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ND WOMEN’S SOCCER: High-powered offense features two stars

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Irish forwards Katie Thorlakson and Kerri Hanks have combined for 38 points in just four games.

At this pace, they will each break the Division 1-A single-season points-per-game record.

Thorlakson has five goals and seven assists (17 points) in her senior campaign, while Hanks has netted 10 goals and an assist (21 points) in her first four collegiate games.

And two of those games have come against top-25 opponents.

Hanks earned National Player of the Week honors after her first two games, in which she netted seven goals and an assist.

Thorlakson followed that up with a three-goal, three-assist performance in the Inn at Saint Mary’s Classic to earn the tournament’s offensive MVP award.

After Hanks managed to get off 12 shots – five of which were on goal – and Thorlakson scored twice in Notre Dame’s 6-0 drubbing of Maryland Sunday, Terrapin coach Brian Pensky said that the way they work as a tandem is deadly.

“They’re great [together],” he said. “They’re just very different players.

“Thorlakson, we’re watching Friday night against Florida, … and we’re just kind of looking at each other with a little bit of a half smile on our face,” he said of her ability to control the movement of the ball.

“Hanks – she just plays with the fury and the passion of a youngster,” he continued.

Though they play somewhat differently, Irish coach Randy Waldrum thinks their soccer minds are strikingly similar.

“[Hanks] is just a lot like Katie Thorlakson in that they have a great sense for the game,” Waldrum said. That, he said, keeps them on the same page and helps communication on the field.

That Hanks and Thorlakson play different styles of soccer but work like clockwork together has kept the Irish’s first four opponents guessing, and often guessing wrong.

That should be expected, though, because even their teammates don’t like it when they have to face the dynamic duo working together.

Thorlakson said that her fellow Irish don’t like it when she and Hanks are on the same team in split-squad scrimmages.

“We just have so much fun together playing soccer,” she said. “So everybody gets mad when we are on the same team in practice because we put the ball away so much.”

She said that the tandem began developing camaraderie in the spring when Hanks arrived on campus after completing a season with the under-19 national team.

From then onward, the two worked together routinely to prepare for the 2005 campaign.

And the work has paid off.

In the team’s season-opener, Thorlakson matched a career high with eight points (2G-4A), and Hanks netted a hat trick and an assist en route to an 11-1 victory over New Hampshire.

Thorlakson said she doesn’t feel as much a burden in having to carry an offense, and Hanks has enjoyed the freedom Thorlakson has been given, capitalizing on feeds and crosses from the All-American senior.

“Hanks takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Thorlakson said. “It’s great playing with her; its really fun. We get to improvise on a lot of stuff.”

After Hanks scored seven goals in her first two games, Waldrum credited teammates, including Thorlakson, for helping to set up scoring opportunities.

“She got put in some great positions for a couple of her goals [by] her teammates,” he said.

Two of her first three goals of the season were assisted by Thorlakson, as was her first of two Sunday against Maryland.

But for both, the expectations were high coming into the season.

Thorlakson was picked as the preseason Big East Player of the Year and All-American. Hanks had high expectations from the Irish coaching staff.

“It’s not something you can expect week in and week out,” Waldrum said of Hanks’ seven goals in two games to start the season, “but these are the things we … expected Kerri to do for us from time to time.”

Thus far, the two of them have equaled and exceeded every expectation coming into the season.. Their biggest test comes this Friday against No. 5 Santa Clara in the Santa Clara Adidas Classic. But Hanks and Thorlakson have already proven they’re ready.