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Irish have a special player in Thorlakson

Matt Mooney | Monday, November 1, 2004

A storm was brewing Halloween afternoon on Alumni Field, and it sure wasn’t a red one.On Sunday, Irish forward Katie Thorlakson shredded the St. John’s defense notching four goals and two assists in a 7-0 Irish rout. The Red Storm was overwhelmed by a gale-force, white-jersey-wearing maelstrom who helped Notre Dame roll into the Big East Tournament semi-finals.Statistically, the game was the capstone of a three-game offensive rampage in which Thorlakson has totaled an eye-popping seven goals and five assists. But more importantly, her performance may have signaled the beginning of a very special post-season run for the Irish.Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum knew at the start of the season that in Thorlakson he had one of the elite players in the nation. Her play this season has not only backed that up, but elevated her to superstar status. One of the reasons both she and her Irish teammates have an undefeated record this season stems from her ability to make everyone around her better while still excelling herself. Seemingly out of habit, Thorlakson exhibits the uncanny knack to know when to pass and when to take her own shot. Teams who play off her trying to respect her playmaking ability are subject to her deceptively-quick feet and pinpoint accuracy. If opposing defenses over-commit to stopping her, she is more than willing to dump the ball off and create scoring chances for her teammates as demonstrated by her team-high 17 assists.Her skills as a creator also help the team when she goes through a scoring drought. Like any player, she has stretches when the ball just doesn’t bounce her way and won’t find the back of the net. Recently, Thorlakson went through a four-game drought without either a goal or an assist. Yet she still helped her team find ways to win and the Irish remained unbeaten even through her slump.Despite all her individual accomplishments, Thorlakson has displayed an unwavering dedication to her team. During interviews, she quietly deflects attention from her own performance to that of the team as a whole. There is almost a tone of embarrassment in her voice when discussing her individual play despite the fact that she will contend for the National Player of the Year award.The British Columbia native is talented enough to have a spot waiting for her on the Canadian Under-19 National Team. However, Thorlakson declined the position so as not to miss a crucial stretch of the NCAA Tournament.The thing that solidifies her status as a soccer star is her elevated level of play when the games mean the most. In the five games Notre Dame has played this season against ranked opponents, Thorlakson has totaled four goals and four assists, including a hat trick early in the season against No. 4 Santa Clara. She took charge of Thursday’s rivalry game against Michigan, avenging two losses last season with two goals and two assists in a 4-0 shutout. Her performance against St. John’s was nothing short of outstanding.This excellence is what she expects of herself and that is part of the reason why she has been so successful this year. It is also the reason why the rest of the collegiate soccer world should grab their umbrellas. The storm that St. John’s witnessed first-hand doesn’t look like it’s letting up any time soon.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Matt Mooney at mmooney@nd.edu.