Oct 6, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
The following feature on Jen Buczkowski (’07, soccer) was written by Joanne Norell, and first appeared in the football program for the Notre Dame vs. Stanford game on Oct. 4, 2014. This past weekend, Buczkowski was among the group of Monogram winners back for the tenth reunion of the 2004 Notre Dame women’s soccer national championship team.
Jen Buczkowski, a 2007 University of Notre Dame graduate and former women’s soccer standout, counts herself lucky.
After all, the four-time Monogram winner has been stockpiling championships since she could kick a soccer ball, including a National Women’s Soccer League title with FC Kansas City in August 2014.
Though Buczkowski maintains not many players get the chance to play with as many successful clubs as she has, she still considers the NCAA Championship she helped the Notre Dame women’s soccer team capture in 2004 her most cherished by far.
“I think winning that championship my sophomore year was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” Buczkowski says. “That’s still my favorite championship to have been a part of. Having a family atmosphere at Notre Dame was very special.”
That squad reunites this weekend for its 10th anniversary, the first time since that season the large group will be together. Buczkowski and others have staged small get-togethers in the intervening years, particularly with those based in the Chicago area, but Buczkowski says, “It will be great to have the full group together again.”
A midfielder for the Irish from 2003-06, Buczkowski never missed a game at Notre Dame, setting a school record of 103 games played, including 97 starts. A three-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American, Buczkowski helped lead the Irish to a 92-8-3 (.908) record during her four seasons, amassing 77 points, 20 goals and 37 assists. In 2005 and 2006, she ranked as one of 15 finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, annually given to the top male and female collegiate soccer players in the United States.
Her most vivid memory of that 2004 run, though, isn’t overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the 74th minute of the final against UCLA to force a tie in regulation. Nor is it burying one of the four Irish shootout goals to help secure a 4-3 win on penalty kicks.
Instead, Notre Dame’s second-round, last-minute 1-0 win over Wisconsin is what she remembers most from the national championship run.
With just a minute left to play in regulation in a 0-0 tie, Katie Thorlakson punched a corner kick from the left side, finding the head of Jill Krivacek, who flicked it past the goaltender at the near post. It marked Krivacek’s first goal of the season and helped vault the Irish past the pesky Badgers to banish any thoughts of a second-round loss suffered the previous season in 2003.
“I was just so happy to pass the second round because of the year before and to see the look on [Krivacek’s] face, it was just like, ‘We got this,’” Buczkowski says, referencing the moment she knew the team could win it all.
Buczkowski is no stranger to championships. The 2003 Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year was a member of the youth national team programs from U-16 to U-21. She played with the U-19 World Cup team in 2003 and played every minute of the 2005 Nordic Cup to help the U-21 squad win the title. She was a part of the 2009 New Jersey Sky Blue FC, which won a Women’s Professional Soccer national championship.
In 2011, Buczkowski was selected in the expansion draft by the Philadelphia Independence and earned the Iron Woman Award for playing every minute of the season. After the WPS folded in 2012, Buczkowksi played for the Chicago Red Stars of the Women’s Premier Soccer League and helped her squad to a second-place finish that first season.
Buczkowski again garnered Iron Woman honors in 2013, this time playing for the FC Kansas City club. The Blues defeated Seattle Reign FC 2-1 on Aug. 31 to capture the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League title.
“I think [it’s] pretty special,” Buczkowski says. “I don’t think many people have been part of this many championship teams and it makes me lucky, I guess. I’ve always had the attitude the harder you work the luckier you get. If you work hard things will fall your way and sometimes you get a little lucky.”
In her spare time, Buczkowski also coaches for the Kansas City Legends youth soccer program, working with younger teams to help develop a strong technical foundation in youth players. Her coaching pedigree dates back to 2007, when she worked as a volunteer assistant for the Fighting Irish. Buczkowski also has coached for the Lyons Township Soccer Club in LaGrange, Illinois, and the Olympic Development Program.
“I think just being a role model [is what draws me to coaching],” Buczkowski says. “Kansas City has a great soccer community. In general, the girls that I coach love to come out and watch us play [at FC Kanas City]. They look up to you and want to be just like you, so I like being that role model.”