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ND Women’s Soccer: Early non-conference slate will test squad

Fran Tolan | Friday, August 22, 2008

After reaching the national semifinals last year, Notre Dame will have to overcome a difficult schedule to duplicate that success. But the Irish have the personnel to do it.

Nine freshmen join a stacked team that made it to the College Cup before falling to Florida State a year ago.

“We’ve got a very good group [of freshmen] coming in,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “Four or five of them might step in and play a lot right away.”

Among the newcomers, forward Melissa Henderson adds to the plethora of talent on Notre Dame’s roster.

“In most recruiting circles, she’s the player of the year,” Waldrum said of Henderson, a fellow Texan.

Waldrum said Kansas City natives Molly Campbell and Ellen Jantsch should also put in meaningful minutes for the Irish. Campbell and Jantsch both hail from St. Teresa’s, the same high school that sophomore Lauren Fowlkes attended. Last season, Fowlkes stepped in as a freshman to help anchor Notre Dame’s defense. Waldrum said he hopes that Campbell and Jantsch can have the same type of impact.

The coach said that several other freshmen will also have the opportunity to earn playing time.

“We have a very, very good group… Some of the other [freshmen] could slide right in for us in the future as they get a little more experience.”

The freshmen will be introduced to top-tier competition right away as the Irish are slated to face national powers Santa Clara, North Carolina and Duke in early-season contests.

“We’re very excited. We’ve bitten off a big, big schedule,” Waldrum said.

Despite the daunting matchups, Waldrum said his team’s upperclassmen provide the Irish with the leadership needed for a grueling season. Seniors Carrie Dew and Brittany Bock have been voted captains.

“They are two good selections,” Waldrum said of Dew and Bock. “They are both key players for us who are also hardworking and committed. They’re just what you’d want out of your captains.”

In addition to the pair of captains, Waldrum said seniors like Kerri Hanks, Rebecca Mendoza and Kerry Inglis provide vital leadership for a team with so many first-year players.

“I think we have a great core group of senior leadership,” Waldrum said.

But the coach knows that it will not be easy for his club to match last year’s success. For that reason, he said the Irish must concentrate on just one opponent at a time.

“We’re taking the approach of, game-by-game, trying to win,” Waldrum said. “We take that approach every year and it’s worked out for us most of the time.”