ND Women’s Soccer: Near perfection inspires team for new season
Mike Gotimer | Saturday, August 22, 2009
The term “nearly perfect” is often used in sports to describe great teams. It can be used to describe the 1996 Chicago Bulls or 1998 New York Yankees that were so good they had few, if any, flaws as they cruised to titles in their respective leagues. However, some teams, like the 2007 New England Patriots, find themselves on the other end of the spectrum, coming up just short in the big game while on the brink of true perfection.
In 2008, Notre Dame found itself on the same ground as those Patriots, as it came up short in its pursuit of perfection during the final minutes of the championship game. The Irish, who entered last year’s College Cup final with a 26-0-0 record, suffered a 2-1 loss to North Carolina as Tar Heels forward Casey Noguiera drilled home the game-winning goal from 20 yards out with less than two minutes to play in the match.
Despite the tough finish to an otherwise fantastic season, Irish coach Randy Waldrum said he expects the team to rebound and compete at the high level that they have been accustomed to during his tenure at Notre Dame.
“I would expect the response to be just like it is every year,” Waldrum said. “[The loss] continues to drive you and realize that you were so close and there were one or two little mistakes that cost you a championship. It was a difficult loss but we’ve won national titles and lost national titles before and we continue to be very resilient and have that hunger to achieve this year.”
The 2009 Irish may be just as deep as last year’s squad with 19 monogram winners and seven starters returning. Last year’s depth will help the Irish this season as they look to replace many of their graduated stars, including two-time Hermann Award winner Kerri Hanks. Although the Irish return few proven goal scorers, they return a great number of offensive players who have the ability to light up the box scores this season. Among those who Waldrum expects to step up and produce is sophomore forward Melissa Henderson, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year who ranked second in the conference behind Hanks in both goals and points.
“We’re looking at Melissa Henderson, who’s into her sophomore year as one who’s fully capable of stepping up and filling that goal scoring,” Waldrum said.
Waldrum also believes that sophomore forward Courtney Barg will contribute on the front line. Barg came on strong for the Irish late last season and started in all six of Notre Dame’s College Cup games.
“Courtney Barg may be one of the best players in the country this year,” Waldrum said. “She has the ability to score a lot of goals.”
The Irish also boast a strong incoming freshman class, led by Canadian forward Tereza Stastny, whom Waldrum said he expects to contribute early.
“Freshman Tereza Statsny from Canada can step in and put up a lot of goals,” Waldrum said.
Fans looking to see the Irish make another run at a national championship will be able to do so in the comfort of Notre Dame’s brand new Alumni Stadium, which Waldrum believes may be the final step in making Notre Dame a perennial national power.
“As a university we have great academics, and we’ve had a great women’s program over the years and we think [the stadium] is the last piece of the puzzle to make sure we remain a national power,” Waldrum said. “More importantly, I hope it helps draw students, and I hope we get more of the student support out there because we think that if we get students out there once, it will get them hooked.”