Aug. 21, 2002
The Notre Dame women’s soccer team – with seven returning starters and 13 letterwinners back from its 2001 team (17-3-1) – has been ranked seventh in the National Soccer Coaches Association of American 2002 preseason poll. The Irish have been ranked in the top seven of every NSCAA preseason poll since 1994, a season that ended with the program’s first of four trips to the NCAA championship game (plus two other semifinal trips in the last eight seasons).
Six of Notre Dame’s 18 regular-season opponents – in addition to Friday-night’s exhibition opponent North Carolina (No. 2, as the 2001 NCAA runner-up) – are ranked in the preseason top 25. Notre Dame’s other ranked opponents include defending NCAA champion and top-ranked Santa Clara, 2000 and ’01 NCAA semifinalist Portland (No. 4) and BIG EAST Conference rival Connecticut (No. 9) – plus fellow Midwest team Michigan (18th) and two more BIG EAST opponents in Rutgers (19th) and West Virginia (25th).
The BIG EAST tied three others – the West Coast (WCC), Atlantic Coast (ACC) and Pac-10 – as the conferences with the most teams in the NSCAA preseason poll (each with four).
The annual Notre Dame Classic – which will be presented in 2002 by new sponsor St. Edward’s Products – again will boast one of the best fields of any regular-season tournament in Division I women’s soccer. The four-team event includes perennial powers Santa Clara (No. 1), Portland (No. 4) and Notre Dame (No. 7) – plus an up-and-coming Clemson squad that is ranked 14th in the NSCAA poll (the Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2000 NCAA tournament and the NCAA round of 16 in 2001).
The bulk of Notre Dame’s returning starters come in the attacking third, with five of the team’s top-six scorers returning from 2001 – led by junior forwards Amanda Guertin, Melissa Tancredi and Amy Warner. Senior Ashley Dryer and junior Randi Scheller are back to fuel the Irish midfield while senior Vanessa Pruzinsky is back to anchor the central defense and sophomore Candace Chapman returns to her right outside back spot.
2002 NSCAA Preseason Women’s Soccer Poll
1. Santa Clara*
2. North Carolina*
5. Texas A&M
7. NOTRE DAME
8. Penn State
16. St. Mary’s (Calif.)
17. Florida State
t-25. West Virginia*
* indicates team on Notre Dame’s 2002 schedule (Clemson is ND Classic participant but not an ND opponent; UNC is an exhibition opponent)