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ND WOMENS SOCCER: Thorlakson, Shaner honored

Ken Fowler | Thursday, September 22, 2005

Awards abound for the Irish this week.

Junior defender Christie Shaner was named to Soccer America’s national team of the week, and senior forward Katie Thorlakson took home the Big East player-of-the-week award.

After moving back to center defender where she spent most of the 2003 season, Shaner acted as more than a stop-gap for injured junior Kim Lorenzen. Shaner led the Irish to a shutout weekend, as the team blanked conference foes DePaul and Michigan, the last team to beat Notre Dame on Alumni Field.

Shaner said the transition to the center of the field was easy because she played there so much earlier in her career.

“It’s really not that big of a transition from what I’m used to,” she said. “I was recruited as a center back. I’ve been shifted around the past couple years where the team needs me.

“I really like playing there.”

Shaner displayed her affection for the position with two dominant games. She led the Irish defense in only surrendering three shots on goal over the weekend, which was crucial in the absence of senior goalkeeper Erika Bohn.

She attributed the success to the entire defensive core’s ability to adjust.

“I think we know each other’s style of play very well,” she said. “And that helps us mentally.

When that person comes in, we have [their style of play] in mind.”

That ability to adjust allowed Shaner to deliver the standout performance for which Soccer America honored her.

Shaner said she looked up to 2004 Irish senior Melissa Tancredi as she began her Notre Dame career and now tries to incorporate some of Tancredi’s game in her own and follow in her leadership footsteps.

“She just had such a strong presence on the field,” Shaner said of Tancredi. After she … graduated last year, we needed someone to take her role on the field.

“[Now] I’ll incorporate parts of her game into mine.”

This weekend, she did just that, shutting down two opposing offenses, and Soccer America took note.

Shaner said that the national honor is especially meaningful from a defensive player’s point of view.

“It’s very tough to get that recognition from a defensive spot,” she said. “Defenders aren’t your goal scorers and in the limelight that much.”

This is not the case for Thorlakson.

It was the fifth time in Thorlakson’s four years at Notre Dame that she won the conference’s top weekly honor. After a dominating, eight-point (2G-4A) weekend in the matches against DePaul and Michigan, Thorlakson is now just one player-of-the-week award away from tying Seton Hall alumna Kelly Smith’s for first all time.

Thorlakson said that she doesn’t think about setting records, but rather trying to get wins.

“I had always thought of myself as an impact player,” Thorlakson said. “But coming to Notre Dame opened my eyes, and there was a huge learning process I had to go through before I could become the type of player I am today.”

Thorlakson scored two goals and had two assists in the Irish’s 6-0 victory over DePaul Friday. She added two assists Sunday against the Wolverines.

This weekend marked the second time Thorlakson won the honor this year alone – doing so in both of the Irish’s home weekends.

“I feel very comfortable playing at home,” she said. “The atmosphere of Notre Dame is unexplainable.”

Her previous award this year came the same week she won the most valuable offensive player award in the Inn at Saint Mary’s Notre Dame Classic.

Thorlakson, a member of he Canadian National Team, has been one of the premier all-around offensive players in the last two years. Over that span, she has scored 98 points in 35 games, and she is the only player in the country to be in the top-20 in both assists and goals this year.

She leads the nation with 12 assists and is fifth with eight goals.

Her ability to log both goals and assists is rare in Division I; only two other players have accumulated at least seven goals and assists this year.

What’s more, her distribution of goals and assists has been remarkably equal. In the past two seasons, she has had 31 goals and 35 assists.

Though her stats are similar to last year’s, Thorlakson says that the season has been different.

“I think playing this year from last year for me has been different,” she said. “[But] I wouldn’t say better or worse. Last year was unbelievable, but I have a lot of high expectations for myself and the team this year too.” 

She said that the team’s younger stars have changed the environment in which she plays.

“This year, the spotlight isn’t as much on me with players like [freshman forward Kerri] Hanks and [sophomore forward Amanda] Cinalli around me.”

Shaner, Thorlakson and the rest of the Irish resume conference play this weekend with a home game against Cincinnati Friday and a visit to Louisville Sunday.