notre Dame alum. I’ve been able to participate in some alumni events out here in northern California and they have been trying to get me to talk about the national championship season at an alumni function, we just have to find a good date. Everywhere I go, even now, people always want to talk about Notre Dame – even if they hate it! When I say Notre Dame, a lot of people’s eyes light up and they say, ‘Really, wow.’
“In my time spent coaching and training youth soccer teams, when I first started everything was North Carolina. But I won’t let them wear Carolina blue and now when I say I went to Notre Dame all of the kids know about the program because it’s truly on the map. Everyone knows how great Notre Dame women’s soccer is now.
“Thanks to everyone at Notre Dame who made my experiences there so special, they are memories that continue to live with me today.
– Rosella Guerrero
Do you have a recommendation of a former Notre Dame student-athlete to participate in the “Tuesday Testimonial” series? If so, please pass on the individual’s name and contact info. (if available) to Monogram Club archivist/publicist Pete LaFleur at firstname.lastname@example.org.