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Former Irish soccer player Brittany Bock playing at highest level

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Like many young girls with aspirations of playing college soccer, Brittany Bock’s dream was to attend North Carolina and suit up for the powerhouse Tar Heels program.

Unlike many other girls, Bock had the opportunity to play for the Tar Heels, but she found that a program closer to home was calling her name.

“It ended up that my final two were between North Carolina and Notre Dame,” Bock said in a phone interview with The Observer. “I could get a great education at both, a great soccer experience at both, but it just felt special at Notre Dame, since I’m really into my faith, and it was closer to home.”

The Naperville, Ill., native entered Notre Dame in the fall of 2005 as a center midfielder and immediately became a contributor for the Irish, scoring 12 goals her freshman season. Switching to forward after her first season, she became an even more dynamic scoring threat, winning the co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year in her junior season.

“[Former Irish forward] Katie Thorlakson was our striker, and we were really missing that once she left after my freshman year,” Bock said. “[Irish coach] Randy [Waldrum] wanted to try me out because I was strong, I could hold the ball and was physical, and I ended up staying there and becoming a more dynamic forward through the years.”

Bock’s scoring prowess carried over to the postseason, where she was one of Notre Dame’s most dependable scorers. Bock tallied 10 goals in 17 career NCAA tournament games, including Notre Dame’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to North Carolina in the 2006 NCAA College Cup Final.

“When it comes to the playoffs, it’s one game and you’re out, so I was fortunate to be in the position where I could help my teammates advance,” Bock said. “I play with a lot of heart and passion, and I hate losing, so I’m one of those players who will fight no matter what.”

Despite her personal postseason success, Bock came up just short of three national championships in her time at Notre Dame. The Irish fell to North Carolina in the College Cup Final in 2006 and 2008 and lost to Florida State in the College Cup Semifinals in 2007.

“It would have been awesome if we would have won the NCAA [Championship], but it was a great experience to go to the Final Four three out of my four years,” Bock said. “We lost in two national championships to North Carolina, but I would never take that back or say, ‘I wish I went to North Carolina,’ because what I got out of it was the person that it made me.”

Bock said her favorite college soccer experience came during 2007, her junior season, when the Irish rebounded from a 3-4-1 start to reach the College Cup semifinals.

“We had a really rough start compared to the other three years,” Bock said of her junior year. “Seeing us come together and make it to the Final Four was just special because it showed the fight and that we all believed in each other, and our coaches believed in us.”

Shortly after graduating from Notre Dame in 2009 with a degree in marketing, Bock was drafted by the Los Angeles Sol of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). While in Los Angeles, Bock played alongside some top professional players, including former Irish midfielder Shannon Boxx and Brazilian forward Marta.

“I was a rookie straight out of college, and I was playing with the best of the best from five different countries,” Bock said. “We played in the Home Depot Center and had 15,000 people show up for opening day, and I got to play forward next to Marta, which was an amazing experience.”

After the Sol folded following the 2009 season, Bock moved across the country to play for the Washington Freedom. The following season, she signed with the Western New York Flash and finally captured a long-elusive championship, as she helped the squad to the 2011 WPS title.

WPS folded after the 2011 season, and Bock spent the 2012 season splitting time between the Colorado Rush of the W-League and a professional club in Sweden. Earlier this year, Bock signed with New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC of the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Playing in her third league in three seasons, Bock said she sees a bright future for the NWSL and professional women’s soccer in the United States.

“There’s definitely a lot of potential, [the NWSL] went about it differently this year with [signing] players from national teams,” she said. “We’ve got a great product on the field and each year, girls come out of college, and we’ve got the top players looking to play somewhere-we want to keep them in the states and keep developing them here.”

Bock played an unfamiliar role this season for Sky Blue FC, as a broken arm suffered in May limited her to only seven games. She returned in July and played for the rest of the team’s season, which ended with a loss to Western New York in the NWSL semifinals.

“A lot of times, I can lead and show examples by my play, but I haven’t been able to do what I do best, so I just try to encourage my teammates,” Bock said. “Even off the field, I try to set an example by eating right and taking care of my body. It’s definitely been a frustrating and humbling season for me, but not everything’s going to go perfectly.”

Looking into the future, Bock said she plans to stay involved with soccer after her playing days, but she doesn’t intend on becoming a head coach.

“To be completely honest, I would like to be a strength coach,” she said. “I like giving my input, I like that motivational stuff and the strength and fitness part of it. There’s a lot of players that need positive encouragement when they’re younger, just to tell them they can do it.”

As for the more immediate future, Bock said she plans to return to Notre Dame for several games and closely follow her former team in its first season of ACC competition.

“I really miss it so much lately, with all the talk of college soccer going around,” Bock said. “What I loved about college is that your whole school was around you, and it was the coolest thing. You look at college [soccer], and you’re really a band of sisters, going to school together, training together and taking road trips and everything. I’m still talking about it, and I can’t wait to share with my kids and grandkids that I was part of the Fighting Irish.”

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu.