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Canadian Connection

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I figure I'd post this since its been mentioned in another thread in the Men's forum by Freekick. It is good to see the Toronto Star run an article on Canadian soccer while nothing is really going on, and not just a CP article, but one by a staff writer.


Canadian Connection

Three national team members carry Notre Dame's hopes in NCAA College Cup Coach admits, `I don't know where we'd be without them,' writes Chris Young

The Canadian Connection doesn't quite have the same ring as the Four Horsemen or Win One for the Gipper, but it's much better than this week's other football news at Notre Dame University.

A trio of talented Canadians — 19-year-old Katie Thorlakson of Langley, B.C., 21-year-old Candace Chapman of Ajax and 23-year-old Melissa Tancredi of Hamilton — have Notre Dame on course for U.S. women's college soccer supremacy, just as the football-mad school in South Bend, Ind., adjusts to the news of Ty Willingham's firing and another mediocre gridiron year.

The distaff Irish (23-1-1) are ranked No. 2 in the U.S., and open the NCAA's College Cup finals tomorrow against Santa Clara in Cary, N.C., with a spot in Sunday's U.S. national championship game at stake.

Irish head coach Randy Waldrum, who first spotted Tancredi in Arizona with her under-19 Canada teammates four years ago, has seen his recruiting north of the border succeed beyond his wildest reckoning.

"As a group, they've brought a lot of personality to our team," says Waldrum. "They've been great. They've had no trouble fitting in. I don't know where we'd be without them."

Neither, frankly, do they. Chapman and Tancredi, their Big East conference's defensive players of the year in 2002 and '03 respectively, have come back from serious knee injuries to star in this Notre Dame run to glory.

Thorlakson, a star on the under-19 team that charmed Canada as it went all the way to the championship final in Edmonton in 2002, has emerged as a serious candidate for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top collegiate player in the country.

"We're three key elements in this team that people definitely pay attention to," said Tancredi, a three-sport standout at Hamilton's Cathedral High. "It just so happens that we're Canadians, but all three of us have a physical nature about us that I'm pretty sure teams don't want to go against.

"I think it's definitely the (Canadian national team) program. Americans from when they're little are taught skills and taught to possess. Canadians are usually taught to kick the ball as hard as you can and be as physical as you can, and that just carries on into college."

Or, as Waldrum puts it: "One of the things that has struck me about our Canadian kids as well is that they're so hard-working and tough — blue-collar. They have this competitive side that adds a tough dimension to our team that wasn't there before."

Notre Dame has been a perennial power in Waldrum's 22 years at the helm, but it has only won one national championship. On the other side of this weekend's bracket, Canadian national team midfielder Diane Matheson of Oakville and her Princeton teammates lurk, but the Irish have already been through that kind of reunion.

They earned their ticket with a 3-1 win over Portland, led by Canadian striker Christine Sinclair, another contender for the Hermann Trophy and a much different kind of player than Thorlakson — predatory and clinical, much opposed to the latter's all-involving, dynamic approach.

Thorlakson has had a hand in 22 of the team's past 25 goals, but it hasn't been the easiest of rides. She's drawn more and more attention from defenders. And she's already had to make a decision off the field, turning down an invite to join Canada in last month's under-19 world tournament in Thailand. Without her, Canada was beaten in the quarter-final round.

"It was probably the hardest decision I've ever made so far in my life, besides coming to school," said Thorlakson. "I still think about it. I was either going to miss out here or miss out there — and I was already here. I knew that other players in Canada would rise up and get their opportunity."

It's not just on the field where these three make their contributions. On a team that's a United Nations of sorts — counting an Icelander, a Finn and players from 13 U.S. states on the roster — their lockers are festooned with the Maple Leaf. Tancredi still has the "Canada" nickname bestowed upon her arrival, and a very important role — "she's the ringleader," said Thorlakson. Before each game, it's become tradition to cue Dexter's soca tune "Celebrate," Chapman's favourite Caribana tune, and it's Tancredi who gets everyone up and ready to play.

"We simply have to dance to it before every game," said Chapman, who missed the 2003 season — including, to her intense disappointment, the women's World Cup with Canada — but this year has moved up to forward and scored 11 goals.

"I'm the wild one, I guess," said Tancredi, in her final year of eligibility — Chapman is coming back next year as a fifth-year senior, and Thorlakson is currently a junior. "Our personalities are definitely involved in it. Whenever there's trouble they know which three to look at."

Toronto Star

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Interesting to note Tancredi's quote on the differences in style, focus and development of the respective programs in the US v. Canada.

The physical nature of their play is lauded as a positive thing [at least within the team dynamic at Notre Dame where no doubt it complements the skills of others] whereas I expect most people on this list and others would point to that emphasis [as contrasted with the American focus on skill and possession]as a drawback to continued success under the Pellerud/Bridge "regime".

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"It was probably the hardest decision I've ever made so far in my life, besides coming to school," said Thorlakson. "I still think about it. I was either going to miss out here or miss out there — and I was already here. I knew that other players in Canada would rise up and get their opportunity."

How condescending! ehhh. She will still think about for years to come.

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Well, I say congrats to Katie. Who is to say that playing in the high profile NCAA Final Four, and winning it, is not as important to Canadian soccer as the U-19 she has already been in. She is still going to play for Canada in the next World Cup (hopefully it will be more reasonably scheduled), and at least she didn't fart around like Radzinski did in the vital semi opener against Guatemala that probably cost us qualifying for Germany more than anything else.

Way to go Katie! I'm prouod of you!


Notre Dame 1, UCLA 1; Notre Dame wins 4-3 on penalty kicks

By EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press Writer

December 5, 2004

AP - Dec 3, 8:04 pm EST

More Photos

CARY, N.C. (AP) -- Notre Dame goalkeeper Erika Bohn faced her first penalty kick of the season Sunday, and the stakes could not have been higher: Just a few minutes were left in the NCAA women's soccer title game.

Bohn jumped to her left and turned aside Kendal Billingsley's waist-high shot from 12 yards away to preserve a 1-1 tie in regulation.

``It's a pressure situation, but I just went with my gut,'' Bohn said. ``After I saved it, I knew we weren't going to lose.''

The tie stood up after 110 minutes of regulation and overtime, and Notre Dame won its second NCAA title when Bohn turned away Lindsay Greco's shot to seal a 4-3 victory on penalty kicks.

Jill Krivacek made the winning shot for the Fighting Irish (24-1-1), who also won the national title in 1995 and joined North Carolina as the only multiple champions.

UCLA (18-6) led 1-0 in the 60th minute on Gudrun Gunnarsdottir's own-goal when her intended back-pass to Bohn went past the charging goalie and into the empty Irish net.

Notre Dame tied it on Katie Thorlakson's penalty kick in the 74th after she was arm-tackled inside the penalty area.

The action was end-to-end throughout, but UCLA coach Jillian Elliss said the game hinged on the late penalty kick save by Bohn, who was honored as the Final Four's most outstanding defensive player.

``Two penalty kicks were called (in regulation), and we didn't put ours away,'' Elliss said. ``You get those chances, you've got to put them away.''

The Irish had outscored their five previous tournament opponents 11-1, while the Bruins had nothing but shutouts in outscoring their foes 9-0.

Notre Dame was making its fourth trip to the championship game. The Irish lost in 1994, 1996 and 1999 -- each time to North Carolina. UCLA's only previous NCAA women's soccer final came in 2000, when the Bruins lost 2-1 to North Carolina.

Notre Dame created repeated chances, calmly passing through tight spaces in the midfield and attacking down the flanks.

UCLA goalkeeper Valerie Henderson was forced to confront Irish attackers by charging from her line and hitting the ground to block shots with her body.

The Bruins supplemented their defense by taking advantage of long-range shots. One good chance came about 15 minutes before halftime, when Bristyn Davis -- the Bruins' leading scorer with 14 goals and six assists -- laced a shot that caromed off the crossbar from 30 yards out.

Thorlakson, who led the country with 23 goals this season, was voted the most outstanding offensive player of the Final Four.

``I'm not a very emotional person on the outside, but as soon as the whistle blew, I just started crying,'' she said.

Updated on Sunday, Dec 5, 2004 6:04 pm

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