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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame hosts Valpo in first round of NCAAs

| Thursday, November 13, 2014

In its 22nd consecutive NCAA tournament, No. 12 Notre Dame will play Valparaiso in the first round Friday at Alumni Stadium as a No. 4 seed.

Irish freshman defender Sabrina Flores corrals the ball during Notre Dame's 1-0 victory over Baylor on Sept. 12.Rosie Biehl | The Observer

Irish freshman defender Sabrina Flores corrals the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Baylor on Sept. 12.

The Irish (12-5-2, 7-2-1 ACC) are coming off a 3-1 loss in the ACC championship semifinal to eventual-champion Florida State, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Though the Crusaders (14-1-1, 8-0-0 Horizon) are unranked, they boast some of the top players in the Horizon League. Sophomore forward April Cronin was named conference MVP and redshirt freshman forward Vanesa Abad was named Freshman of the Year.

“They’re a good team and they’ve had a great season,” Irish coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “They’re going to have a lot of belief and desire. They’re going to be physical and work hard. They’ve had a lot of success, and they’ve got the MVP of the league and rookie of the league. Those are good players that that we’re going to have to stop from getting going.”

Romagnolo said Notre Dame will be careful not to look past Valparaiso to the rest of the bracket, where Texas A&M, Penn State and West Virginia are seeded first, second and third, respectively.

“We’ve got a great bracket and we’re excited about where we’re at, but we take it one game at a time,” Romagnolo said. “It’s about us taking on Valparaiso with everything we’ve got, because we can’t control anything beyond that and if we don’t win on Friday, our season is over.”

As the higher seed, the Irish will play on their home field. Romagnolo said the familiarity will help the team.

“It’s always an advantage when you get to sleep in your own bed and play on your own field in front of your own fans and go through your normal routine, so we’re excited to be at home on Friday,” Romagnolo said.

Romagnolo said she expects the Notre Dame players to perform well under the pressure of the single-elimination playoffs, especially given the tough schedule that they played in the regular season.

“I think they’ll handle [the pressure] great,” Romagnolo said. “We’ve been in a lot of pressure situations this year. Early on, we headed to California with our backs against the wall after two losses, and we beat a good team in Santa Clara and tied the No. 2 team in the country in Stanford. There have been different points in the season when we were under pressure, like how we lost to North Carolina and responded by beating Virginia Tech. We’ve shown that we can respond to anything and step up when we need to.”

The key to Irish success in the postseason will be consistency and focus, Romagnolo said. The team’s ability to work together will also play a major role.

“It’s about being consistent, it’s about going out there and giving 100 percent of our effort and giving as great a performance as we can,” Romagnolo said. “Any game could be our last, and we want to go out fighting and give our best performance and feel great about what we put on the field. The team has great chemistry. We play great football together, and we defend together, and if we continue doing that, we’ll keep having success.”

Notre Dame hosts Valparaiso in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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