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Sticking with it

Andy Troeger | Thursday, November 13, 2003

As a freshman three years ago, Amy Warner wasted little time making her mark on the women’s soccer program at Notre Dame. She came into the program with a bang, recording the earliest ever hat trick for an Irish freshman against Providence and in the process became a fixture in the Notre Dame starting lineup.

However, about halfway through the regular season an ACL injury threw Warner’s great start off track, although it did not end her season. After missing seven games, she put off season-ending surgery to come back with the ACL injury and play for the Irish, scoring a goal that gave the Irish a 1-0 lead against eventual champion North Carolina in the Final Four. She was named first team All-Big East that season and was named to the All-NCAA Tournament team despite playing with the ACL injury.

“A lot of people don’t realize that she tore her ACL after she had been off to a great start and probably would have been the NCAA freshman of the year,” said coach Randy Waldrum. “She was determined to come back for the playoffs. To come back for the National Semifinal game and still play well and score a goal is a testament to what she’s made of. In all the years I’ve been coaching I’ve never had a player do that.”

Warner had surgery after that season to repair her knee. While she had a solid sophomore season as the Irish won their seventh consecutive Big East Championship, it took time for her to completely come back from the ACL injury. Still, she was named second team All-Big East and ranked third on the team in scoring.

Warner regained her form as a junior, leading the team in scoring for much of the season. She scored nine goals and added eight assists as she returned to the All-Big East first team and was named second team All-Great Lakes Region. She registered the second hat trick of her career against Georgetown and was one of few juniors in the history of the women’s soccer program to become a captain as a junior.

Now as a senior Warner has had her finest season for the Irish, as she recently became the sixth player in Big East history to make the All-Big East Team each of her four years by being named to the All-Big East First Team this season. She became the first Notre Dame forward to make the All-Big East First Team three times and also is one of fifteen finalists for the Hermann Trophy, given to the top player in women’s soccer.

But as in her freshman year, an injury this time in the form of a severely sprained ankle has threatened to derail Warner’s season. She went down in the second half of the team’s Big East quarterfinal game against Miami.

“It is always difficult to be injured,” said Warner after missing the team’s loss in the Big East Tournament. “I think what made this even more difficult was it being my senior year, and it being the Big East Tournament. It’s tough to sit and watch your team struggle and know all you can do is try to encourage from the sidelines.”

Still, since the day of her injury Warner has been determined not to let the injury end her collegiate career. She is hoping to be able to return for a possible second round game Sunday, although it is still doubtful whether her ankle will be ready.

“I feel like even thinking that I might not play and considering that I may not be able to get back on the field would be almost like giving up on myself,” she said. Warner, who also won the state title in the 100-meters twice in high school in Albuquerque, N. M., has always used her speed and strength to her advantage while playing soccer. She has excelled by creating numerous goal-scoring chances for herself and her teammates, as her 12 assists rank 5th in the nation.

“She creates so many chances for herself,” Waldrum said. “We don’t rely on one player, but the things she does for us are so much more than just scoring goals.”

Even though Warner leads the team in assists and points and also has 10 goals, her importance to the Irish team comes through in many other ways.

“The first thing that comes to mind is just her competitiveness,” Waldrum said. “She’s certainly talented and blessed with a lot of athleticism and speed which you’ve got to have for the next level. She just wants to win and she’s so tireless in her work on both sides of the ball. She’s really special in that sense.”

Waldrum is not the only person who notices Warner’s strong work ethic.

“I think it’s just her love for the game and her teammates [that makes her what she is],” said teammate Kim Carpenter. “She’s always been a hard worker, but she doesn’t necessarily do it for herself but for her teammates. She’s always competed and she’s always loved the sport and she loves to see her teammates succeed. She works for them as well as her passion for the game.”

Waldrum reiterated the importance of having Warner return to the Irish lineup for their run through the postseason.

“The first couple of years she was a leader through her work ethic and her actions,” Waldrum said. “But I think really in the last year and a half she has really grown. Amy really is the glue for us, she’s the one always out there not only saying it but getting it done.”

Now without the benefit of having the time to allow the ankle to heal completely, Warner just hopes to get another chance to put on the Irish uniform to contribute to what she hopes will be a long NCAA Tournament run.

“What keeps me going right now is the hope that I can finish the season out the way I should. I still have faith that my team can do it without me, but ultimately I would love to be out there to be a part of it and help make it all happen. I know that with or without me playing, winning it all would be a dream come true.”