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ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: The first big test

Bobby Griffin | Friday, August 26, 2005

In Notre Dame’s two exhibition games this August, the team won both games and scored 10 goals.

But when the season officially starts this weekend, when Notre Dame travels to the University of Vermont to take on New Hampshire and Vermont today and Sunday, respectively, the Irish will realistically only have one goal.

Win – and win often.

That should be expected for a team that earned its first preseason No. 1 ranking in the school’s history after five consecutive years at preseason No. 2.

It should also be expected for a team that defeated UCLA in last year’s NCAA title game on penalty kicks.

But at this point in the season, even though Notre Dame returns nine starters and 13 of the top 15 players from last year’s championship squad, the thought of repeating as the NCAA National Champions is not at the front of the group’s collective mind.

“There’s no way we can look ahead – we’ve got to get through New Hampshire first,” freshman Kerri Hanks said. “We can’t even look ahead to the next weekend.”

Right now, the Irish have to worry about getting the season started on the right foot, and that will start in the team’s first two regular season games of the season this weekend.

“I think we’re really good, and [despite] any problems, we think we can win,” Hanks said.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum is excited about his team’s performance so far this season, but is also aware of what his team needs to do to reach their high expectations.

He commented at length before the season started about how he was proud of his team for working hard throughout practice and not letting a drop off of any kind to occur.

The Irish should be up for this challenge, led by returning preseason All-Americans Katie Thorlakson, Candace Chapman and Jen Buczkowski.

Thorlakson was the 2004 Soccer America player of the year and Buczkowski earned All-American status last year, as well.

Returning in goal for Notre Dame is Erika Bohn, who is the 2005 preseason Big East goalkeeper of the year. Bohn led the nation with a 0.41 GAA last season.

With this type of returning talent, added to the impressive crop of freshmen, including Brittany Bock and Hanks, who have played well this summer, the Irish task should be that much easier.

Bock scored twice in Notre Dame’s victory over Butler, and Hanks added a goal and an assist. Hanks also assisted on the second goal against Virginia in the 2-0 win.

The season begins today at 6:30 p.m. against New Hamp-shire.

The Irish will play Vermont on Sunday at 1 pm.