Versatility is a buzz word often used in sports. While most elite athletes can play out of position in a pinch, it’s rare to find one that can play multiple positions extremely well. In the world of NCAA women’s soccer, perhaps no player epitomizes the term better than Notre Dame sophomore Cari Roccaro.
In last week’s double overtime loss to top ranked Virginia, Roccaro started the game at forward before moving to central midfield and finally to the backline. Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum made the moves in an effort to quell the nation’s most potent offense.
“It’s tough moving around all over the field but whatever I can do to help the team… I think whatever I can do wherever the game needed to use me and adjust to the game was what I needed to do,” Roccaro said after the game last Thursday.
“I think tonight I dread playing in the back. I think I was able to calm the team down. I think from the back and squeeze us so we were able to prevent them from playing. Once I was in the back I think our whole team got a grip of the ball we had more attacking players on the field then and they were able to attack.”
The unease she felt playing on the backline may come as a surprise to those who know Roccaro from the United States U-20 team, where she plays on the back four. Roccaro was a member of the U.S. U-20 team that won the World Cup last fall and she has played every single minute of the U-20 2013 schedule.
Despite missing significant time last fall playing in the U-20 World Cup, Roccaro racked up some impressive accolades as a freshman. She won the Big East Rookie of the Year and the Soccer America National Freshman of the Year awards. She was also named to the first team All-Big East and was a third team All-American selection.
Although Roccaro didn’t find much success as a striker against Virginia, she notched a hatrick versus then 21st ranked Maryland last month in her first appearance as a forward on the season. She then added another goal and two assists in a 3-0 win against Pittsburgh and earned NSCAA player of the week honors.
Roccaro’s versatility will come in handy as the Fighting Irish look to finish their first season in the ever-formidable Atlantic Coast Conference on a strong note. Recently, the team has dropped three straight games against their new conference opponents.
“Last year in the Big East we didn’t play as many ranked teams, so basically every match is like a national championship game, we have to keep that in mind. We don’t have room for error. We just have to go and play our best soccer every single day to win,” Roccaro said after the loss to Virginia. Ultimately, she feels the tough level of play will help to Fighting Irish prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
While it’s difficult to predict how Notre Dame will fare the rest of the way, it may be more difficult to predict where Roccaro will line up on the field on any given night. Regardless of where, she’s found success.