CCH trio adds kick to college program

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

Success in women's soccer had never been part of the athletic equation at tiny Notre Dame College near Cleveland.

At least not until a trio of 18-year-old Londoners enrolled at the South Euclid, Ohio, school this year.

Catholic Central grads Breanne Hunter, Jessica Mazzorato and Caley Prendergast led the Falcons to a school-best second-place finish in their conference and a first-ever regional quarter-final berth for a team that competes under the umbrella of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Prendergast led the team in goals, Hunter led in assists and Mazzorato ended up third in points.

"We played one game in Buffalo that our parents came to and all three of us scored," Mazzorato said. "It was like bang, bang, bang scoring, all close together and the girls on our sideline were all yelling, 'Yay, Canada.' "

The three arrived at Notre Dame together but didn't sign simultaneously. Each mulled over their schooling options before making their choice and admitted having familiar faces on campus was a factor.

"We've basically played together since we were 10 years old and chemistry is a big thing on the soccer field," Prendergast said. "We were suite mates and it makes it a lot easier to adjust to a new life away from home when you're with two of your best friends."

Notre Dame head coach Mike Shiels took advantage of the trio's familiarity with each other and often played them at midfield together.

The three Londoners started right away and played major minutes, pushing the Falcons to unparalleled heights.

"We had a good year and the goal, obviously, is to get this team to nationals," Hunter said. "I think we came in and let it be known we weren't used to losing, that we hated it."

They sure don't have a lot of experience with it. While playing for Pat Clancy at CCH, the Crusaders won two consecutive Ontario high school championships and also captured an Ontario Cup club title with the North London Rockets in 2001.

"There's a lot of us that have gone on to play college soccer," Prendergast said. "Danielle D'Oria is in North Carolina. Our goalie, Emily Gillet, is playing at Detroit-Mercy. We had two players start at Western. It was a tight team and we're all great friends."

Though Notre Dame is far from one of the biggest soccer programs in the U.S., the team still puts in similar time and effort into the sport as the major colleges.

"We went down there and started with three-a-day practices, then it got cut to two-a-days and then once a day during the season," Mazzorato said. "Out of season, we're doing weight training and running. It was a great learning experience. You get down there and you don't know what to expect. We had a totally different team than the one that was there last year. We brought in 12 freshman and had transfers from Div. I schools so you don't really know where you stand in the beginning."

In the end, the Londoners were three of four freshmen to see plenty of game action on a team that only loses one senior next year. Because of their play, Notre Dame is interested in luring more Canadian players to its program.

"Our coach loves the Canadian system and he would tell us about a recruit and ask us if they played for a good team here," Mazzorato said. "He said he wants to add one Canadian player every year."

They're not just soccer consultants. Hunter and Mazzorato are studying to be teachers while Prendergast is majoring in Psychology.


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