ND Women’s Soccer: Henderson, Schuveiller and Barg push for repeat title
Allan Joseph | Friday, August 19, 2011
For most schools, the follow-up act to a national championship involves heightened pressure and newly raised expectations. For No. 1 Notre Dame, however, 2011 will just be more of the same.
“It’s probably no different than every other past year,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “If we can get to the College Cup, it’s just two games — anything can happen. So the goal is always to get there.”
Notre Dame returns the majority of its starting lineup from last year, led by a trio of senior captains who are quite familiar with each other. Defender Jessica Schuveiller, midfielder Courtney
Barg and forward Melissa Henderson have played on the same team since their youth soccer days in Dallas.
“They’ve been leading for a long time, by their play and by the examples they leave for the team on and off the field,” Waldrum said. “All three have those kind of qualities, and we want them to continue to do that.”
Henderson, however, does not expect her role to significantly change from previous years.
“I don’t really see too much of a difference,” she said. “I see all 25 of us as leaders and don’t really see myself or Jessica or Courtney as separating ourselves from the team.”
Notre Dame’s late-season championship run was keyed in large part by a youth influx led by forward Adriana Leon, midfielders Mandy Laddish and Elizabeth Tucker and defender Kecia Morway, all now sophomores. Waldrum expects those playmakers to continue to have an impact on the field.
“Those kids were key in us winning. From what I see of them right now, I don’t think they’ve skipped a beat,” he said. “I don’t really see in them any kind of a sophomore slump.”
Waldrum also expects his newest crop of recruits to begin immediately contributing to the team. Touted by Waldrum as his best class ever, the freshmen have already showed signs of living up to his expectations. In fact, four freshmen were in the starting lineup during Notre Dame’s 5-0 exhibition victory over Nebraska Aug. 9.
“All the freshmen I have been [impressed by,] absolutely,” Waldrum said. “They’ve stepped right in from the beginning and they’ve played just like veteran players…I’m really pleased. They’re all physically ready to do it. They came in fit and just jumped right into the mix. They’re going to have a big impact on our team, no doubt about it.”
While most of the starting lineup is set, one question mark remains heading into the season. The Irish lost stalwart goalkeeper Nikki Weiss to graduation and are currently deciding on a new starting goalkeeper. Junior Maddie Fox and freshmen Jennifer Jasper and Sarah Voigt are all competing for starting time between the posts, and Waldrum has not decided on a long-term starter.
“It’s hard to replace [Weiss] because she had some experience under her belt and had played in a number of big games, and Maddie’s really not done that yet,” Waldrum said. “I think that’s going to be key, how she responds to it. I do think Sarah is going to push her quite a bit and of course we’ve got Jen Jasper in there pushing as well.
“I’m not sure ultimately who’s going to take the reins … That’s the one question I’ve probably got a little bit unanswered right now.”
As they embark on the quest to defend their title, the Irish remain confident they will be in a position to accomplish that goal come November.
“Yeah, expectation levels are high and the goals are big, but I think by the end of the year we’re going to be good again,” Waldrum said.
“The team’s really doing well,” She said. “I’m really, really excited for this year. Our team has been working hard and everyone’s on the same page to really get another national championship.”
Notre Dame opened its season Friday night by hosting Wisconsin after this edition went to press. The Irish travel to North Carolina to face the perennial title-contenders Aug. 26 and will host Tulsa at Alumni Stadium on Sept. 2.