The upcoming National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season will see rookie Mandy Laddish either team up with or go head-to-head with a familiar face.
Laddish, a senior at Notre Dame University, recently finished up a four-year soccer career under longtime coach Randy Waldrum, who was recently appointed the head coach of the NWSL’s first expansion team, the Houston Dash.
During her freshman campaign at Notre Dame, the midfielder played (and started) 25 matches but found herself in an unfamiliar role, serving as the team’s holding midfielder for the start of the season.
“We threw [Mandy] into the holding midfielder spot and asked her to wear the hat of quarterbacking this team, which is not an easy task for anyone, let alone a freshman,” Waldrum said. “Then, when we moved her into the attack late in the year, we saw that she had the ability to run at players and create problems with speed.”
Filling the freshman in such a critical spot paid off for the Fighting Irish, as the team went 21-2-2 during the 2010 season, even winning its third NCAA national championship.
Coming back for her second season with the Irish, Laddish tallied up seven assists in 21 matches. The team, however, struggled throughout the season and was knocked out of the first round of the College Cup by Illinois.
Laddish, like many others expected to get drafted early on in the second-ever NWSL College Draft, spent the summer before her junior year of college winning a U-20 World Cup.
Chosen as part of then-U-20 head coach Steve Swanson’s 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup roster, Laddish saw minutes in three of the team’s matches—coming on as a second half substitute in all three.
Not only did Laddish take home a World Cup medal from Japan, she also took away a greater appreciation for her national team captain.
“At the World Cup, I had a great leader [Julie Johnston], and she plays for Santa Clara,” Laddish said upon returning to Notre Dame for her junior season. “So coming back [to Notre Dame], I wanted to kind of play my role the way she did and just be more of a member of the team, rather than a dictator telling people what to do.”
Fall 2012 saw some improvement from the Fighting Irish. The team went 16-6-2 during the season (with Laddish playing and starting in 17 of those matches), but the Florida State Seminoles knocked out the Irish in the College Cup quarterfinals.
Just over four months later, the team got together for a few spring season matches, and on April 3, 2013, the Irish squared off with the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.
Though the Red Stars powered over Notre Dame with a 4-1 win, Laddish netted the lone Irish goal in the 58th minute.
Two Red Stars goals came from Notre Dame alumna Lauren Fowlkes, who just so happens to be from Lee’s Summit, Mo., a place where Laddish also calls home.
Laddish’s senior year saw another tough end of the road for the Irish, when a penalty kick was the deciding factor in Michigan’s 1-0 third round win.
And while the second-ever NWSL season may see Laddish part ways with her former coach, his views on how the midfielder stacks up against a talented senior class have not changed.
“When I went in to assist with the U-20 camp, she was one of the top players there, based on her performance,” he said. “She was a clear, solid benchmark player for that team.”