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ND Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Thorlakson

Ken Fowler | Friday, May 19, 2006

Irish forward Katie Thorlakson started 37 of 43 games during her first two years at Notre Dame – but she really made her mark as a junior.

When Notre Dame captured its second-ever national championship in 2004, Thorlakson led the team with 23 goals and 24 assists (70 points) during the season en route to collecting national player of the year honors from Soccer America and Soccer Buzz. She was one of five finalists for the ESPY Awards’ top female college athlete that season and was the College Cup offensive MVP after scoring or assisting on 18 of Notre Dame’s final 22 goals of the championship run.

And then came her senior season.

Thorlakson posted 71 points (18 goals, 35 assists) as she became the locker room leader and the force behind second-semester freshman Kerri Hanks’ emergence as the premier young goal-scorer in the country.

Besides being top-flight players, Thorlakson called the entire team “really good friends.”

“And that’s what makes it so special,” she said.

Thorlakson finished her career with 55 goals and 73 assists for 183 points.

After a surprising snub to end her junior season, Thorlakson earned first-team All-America honors in 2005. Only Portland’s Christine Sinclair kept Thorlakson from collecting the coveted Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top player.

Sinclair set an NCAA record with 39 goals while leading the Pilots to the national championship.

But Thorlakson was gracious in defeat.

“[Sinclair] is the type of player that will make anyone around her better,” Thorlakson said after the Hermann Trophy awards ceremony in St. Louis. “She’s a world-class type of player. She can create something out of nothing every time.”

Now, Thorlakson won’t have to compete against Sinclair ever again.

The 5-foot-3 product of Langley, British Columbia, has rejoined the Canadian National Team on which Sinclair also plays.

Thorlakson made her national team debut July 30, 2004, against Japan. She already has accumulated 13 caps for the national team in her international career, including four since finishing her career at Notre Dame. She had 27 international caps for Canada’s Under-20 national team.

Thorlakson tore her ACL last week during a practice and is on the mend, but it hasn’t affected her excitement to be playing for Team Canada.

“I even look forward to watching the games now,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to getting back and playing with [Sinclair] again.”

At the end of the 2005 regular season, Thorlakson said she tried to play as hard and as aggressive as former Irish standout Melissa Tancredi. Tancredi served as the defensive centerpiece on Notre Dame’s championship team in 2004 and now plays for the Canadian national team with Thorlakson.

Thorlakson said her youth in Langley kept her removed from the NCAA so much that she had no idea what to expect when she came to Notre Dame.

“I didn’t even know what conference we’re in,” she said. “I didn’t even know we were playing for a national championship.”

But watching the upperclassmen on the team during her freshman season – in which Notre Dame finished 13-8 – changed all that. And the national championship two years later changed the status of Notre Dame soccer.

“[2002] was a pretty rough season,” Thorlakson said. “The seniors this year paved a pretty hard road that the upcoming freshman won’t have to.”

She said her favorite memory besides the national championship was Notre Dame’s 5-2 victory over Santa Clara on Sept. 5, 2004 at Alumni Field.

“It was my favorite game probably,” Thorlakson said. “Notre Dame was so fun. I had never played with that type of [team]. I had the time of my life.”

What Thorlakson did while having the time of her life was to re-establish Notre Dame as a perennial power.

“We’re coming back every year with top-10 teams,” she said. “You can’t really look at it as a bad year when you lose to the eventual national champions.”