ND Women’s Soccer: Sophomore captains Irish
Brian Hartnett | Thursday, September 5, 2013
Entering the season off a summer that saw her gain valuable international soccer experience, Notre Dame sophomore defender Katie Naughton expected to continue developing as a critical cog in the Irish defense. But she didn’t expect to take on a role normally reserved for seniors.
Shortly before the start of the season, members of the No. 8 Irish squad selected Naughton as one of the team’s three captains, thrusting her into a rather unexpected position of authority.
“I’m honored they thought that I could fill that role that [former Irish defender] Jazmin Hall had left behind,” Naughton said. “I just want to make sure I do a good job and represent the team as best I can.”
Naughton, who shares the honor of tri-captain with senior midfielders Mandy Laddish and Elizabeth Tucker, said she tries to lead the team with her quiet yet steady defensive efforts.
“I think I tend to lead more by example,” she said. “I’m not necessarily the most vocal or rambunctious player on the field, but I do try to do things the right way, and I think that’s what people see the most.”
Irish coach Randy Waldrum said Naughton’s leadership on the field is exactly what makes her suited to be the team’s captain.
“[Naughton’s] one of those kids that does everything right,” he said. “She plays hard, she trains hard, she’s a great player, but she’s humble, she’s very good in the classroom, she takes care of her business there and sets a great example on the field.”
The Elk Grove Village, Ill., native became a fixture on the Irish defense last season, when she started 23 of the team’s 24 matches. Her presence in a defense that posted a 0.73 goals-against average last season became noted early, and she was named to both the All-Big East third team and All-Big East rookie team.
Naughton’s successful freshman season also helped her land an expanded role on the United States Under-20 National Team, as she started both matches on the team’s Sweden exhibition tour in May.
“Personally, [playing on the national team] just helped with my speed of play and made me have to be consistent on a regular basis,” Naughton said.
The Under-20 National Team experience also allowed the Breen-Phillips resident to spend more time with her college teammates, as she trained with sophomore forward Crystal Thomas, sophomore forward Cari Roccaro, freshman midfielder Morgan Andrews and freshman goalkeeper Kaela Little in various national team camps.
“It was so much fun to be able to play with all those girls,” Naughton said. “I can’t wait to be able to play with them more this season because I know we’ll all do great, and it’s just going to be a good year.”
So far, this season has been a good one for Naughton, as she and the rest of the Irish defense have allowed only three goals through four games. The anthropology and Spanish double major has even found new ways to leave her mark in the stats sheet – she added a goal and an assist in Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over Northwestern on Aug. 25.
“It’s exciting because [defenders] don’t usually score, so those are always fun moments,” she said. “Those are exciting times, but just as long as we keep making those opportunities, then it will be fun down the road.”
Waldrum anticipates many exciting times ahead for a player he believes could be one of the best at a position where Notre Dame has been traditionally strong.
“I’ve always said I think [Naughton] can leave here in a couple of years and be one of the best central backs that’s played here, and we’ve had some good ones,” he said. “She’s just so competitive and so strong physically, she’s got the physical presence, and the size, the strength, the height. Katie right now is well on her way toward having that whole package.”
Naughton and the Irish will return to action against Detroit on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.
Contact Brian Hartnett at email@example.com