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ND Women’s Soccer: Freshmen rise to the challenge

Mike Gotimer | Thursday, September 23, 2010

While a few key injured players work their way back to full strength, No. 5 Notre Dame has benefited from a youth infusion that has helped them to another blistering start.

During Notre Dame’s first eight games, freshmen Elizabeth Tucker, Mandy Laddish and Kecia Morway, have stepped up to fill the voids left by injuries to the likes of junior midfielder Courtney Barg and sophomore defender Jazmin Hall. Without their efforts, Irish coach Randy Waldrum said his team may not have gotten off to its strong start.

“All three of those kids, the good thing about them is that they all come from good club systems and youth systems, which really prepared them well for the college game,” Waldrum said. “The difference is that those three freshmen came in physically read to play right from the beginning, almost from Day 1. All three of them have been key to where we are right now. I don’t know that we’d be 7-1 without those three.”

The rookies know that one reason they’ve been thrown into fire so quickly is because of injuries, but they have not let the pressure of filling in for star teammates faze them.

“I think we were asked to step up and take their roles since they’re gone, but we’re also playing naturally and playing our game and putting our skill on the field,” Laddish said.

Each of the three freshmen has played in all eight games this season. Tucker, a midfielder from Jacksonville, Fla., was named Big East Rookie of the Week for the week after scoring three of Notre Dame’s four goals in their road wins over DePaul and Northwestern. Currently tied for the team lead with four goals, both Tucker and Waldrum said preseason workouts helped all of the Irish freshmen’s rapid assimilation to the college game.

“Before the season started, we had about three weeks of preseason where we were practicing twice a day, so we really got a chance to see the veteran players, see their speed and how good they are, and if you can play against them, you can play against anyone in the country,” Tucker said.

Laddish, a midfielder from Lee’s Summit, Mo., has started all eight games for the Irish this season and ranks second on the team with 715 minutes played, just one behind junior forward Melissa Henderson. Laddish said the veterans and coaches have helped the freshmen make their quick adjustment to college soccer.

“They welcome you like it’s a family here,” Laddish said. “Some teams you go in, and they’ll be intimidating and mean to you because they don’t want you to take their spot, but here they encourage you and want you to play with them and learn their game. On the field, age doesn’t matter. It’s who competes the most.”

Morway, a defender from Lake Villa, Ill., has recently cracked the lineup and has started five games on the year as Hall tries to recover from injury. She registered 90 minutes in Notre Dame’s 2-1 overtime loss to No. 11 UCLA and credits much of her fellow classmates’ success to the competitive atmosphere of the team.

“They want you to get better by making them better, so it’s a really competitive atmosphere, which helps,” Morway said.

While the season is young, the three rookies hope to leave a lasting contribution on a memorable season.

“I think as freshmen it would be cool if the three of us could contribute to winning a national championship for the first time in a few years, so that’d be a really cool thing to do in your first year at college,” Morway said.