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ND Women’s Soccer: No. 5 Irish look to replace departed goalie Bohn

Tim Dougherty | Thursday, August 24, 2006

After losing its NCAA semifinals match to fellow Congregation of Holy Cross institution Portland 3-1, the Irish again look up to find the Pilots atop the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason standings.

If the NCSAA No. 5 Irish are to earn that spot at season’s end, they must find new feet to fill the boots of last season’s Hermann Trophy runner-up Katie Thorlakson. Fortunately for the Irish, head coach Randy Waldrum, now in his eighth season, does not expect last year’s 22-3 squad – which led the nation with 4.4 goals per game – to miss a step. He said the offense will continue to be the strength of a team searching for its second national title in three years.

“When you lose a player like [Thorlakson] you have to find out who’s going to carry that load,” Waldrum said. “We’re still going to be a very good team offensively. We’re going to have a lot of weapons. I think we’ll have enough ways to score goals without her.”

Sophomore striker Kerri Hanks stormed the national soccer scene last season with a 71-point (28 goal, 15 assist) outburst that led the Irish in scoring and marked the fourth best output ever for a Division I freshman, en route to winning national rookie of the year honors as an NSCAA second-team All-American.

First-team Big East junior forward Amanda Cinalli returns to continue setting up Hanks – hoping to improve upon her 17 assists (fifth nationally) while creating opportunities of her own.

“[Amanda] has always been good for us, scoring 10 to 15 goals a season,” Waldrum said. “So she’s going to be called on to add to that a little bit.”

Despite Notre Dame’s ability to attack opposing nets, Waldrum says the biggest question mark for the 2006 Irish will be defending their own. Notre Dame must replace a goalie for the first time since 2002 after four-year starter and ’04 College Cup defensive MVP Erika Bohn took her .69 goals against average with her when the three-time Academic All-American graduated.

Though senior Nikki Westfall has the most experience, an injury will keep her out for several weeks as 5-foot-9 junior Lauren Karas and rangy 5-foot-10 freshman Kelsey Lysander battle for the starting spot in goal. Unless one separates herself before Notre Dame’s Aug. 26 opener against Iowa State, Waldrum most likely will wait to see both in game action.

Senior defender captain Kim Lorenzen is glad there are two quality options behind her and has no qualms about playing in front of someone new.

“The fact that we don’t really know who’s going to be the starting keeper is a good thing in some ways,” Lorenzen said. “It means they’re all competing for time. I’m not sure it’s going to be different.”

Whoever earns the nod will have a solid defense protecting her from a unit that held opponents to 54 shots on goal in 25 games. The flat-back four defense is led in the center by Lorenzen, a four-year starter and Notre Dame’s first solo captain since 1988.

Preseason Big East Defensive Player of the Year senior defender Christie Shaner helps fortify the defense along with defensive-minded senior midfielder Jill Krivacek, who was the defensive MVP of the 2005 Big East Tournament and has never seen the Irish outshot in her career.

Though Notre Dame was known for its explosive offense last year, Lorenzen said the defensive unit doesn’t play for press, but for results.

“We don’t really care as long as there aren’t any goals in our nets and we score more than they do,” Lorenzen said.

As Krivacek fronts the Irish defense, 2005 Hermann Trophy finalist senior midfielder Jen Buczkowski directs the Irish buildup. Together with sophomore Brittany Bock (2005 freshman All-American) and freshman Courtney Rosen, who has impressed early, Waldrum expects the group to be “one of better midfields in the country.”

The Irish will be without Bock and defender Carrie Dew until Sept. 4 as they play for the US team at the Under-20 Women’s World Championship.

“The key is how quickly we can integrate them back in with the team,” Waldrum said. “They’ll be coming in late to some classes so they have some catching up to do there and they haven’t been practicing with us. Realistically it may be a week until after their return until they’re ready to step in for us.”

Meanwhile, the Irish face a challenging early season schedule that includes Saturday’s 1 p.m. home opener against Iowa State followed by a noon game at Ole Miss the very next day. The following weekend, the Irish host USC and No. 9 Santa Clara in the Inn at St. Mary’s Classic.

“We normally open up on a Friday night at home, this time we’re opening Saturday at 1 p.m.,” Waldrum said. “The challenge for us will be early on. If we can get through a couple of big games early in the season that’s going to be a big test for us.”

According to Lorenzen, those tests results shouldn’t be graded after those games, but by who’s left standing at the end of the year.

“[The national championship] is our ultimate goal,” she said. “Big East is important and everything but at the end of the day, come tournament time we should be national champions and that’s the mindset that we have.”