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Women’s Soccer Commentary: Hanks’ injury won’t hurt Irish in playoff games

Deirdre Krasula | Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not much can rattle the Irish, not even seeing their leading scorer down on the field grabbing her knee – okay so maybe that was momentarily scary, but the Irish shook it off.

And there’s more than one reason that Kerri Hanks’ strained MCL wasn’t nearly as frightening as Tony Romo’s end-of-season injury was to Cowboy fans – one, she’s likely to recover quickly and be back in time for the NCAA Championship, and if anyone is willing to fight for her spot back on the field, it’s Hanks, and two, the Irish bench is packed with offensive stars.

Take a look at forward Melissa Henderson. She may not have Hanks’ 18 season goals, but hey, 15 ain’t bad either, and oh, she’s a freshman.

Hanks isn’t just a shot scorer, she sets up those game wining plays too, leading the Irish with 10 assists. But again, Notre Dame is not to be held up by one set of legs: enter senior captain Brittany Bock. Bock is just an assist behind Hanks with nine on the season, and she boasts six goals in addition to that.

But it’s not just Bock and Henderson who will help ease the pain of Hanks injury. The Irish have had 17 different players score 69 goals in the 2008 season. And the Irish defense has only let up eight goals in a still-undefeated season. So Irish fans, I see no reason to worry yet.

The Irish defense makes up yet another reason the Irish are likely to push right on through to the NCAA Championship. With senior captain Carrie Dew healthy and looking as good as ever, the likelihood that opponents will get a chance to see the back of the Irish net is slim. Goalkeeper Kelsey Lysander and the Irish defense were even able to keep No. 2 North Carolina scoreless in their 1-0 win over the Tar Heels back in September – even more encouraging is the fact that Bock posted the lone Irish goal.

And its easy to forget who stands at the crux of it all – Irish coach Randy Waldrum, a man who’s never stopped learning about the game, especially on the women’s side. And even if this Irish team hasn’t faced injuries and tournament time before, he certainly has. Most recently losing one of his top defenders – Dew – to an ACL injury right before the start of the 2006 post-season.

And despite losing to North Carolina in the College Cup Final, they made it there nonetheless. Waldrum has dealt with injury before, and Hanks’ is the first really trying injury of the season, and I’m sure Waldrum will know how to deal with it. The Irish are likely to step on the field Friday and look like essentially the same team you’ve seen all season, just that sophomore Taylor Knaack or junior Michelle Weissenhofer may be where Hanks once paced the field.

So even though and injury is never welcomed – unless you’re playing against Notre Dame – the temporary loss of Hanks isn’t likely to affect Notre Dame’s performance against Marquette in the Big East semifinals. And even the prospect of No. 17 West Virginia in the finals shouldn’t hold too much threat – after all, we are talking about an undefeated team here.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Deirdre Krasula at dkrasula@nd.edu