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ND Women’s Soccer

Olmsted’s late goal lifts Notre Dame past Valparaiso

| Monday, November 17, 2014

In the first round of the NCAA championship, fourth-seeded Notre Dame dominated possession, shots on goal and almost every other statistical category against Valparaiso on Friday night. But with less than a minute left in regulation, the Irish and the Crusaders appeared fated for overtime, deadlocked in a scoreless tie.

Then, with 50 seconds left, a cross from junior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson found the foot of sophomore forward Kaleigh Olmsted in the six-yard box, and the Irish (13-5-2, 7-2-1 ACC) eked out a 1-0 win over one of the stingiest defenses in the country.

“Honestly, I don’t remember why I was in the box,” Olmsted said. “I don’t really remember what happened. I just know Anna hit it in, I think it ricocheted off someone’s foot, and I knew I was just dead-square in the middle of the goal, so I just shot it as hard as I could.”

The game-winning goal, the latest NCAA tournament score in program history, capped a chilly night at Alumni Stadium in which the Irish fired 25 shots, compared to just one for the Crusaders (14-2-4, 8-0 Horizon).

“I mean, we had so many chances,” Olmsted said. “We just relentlessly went at them and at them, and it was just unlucky time and time again. So, when we got that goal, it was just so much … so much relief … joy … anxiety just lifting off you.”

Valparaiso entered the match having not lost since its season-opener against Belmont on Aug. 22. In the 18 matches after that, the Crusader defense allowed just six goals. Sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley ranks fifth in the nation in save percentage, and the Crusaders entered the match ranked fifth in goals against average.

Against the Irish, Valparaiso struggled keep the ball in the midfield and spent most of the game in its defensive third, warding off an Irish attack led by senior forward Karin Simonian, who recorded six shots, two of which were on goal. Sophomore midfielder Morgan Andrews and junior midfielder Cari Roccaro also added five shots apiece. Before the contest, the Crusaders allowed 8.1 shots per game.

“Anytime we’re creating that many opportunities for ourselves, we’re doing something right,” Irish coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “We moved the ball pretty well. The movement off the ball was pretty good. We just needed to finish a chance and at the end of the day, I think Anna Maria stepped up huge and created the goal.”

Despite the plethora of shots, Notre Dame struggled to finish its opportunities all game. Andrews and Roccaro both had two headers that they sent over the crossbar, and Simonian saw one of her shots bounce off the frame of the goal. Overall, the Irish recorded nine shots on net, for a shots-on-goal average of 0.36, well below their season average entering the match, 0.454.

“There was definitely some frustration [as there always is] anytime you can’t smack the ball in the back of the net,” Romagnolo said. “We were missing even the target so there was definitely that frustration, but just keeping them positive and keeping them focused was just what our focus was on.

“That’s the game. Some games it’s just harder to score and you just have to keep persevering and find a way.”

Even while the Irish failed to score, their defense held strong, shutting down the Horizon League’s MVP and offensive player of the year, junior midfielder Rita Craven.

“Defensively, we remained very strong and found a way,” Romagnolo said.

The Crusaders’ lone shot of the night came in the 25th minute from sophomore forward April Cronin and sailed wide. After that chance, Irish sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little had little to do, mostly serving the ball back into the midfield while recording no saves. She did collect her 12th shutout of the year.

Offensively, the Irish were missing one of their key weapons against the Crusaders. Simonian started in place of senior forward Lauren Bohaboy, who was sidelined by illness. Notre Dame’s top goal-scorer on the season, Bohaboy also missed the team’s ACC semifinal against Florida State but should be healthy in time for the second round of the tournament next weekend, a team official said.

With the win, the Irish advance to the round of 32 in the NCAA championship. The top-seeded team in Notre Dame’s bracket, No. 1 Texas A&M, will host the next two rounds of play in College Station, Texas. The Irish will face unranked Texas on Friday at 4 p.m.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg