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Women’s Soccer: Waldrum says five new freshmen are “a great fit”

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Going into the recruiting season, Irish coach Randy Waldrum had a tough task in front of him – replace two All-Americans, a four-year starting goalkeeper and a starting senior midfielder.

The departures of All-American forward Katie Thorlakson, fifth-year senior Candace Chapman, veteran goalkeeper Erika Bohn and midfield standout Annie Schefter left a serious hole in the Notre Dame roster.

Waldrum tried to answer that challenge Feb. 5 when he announced the signings of five players to national letters of intent to play for Notre Dame next fall – forward Michelle Weissenhoffer, defender Haley Ford, goalie Kelsey Lysander and midfielders Courtney Rosen and Amanda Clark.

“I don’t think we’re going to be highly, highly rated as one of the top classes in the country, but I think that realistically, we’re not concerned with that because we know what we need to make our system work,” he said. “And I think the players that we got were … a great fit.”

Weissenhoffer, who utilizes a body-flip throw-in style for her Eclipse Select team, was the only forward in the class.

Virginia and Illinois were among the other schools that offered scholarships to the Naperville, Ill., native, but she said Notre Dame had an edge throughout the recruiting process.

“My family [members] are huge Notre Dame fans,” Weissenhoffer said. “I’m really excited to play with the girls, [see] the campus and all the good stuff that goes along with being at Notre Dame.”

She will step in and take the roster spot of Katie Thorlakson, who finished second this year in balloting for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, given annually to the nation’s best player.

“Everybody’s going to be really excited when they watch her,” Waldrum said. “Offensively and defensively, she can do a lot of things for your team. I think she’s going to have some similarities to Katie Thorlakson. She’s built similar to Katie, and she’s got that toughness to her that Katie’s got.”

Weissenhoffer said one of the best parts about filling the role Thorlakson had last year is the ability to team up with standout forward Kerri Hanks.

“I’m really excited to play with her,” Weissenhoffer said of Hanks. “Hopefully, we’ll get the chemistry going and we’ll gel … I think that to play with each other will be awesome. It will be really fun to learn from her and to feed off each other.”

While Weissenhoffer likely will earn headlines as a goal-scorer, Rosen of Brecksville, Ohio, garnered the most national attention during the recruiting process after playing on the Under-17 U.S. national team.

Waldrum said her ball-handling skills make her a prototypical impact midfielder.

“She’s a big land for us,” he said. “The one thing I really like about her is she seems to be able to see the game so well. She can [be] like your point guard in basketball. She can find people and knows how to get people involved in the game.

Waldrum compared her favorably to junior midfielders Jen Buczkowski and Jill Krivacek, along with freshman midfielder Brittany Bock.

“In our system and the way we play, you’ve got to have a player that can [control the ball] for you,” Waldrum said. “I think it was really important to kind of get her in now to learn from those players and get her the experience playing so she can take the lead when those two kids graduate.”

Weissenhoffer’s teammate and fellow Naperville native Clark may join Rosen in the midfield.

Waldrum said Clark could end up as a defender or at midfield.

“The thing that I really like about her, she’s got a mindset that’s tough, kind of an enforcer type,” Waldrum said. “You can be too pretty at times. What she does is she brings that element of toughness to the team. She’ll be one of those that the opposition won’t want to be around her.”

The other possible defenseman in the Irish class is Ford of Midland, Texas.

“Haley … probably flew a little bit under the radar screen to coaches across the country … she’s not going to be one that’s going to be nationally as known as Courtney Rosen or Weissenhoffer,” Waldrum said. “But we’ve liked her for a few years. As I watched her this past year, she has just continually gotten better and better.”

Waldrum said Ford is versatile enough to play midfield, too.

“The good thing about Haley is she can play in the midfield if we need [her to],” he said. “I think that’s always good for the young ones because you can always find them places to play to get experience when they’re developing.”

Lysander, a goalie product of San Diego, Calif., rounds out the Irish class. She will be one of three goalies on the team, along with sophomore Lauren Karas and junior Nikki Westfall.

Waldrum said Lysander has the talent necessary to succeed at Notre Dame but may need some fine-tuning.

“With Kelsey, she may need a little bit of time to gain some experience at the college level,” he said. “She’s got enough tools to compete with Lauren [Karas], but I think right now it’s Lauren’s until somebody beats her out.”

Outside of Lysander, Waldrum expected each recruit to see significant playing time next fall.

“The four field players that we signed are all going to come in and impact us – I think they’re going to play,” he said. “How much, I think is kind of up to them and a little bit, too, up to the returning players – how well they’ll fight them off. But they’re all good enough as freshmen to step in and play right away.”