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Krivacek steps up in NCAA’s

Matt Mooney | Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Jill Krivacek generally doesn’t like to draw a lot of attention to herself on the field.

“I wouldn’t say I’m extremely vocal but mainly because I’m a sophomore and I don’t feel like it’s my territory yet,” she said.

But when the sophomore headed a corner kick into the net with 53 seconds left to break a 0-0 tie in Sunday’s second-round NCAA tournament victory over Wisconsin, she could barely contain herself. Krivacek screamed with jubilation, was mobbed by her teammates and then ran along the Notre Dame bench in celebration.

“It’s one of the best [moments of my career],” Krivacek said. “Usually when I score I get pretty excited but it doesn’t happen very often. But at that point it was a very exciting moment.”

Despite her joyful antics, Krivacek, who stands at 5-foot-11, usually does not blend in on the field anyway. Oftentimes, she stands a full head taller than many opposing players which allows her to control many of the header opportunities that come her way.

“I don’t know if I’m out-leaping [defenders], but when you start at 5-foot-11, it’s pretty easy to get over people,” she said.

“Her height allows her to control a lot of balls in the middle of the field and take pressure off our defense so they don’t have to come up,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “It’s frustrating for our opponents when they try to clear the ball out and Jill’s right there to dump it back in.”

Her skills in the air have improved markedly over last season when the coaches were trying to get her to take advantage of her height.

“Last year, as big as she was, we really wanted her to improve her heading ability,” Waldrum said. “She’s really made big strides in that part of her game. Defensively, she wins a ton of balls when goalkeepers punt them out.”

Though not a prolific scorer herself, Krivacek focuses on the little things that need to be done in order to set up the playmakers. She serves as the key transition player when the Notre Dame defense moves the ball out of its own end. This frequently involves navigating the middle of the field clogged with opposing players.

“In the middle you have to play quickly,” Krivacek said. “If I get the ball from one of my backs, I usually have somebody on my back just because there’s so many numbers always in the middle of the field.”

Waldrum said the task is underappreciated and much easier said than done.

“She plays really deep on the field and what she does is control the ball and get the attack started,” he said. “It takes a special player to be able to control the ball in a crowd of a lot of people. Not a lot of players have that ability. She has great vision and the ability to turn the play across the field.”

But her style of play and contributions often get hidden behind those players with the gaudier numbers. In 19 starts this year, Krivacek has only totaled four points during this season. Saturday’s game-winning score was her lone goal of the season, and she has taken only eight shots all year.

“When you look at our team and you’ve got Katie Thorlaksons and Candace Chapmans and Melissa Tancredis and Buczkowskis and those kind of players, she kind of gets lost in the mix,” Waldrum said, “But she’s clearly a key for us.”