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ND Women’s Soccer: Lost Production

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Michael Floyd is not the only Notre Dame offensive star out for a prolonged period right now. Senior captain Michele Weissenhofer has not seen playing time since the No. 10 Irish lost to No. 11 Santa Clara 2-0 Sept. 11.

Instead of adding to her 87 career regular-season points, Weissenhofer has spent much of her senior season on the bench battling lingering hamstring issues. Currently, a pulled right hamstring limits the forward’s ability to play.

“I pulled my left [hamstring] in the pre-season,” Weissenhofer said. “Then I tweaked my right [compensating for her injured left hamstring] and still played on it. I officially pulled it in the Santa Clara game.”

Notre Dame was held scoreless in the Santa Clara/adidas Classic, also falling to No. 2 Stanford 2-0, and has continued to struggle offensively in Weissenhofer’s absence.

“We have lost a really good player who could be contributing,” coach Randy Waldrum said. “We have had some inconsistencies this season scoring goals … One thing Michele can do well is score goals, and you hate to lose a key player who can do that for the offense.”

Weissenhofer has been scoring goals for the Irish since her freshman season when she netted 18 goals and assisted on 17 more. That year the Naperville, Ill., native was named Big East Rookie of the Year and started every postseason game for the Irish, highlighted by a hat trick in a 4-0 victory over No. 8 Penn State in the NCAA Semifinals.

Waldrum has had to try to suppress those memories and keep Weissenhofer off the field despite Notre Dame’s tumultuous opening to the season.

“It is hard from a coaching standpoint because there are temptations to try to get her back on the field,” Waldrum said. “At the end of the day, the coach has to sit back and not look at it from a one-game, two-game standpoint and ask what is best for the player.”

While keeping Weissenhofer sidelined, Waldrum has done his best to fill the void she left.

“We have to find some combination of players who can come in and give us similar production,” he said. “The hard part of it is the actual productivity in terms of just scoring goals or getting assists on goals. [Michele] is so productive when in and around the goal.”

In his attempt to fill the void, junior defender Lauren Fowlkes has moved up to forward. Since the Santa Clara/adidas Classic, Fowlkes has matched her career totals with three goals and an assist, including the game-winning goal over Louisville Sunday.

While Fowlkes’ recent success is promising for the Irish in the short-term, Weissenhofer’s return will be a prominent factor to the team’s long-term success.

“You just can’t lose key players and expect the team to be the exact same,” said Waldrum, comparing the loss of Weissenhofer and fellow senior captain Courtney Rosen (broken foot) to the football team losing both sophomore receiver Floyd and junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen. “Considering the injuries we have taken, that is a pretty big integral part of what we do on offense. That really hurts,” Waldrum said.

Weissenhofer hopes to help solve Notre Dame’s offensive woes as soon as she can, aiming for a match-up with Connecticut Oct. 16, the beginning of a four-game home stand to close the Irish regular season.

“I’m hoping to get back on the field as soon as possible, and be completely ready to go as soon as my hamstring is ready to go,” she said.

Waldrum echoes Weissenhofer’s sentiments, knowing that in the grand scheme of the season, these games do not matter nearly as much as the ones yet to come.

“I am hopeful we get Michele back sooner than later, and especially ready for the stretch run at the end of the season,” Waldrum said.