College: Irish class has Heft

Notre Dame loses two starters from its defending NCAA championship squad, but the Irish will still have plenty of fight next fall.

Coach Chris Petrucelli's team adds arguably the top recruit in the nation in U.S. national team defender Jen Grubb as well as possibly the top striker in the country in Jenny Heft. Both are from Region II.

Notre Dame loses starters Michelle McCarthy (a striker) and Ashley Scharff (a sweeper). But a recruiting class culled from all corners of the United States should more than make up for their absence.

That class is led by Grubb, who has been in the national eye for a while, especially since joining the national team pool. She is currently training with the national team in Florida and is a candidate for one of the 16 spots on the team that will represent the United States in the Summer Olympics.

A solid marking back, Grubb displayed her touch on the ball in the last game of the U.S. Women's Cup last summer. A minute into sudden death overtime of a 1-1 tie with Norway, Grubb lofted a 40-yard pass from midfield that U.S. teammate Tammy Pearman corraled and scored to end the match.

"Jen Grubb is such a solid player in every aspect," said Minnesota coach Sue Montagne. "I can't imagine her not being able to help [the U.S.] ... Jen Grubb would be the kind of banger they need, too. She's going to do it in a skillful way. She's going to win a ball make a pass and keep possession."

Heft, who also considered Clemson and Wisconsin, is a dynamic goalscorer whom coaches describe as someone who'll lull opposing teams to sleep then explode with a couple of goals to win a game.

She'll combine with Notre Dame's top 1995 freshman Monica Gerardo to give the Irish a strong frontline for years to come.

Notre Dame got the top two players, but Michigan had the largest crop of quality players in the region. Coach Debbie Belkin won the battle for Michigan natives Amber Berendowsky, Mari Hoff and Marie Staccarotella, who, despite a knee injury, is another Region II gem. Kjersten Kuhlman also earned plaudits from coaches.

"Is this like the Fab Five?" Kentucky coach Warren Lipka said of Michigan's class. "If you're looking at numbers and quality of players in numbers, I think they got the class this year."

Lipka, whose Kentucky team earned its first ever berth to the NCAA tournament last fall, didn't do too badly himself. The Wildcats picked up high school all-America defenders Jennifer McMaster and Brooke Hergesell, who will help bolster a team that returns seven starters.

(By Dean Caparaz, an associate editor at Soccer America.)

Soccer America Super 11 Recruits (Region II)

DJen GrubbHoffman Estates, Ill.Notre Dame
Top recruit in the region, if not the country
DBrooke HergesellWesterville, OhioKentucky
NSCAA all-American stopper
MMari HoffPlymouth, Mich.Michigan
Great touch on the ball, tall center mid can also play up front
MKjersten KuhlmanSt. Louis, Mo.Michigan
Strong, versatile, can play anywhere on the field
MErica WestrichSt. Louisundecided
Skillful, consistent, center or outside mid, hard worker
FAmber BerendowskyBrighton, Mich.Michigan
Quick, loves to go to goal, technically sound
FJenny HeftMequon, Wis.Notre Dame
Region's top striker, fast, goalscorer
FAnsley LaversWhitefish Bay, Wis.Wisconsin
Great attacking speed, high work rate, creative
FJennifer McMasterSt. LouisKentucky
Tough, versatile player, defends well
FMarie StaccarotellaLivonia, Mich.Michigan
Fast, scrappy, likes to take people on
FTrisha UnderbergFlorissant, Mo.St. Louis
Fast, good work rate, versatile, athletic
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