ND Women’s Soccer
Olmsted finds her niche in the Irish attack
Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, September 16, 2014
With the trio of senior forward Lauren Bohaboy, junior defender Katie Naughton and sophomore midfielder Morgan Andrews accounting for more than two-thirds of Notre Dame’s 13 goals this season, it’s sometimes easy to forget other players can create scoring opportunities for the No. 18 Irish.
Witness the example of sophomore forward Kaleigh Olmsted, whose cross to Andrews set up the first goal in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Toledo.
“I passed it to [Bohaboy], and she passed it back, and then I took the ball forward, and I was kind of just hoping that Morgan or someone was running up and behind covering the slot, so I just put it into that area hoping someone would be there,” Olmsted said of the play. “I heard [Andrews] calling for it, and she put it away pretty easily.”For Olmsted, the assist marked her first point in a season that has seen her start at forward in four of Notre Dame’s eight games.
“We played really well, and we were passing the ball and keeping it well, and to finally be able to score in the second half — we had so many opportunities — it felt good,” she said of her first point.
Despite her youth, Olmsted is no stranger to the starting spot at forward. She appeared in 19 matches last season and made nine starts. She finished the year with two goals, including one in her collegiate debut, and four assists, ranking second behind Andrews among Irish freshmen in both of those categories.
Notre Dame coach Theresa Romagnolo said Olmsted’s freshman-year play made her one of the more experienced players on the Irish front line. Among Notre Dame’s eight-member sophomore class, only Andrews and goalkeeper Kaela Little have more career appearances than Olmsted.“[Olmsted] got a lot of experience her freshman year, and she’s been through the battles, and she knows what it takes,” Romagnolo said. “Kaleigh’s someone who can change the game because of her ability to get in behind defenders and to pick out people in the box, like we saw her do [Sunday].”
Although she’s found a more consistent spot in the starting lineup this season, Olmsted said she doesn’t feel like she has taken on a bigger role in the offense. Rather, The Woodlands, Texas, native said she feels more at ease working with her teammates.
“I wouldn’t say [I have] more knowledge in [the forward] position,” Olmsted said. “I guess [I have] more knowledge in that I played with [Bohaboy] for a year, I played with our back line for a year, so it’s more comfortable playing with my players rather than playing the position.”
Part of playing the forward position involves picking up positive traits from those around her, Olmsted said. She added that she has tried to match Bohaboy’s competitiveness on the field.
“Lo’s always pushing me to be a lot more intense than I am, and I think what I’ve learned from her is to have a stronger mentality on the field,” Olmsted said. “I don’t always have that mentality, but I feel like she does every single game and every single practice.”
After some hesitation, Olmsted said her top trait is her ability to create crosses much like the one that set up Andrews’ goal Sunday.
“I feel like I see the field pretty well, and I try to get the cross off,” she said. “That’s a lot of times … what my first look is, to try to get the cross off.”
Romagnolo echoed Olmsted’s sentiments but also added that the science pre-professional major’s speed makes her a hassle for defenders.
“[She has] great speed, an ability to go one-v-one and get behind defenders and a great ability to cross the ball as well.”
Olmsted and the Irish will aim to harness that ability in their next game, a home meeting with No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday. Last season, the Irish topped the then-No. 1 Tar Heels in the only meeting between the two squads.
Despite the history between the two programs, which have combined for 24 national championships, Olmsted said she sees the game as just another step the Irish need to take.
“We all know they’re a good team, but it’s just another game,” she said. “We need to come out exactly the way that we came out against Stanford, against Santa Clara. I think we know how to play, and we know what we need to do — it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together and fighting for every single ball.”
Olmsted and the Irish will face North Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.