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Women’s Soccer: Hanks not used to losing

Fran Tolan | Thursday, September 27, 2007

In the first game of her collegiate career, Kerri Hanks racked up three goals and an assist in an 11-1 win over New Hampshire.For most of her freshman and sophomore seasons, Hanks and the Irish continued rolling over opponents in a similar fashion.This year has not been so easy for Hanks and her teammates. Despite notching six goals in her team’s first eight games, the junior has lost as many games this season as she had in her first two seasons combined.The Irish stand at 3-4-1 as they begin the meaty part of their Big East schedule Friday at Louisville.”It is hard for me because I’ve never been on a team with a losing record before,” Hanks said.Before arriving at Notre Dame, Hanks starred for the Dallas Texans, the 2003 United States Youth Soccer Association national champion. Hanks received the Golden Boot Award for having the greatest competitive impact in the USYSA National Championships that year and again when the Texans were the 2005 runner-up.”[Hanks] played for a great youth club, so she’s definitely not used to being on the losing side,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “This is a first for her, like most of our players.”After graduating from the youth soccer ranks, Hanks continued her winning ways at Notre Dame. As a freshman, she won the Hermann Trophy as the Division 1 national player of the year for the 22-3-0 Irish squad that made the national quarterfinals. “For me, I knew it would be difficult after winning the trophy,” Hanks said.”I’ve worked very hard.”But neither double teams nor a sophomore jinx slowed her down last season as she won the Big East offensive player of the year award with 22 goals and 22 assists.  The Irish finished as the national runner-up with a record of 25-1-1.But the team has struggled this season, outplaying teams but rarely getting the results they hope for.”This year has been frustrating because we’ve outshot teams and outplayed them,” Hanks said. “We’ve just been giving some careless mistakes on the back end and not finishing up front.”Hanks said that the team is not struggling because of a lack of skill.”You shouldn’t compare us to [the 2006 team],” said Hanks. “But we have plenty of talent and know we’re capable of playing a lot better than this.”Hanks, for one, has scored in each of Notre Dame’s last four contests and Waldrum said that she has played even better than she did in her two award-winning seasons.”Her energy level is incredible,” said Waldrum. “The last few seasons she hasn’t had to carry us but, this year, she’s certainly elevated her game.”While she has scored 56 goals in more than two collegiate seasons, Hanks and Waldrum both cited defense as the area in which she has improved most.”She’s made big strides chasing and defending,” Waldrum said. “When everyone else sees a forward tracking back, it’s a huge lift for them. And Kerri has shown that commitment to fighting.”The rest of the Irish will need to imitate that dogged attitude if they hope to play deep into the NCAA Tournament. For now, the team will focus on building on its 4-0 win over DePaul Friday in its Big East opener.”We’ve just been playing our hearts out [in practice],” Hanks said. “We’re just looking at Friday [against Louisville] and trying to start picking up wins.”Luckily for the Irish, their star forward has proved that she knows how to do just that.