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ND Women’s Soccer: Laddish and Roccaro return to face Louisville

Jack Hefferon | Thursday, September 13, 2012

After bringing pride to both their college and their country by winning the Women’s Under-20 World Cup, junior Mandy Laddish and freshman Cari Roccaro will look to continue their success when they swap out the Stars and Stripes for their familiar blue and gold jerseys this weekend.

While representing the United States on the international stage in Japan, both players had a large impact on the American victory. Roccaro, a freshman, started four of the team’s six games at center back, locking down the back line despite being one of the youngest players on the squad.

Laddish, meanwhile, was a key substitute for the United States, coming in during the second half to boost the team to a championship. Both Roccaro and Laddish were on the field when the final whistle sounded in the final, a moment that Irish coach Randy Waldrum cherished back home.

“Being the head coach at Notre Dame, I can’t tell you how proud I am of those two, and how well they’ve represented the University, themselves and their families – and the U.S. in general,” he said. “I feel like a proud parent. They’re two great players, and two great kids, and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The pair returned from nearly a monthlong stay in Asia this week, but will have little time to bask in the victory as Notre Dame (3-3-1) dives into its Big East schedule this weekend, beginning with a nationally televised game against rival Louisville on Friday. But even on such a short timeline, Waldrum wants to ensure that his players have time to recover and reenter into life on campus.

“The only real worry I have with them is the time change,” he said. “We’re struggling with it as a team after playing on the West Coast, and they just got off a 12-hour flight from Japan. So we’ll have to see how they do with that fatigue, plus the fact that they’ve missed three weeks of classes, and they’re trying to catch up in those. So we’ll need to make sure they get enough rest and time to deal with all that.”

However, when they do return to the Irish lineup, the pair will make an immediate and sorely-needed impact. Laddish, a midfielder and one of the Irish tri-captains, will provide Notre Dame with a boost of talent and experience in the midfield. And as one of the leaders on a team with 18 underclassmen, the latter might be her biggest contribution.

“She’ll calm that young midfield down, and really solidify that position for us. I can’t even begin to tell you how important that will be, not only on the field of play, but with her attitude as well,” Waldrum said. “Clearly we’ve missed her in the midfield as somebody that makes really good decisions with the ball and helps us keep the ball and maintain possession. She’s so talented and gifted with the ball, and we’ve really kind of lacked that.”

Roccaro, on the other hand, will be the least experience collegiate player on the field, as she has yet to play a game for the Irish. However, Waldrum has no doubt that she has the talent to make her presence immediately felt.

“She’s got a real good skill set, and she’s a big strong player as well,” Waldrum said. “She’s certainly going to be in our eleven, there’s no doubt about it. Getting her back gives us another starter on the team.”

Roccaro may be a fixture in the Irish lineup for years to come, but right now the challenge for the Irish coaches will be to figure out where. Listed as a forward/midfielder/defender, few players are more versatile than Roccaro, who is ranked as one of the top five freshmen nationwide.

For Waldrum, fitting the freshman into the jigsaw puzzle of the Irish lineup might require some trial and error.

“I think we’re going to try Cari in a couple of different spots, because we can certainly play her defensively like she did with the World Cup team, but we may even take a look with her at forward, because we could use a little help scoring goals,” he said. “It may take us a couple of games to figure out the best spot for her, but she definitely has a big role for us. I’m excited to see how Cari and Mandy do this weekend.”

Laddish and Roccaro will make their return and debut, respectively, in the Irish lineup this Friday, when Notre Dame takes on Louisville at 4 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.