Irish don’t lose on trip to Brazil
Matt Mooney | Thursday, August 19, 2004
Freshman Orientation was a little different this year for the newcomers on the Notre Dame women’s soccer team. Instead of packing their bags for South Bend, the Irish took their game south of the equator to Brazil for six exhibition games against local semi-professional teams.With the freshmen joining the rest team for the first time, Notre Dame meshed well on their way to an undefeated 5-0-1 record. The Irish encountered little trouble with the opposition, outscoring their international counterparts by a combined 16-3 margin.Senior Candace Chapman, sidelined for all of last season with a knee injury, led the team with four goals while first-year players Jannica Tjeder and Ashley Jones both got their feet wet with five points apiece.Jones tallied two goals and three assists despite getting a few butterflies in her first collegiate action. “I was definitely extremely nervous for at least the first couple games and even the last game too,” she said. “Your whole life you dream about putting on that Irish uniform and when that finally happens, you’re shaking.” Coach Randy Waldrum told Notre Dame’s athletic Web site that he was pleased with the results, especially from his younger players. “We didn’t have too many bad performances over the course of the six games,” he said. “It was great to see how the freshmen can fit in. We found out that our depth is going to be tremendous.”The depth will be particularly tremendous at the goalkeeper position. Three different players saw significant playing time in net over the course of the six games. Waldrum has made it clear that junior Erika Bohn, sophomore Nikki Westfall and freshman Lauren Karas will all be on call to defend the Irish goal when the regular season begins. “I’ve never had three keepers as good and as close in performance as these three,” Waldrum said. “We have to make the kids understand, because we play so many games in a short period of time, that some may have to sacrifice some minutes to help keep the team fresh.”Work and practice have been a big part of the team’s journey to the southern hemisphere, but the foreign environment provided a great opportunity for the team to bond with the upperclassmen getting the chance to impart some useful advice to their freshmen teammates. “We talked a lot about school and stuff, what to expect being a student athlete,” Jones said. “[They told me] don’t worry, just go out there and be yourself, just play hard and that’s really all you can do. You can’t worry about things you can’t control.”NCAA rules permit every school team to take one foreign trip every four years. The Irish last left American soil in the summer of 2000 (also for Brazil) and finished that year as one of the best teams in school history. Ranked No. 1 for most of the season, the team’s only loss came in the NCAA semifinals to eventual national champion North Carolina.If the Irish want to improve from last season, they will need to be deep after losing last year’s leading scorer, Amy Warner, to graduation. Warner helped lead the 2003 Irish to a near perfect regular season and a No. 2 ranking. But the team lost three of its last five games including twice to Michigan, once in the season finale and then again to eliminate the Irish in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame will meet the Wolverines again in this year’s final regular season contest Oct. 28 in Ann Arbor.Before the team concentrates on revenge, the team must focus on first things first, namely sorting out the lineup. “We haven’t really talked about [playing time],” Jones said. “The Brazil trip was just to see where everyone fit in.”If Jones and the rest of her new classmates continue to perform well, they may fit in sooner than they think.