Sammy Scofield still thinks about how fun it could have been to play on the Geneva soccer team while in high school, but she knows that competing for club better prepared her for the next level.
Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum couldn’t agree more.
Hours after the Notre Dame’s team bus rolled into Madison, Wis., last Thursday in preparation for Friday’s season opener against Wisconsin, Scofield took some time away from studying opponent game film – and thinking about how the Fighting Irish were going to rebound from last year’s early exit in the NCAA tournament – to look back at her days at Geneva.
“It would have been a lot of fun to play with the high school soccer team,” she said, “but when it came down to it, I had to stay with my club team [Chicago Eclipse Select]. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t.”
Waldrum, who led Notre Dame to national titles in 2004 and 2010, views club soccer as a major pipeline to Division I soccer.
“For the most part, club soccer is where our kids come from,” he said. “You get the best training and coaching and the most competitive games. At high schools, you get what’s there. You don’t have the best of the best.”
Scofield knows she has plenty of improvements to make at the college level – being a more vocal presence at center back is a priority this year – but she still imagines herself on a bigger stage.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play in the Olympics,” said Scofield, who played the past two summers for the Chicago Red Stars of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. “I don’t know if [competing at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro is] where soccer is going to take me, but I think it would be amazing.”
Scofield tested her skills against some of the best young players in the country in January when Woldrum – the team’s new coach – selected her for a USA Soccer U23 training camp in Sarasota, Fla.
“I really enjoyed being thrown in to a situation out of my comfort zone,” Scofield said. “It’s good to be put in positions like that so you don’t get nervous in any situation. It was an honor that coach Waldrum picked me.”
Waldrum said he would have liked Scofield to go with the U23 team to Norway this summer if not for a conflict with her classwork.
“Sammy’s got some of those qualities that could help her reach the national team,” Waldrum said. “She needs to spend more time with the U23 team and gain some international experience. It’s a different game at the international level.”
Scofield learned as a freshman that Division I soccer is different from club. She didn’t break into the lineup right away like Waldrum thought she would, but Scofield found her confidence and was a valuable contributor, starting 12 of 21 matches.
“Something clicked for her halfway through the season,” Waldrum said.
Scofield feels that it’s going to click for Notre Dame in 2012 after last season ended with a 1-0 first-round NCAA tournament loss to Illinois.
“This year is going to be different,” she said. “We have a lot of new faces, but it’s going to come together.”
• Matt Beardmore writes a weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle about area athletes competing in college. If you have a column idea, contact him at email@example.com.