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ND Women’s Soccer: Quartet of seniors hopes to be picked for new league

Fran Tolan | Thursday, October 2, 2008

Seniors Brittany Bock, Carrie Dew, Kerri Hanks and Elise Weber might want to think about canceling their post-graduate job hunts.

The newly-formed Women’s Professional Soccer league opens play in April and those four Irish players are prime candidates to be drafted at the conclusion of their college careers.

The league will originally consist of seven teams, which Irish coach Randy Waldrum said will force the nation’s elite players to compete for the limited roster spots.

“It’s gonna be really small with the few reserve players they have – you know, just 4 or 5 reserves on each team – roster spots are gonna be at a premium,” he said. “Each team also gets roster space for five foreign players and when you start adding the foreign players to the mix, there’s not a whole lot of roster spots left.”

Still, Women’s Professional Soccer – WPS, for short – should have a strong Notre Dame contingent. Three former Irish players – Melissa Tancredi, Kate Markgraf and Shannon Boxx – have already joined teams as the nation’s top players were allocated to the seven squads. And they will surely be joined by at least a few other Domers.

Jen Buczkowski and Amanda Cinalli, both Notre Dame graduates, worked out at the WPS combine last week and hope to be chosen in the general draft next Monday.

Waldrum said the heavy Irish presence in the WPS helps the current players evaluate their own chances of making the league.

“It’s easy sometimes to take [Notre Dame] for granted if this is what you’re used to but when you see those [players] … making this a career it certainly gives these [current] players hope and inspiration to seize the opportunity,” he said. “Like these girls are role models for the little girls that come to our games, those older girls are role models for them.”

Bock, Dew, Hanks and Weber will not be draft-eligible until they finish their NCAA careers but all have strong enough resumes to garner consideration from the professional teams.

“I think the window [with roster spots] is gonna be a tough one but certainly those four kids are as good as any players in the country,” Waldrum said. “So we’ll certainly push for them to the teams.”

The Irish seniors have played on U.S. junior teams but said that having a chance to join the professional league is a rare opportunity.

“Our dream was always to play for the [senior] national team. For our generation, those were the pro players,” Hanks said. “We looked up to players like Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilley and [Julie] Foudy and all those players and this is a great opportunity for us to make a name for ourselves.”

Waldrum said the opportunity the Irish players have would not have been feasible just several decades ago.

“When I first got into coaching women … was in 1989 and I would have never imagined it then,” the coach said. “I never dreamt it would turn into the scale it has even on the college scene. I don’t think anyone envisioned any kind of women’s pro league.”

While the players said they are happy to simply have a chance to continue playing, several of them would have preferred destinations. Bock and Weber, who both hail from the Chicagoland area, said they would jump at the chance to play for the Chicago Red Stars.

“I’d obviously love to stay close to Chicago just to be close to home,” Bock said. “It would be great to be close to family and friends and even this University because of my friends.”

And Dew, who grew up in Encinitas, Calif., said she would like to play for either the Los Angeles or Bay Area squad.

Hanks did not get as lucky as her three teammates. The Dallas native was dismayed when she found out that the team from her home city will not join the league until 2010.

Still, Hanks said she cannot wait for a possible chance at an extended soccer career.

“It was definitely disappointing that Dallas said they didn’t have enough money for a stadium so they should come back next year,” Hanks said. “But, I mean, all of us have dreamed of going pro so wherever I get picked – if I get picked – I’ll go wherever.”

As Hanks uttered the phrase “if I get picked,” Dew and Weber chuckled at her. Their laughter seemed to say, “There’s no doubt you will get picked.”

And that’s how Waldrum feels about all four of the seniors.

“Not only the experience they gained here at Notre Dame with playing in national championships and Final Fours and the level of competition we play,” the coach said. “But also I think that all of those kids … with all their national team experience, that when the draft comes around they’re gonna have to give our [players] a real hard look.”

Weber said that even though the undefeated Irish still plan on making a national championship run this season, the prospect of playing professionally is too enticing to ignore at this point.

“We all kind of don’t know what were gonna be up to next year so I think its always kind of in the back of your mind,” she said. “Right now we’re obviously focusing on our season but it’s kind of hard not to think about it every once in a while.”