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ND Women’s Soccer

Romagnolo preps for first NCAA tournament

| Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Earlier this week, No. 12 Notre Dame earned its 22nd straight berth in the NCAA championship tournament. That number marks the second-longest active streak and the third longest in the 33 years of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.

Irish senior defender Sammy Scofield moves upfield Sept. 12 at Alumni Stadium during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over visiting Baylor.Rosie Biehl | The Observer

Irish senior defender Sammy Scofield moves upfield Sept. 12 at Alumni Stadium during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over visiting Baylor.

For first-year Irish coach Theresa Romagnolo, that streak represents a long tradition of success that she has been tasked with continuing. It is a job she takes seriously.

“It’s a testament to how great this program is, and also of how many great players and teams that the program has been able to produce,” Romagnolo said of the consecutive tournament appearances. “It’s something that’s expected here, that we’re going to get to the tournament, that we’re going to show up and perform well in each game that we have the opportunity to be a part of.”

After replacing long-time coach Randy Waldrum last spring, Romagnolo was faced with following a regime that had advanced to six NCAA College Cups and won two national titles over 15 years. In her first year, she has guided the Irish to a 12-5-2 record overall and a perfect 6-0-2 mark on the road, and will now take her team to the NCAA tournament for the first time in her head coaching career.

“I mean, it’s exciting,” Romagnolo said. “I think we have a great team and I’m excited to see us continue to improve as we move through each stage of the tournament.”

Romagnolo’s first year at Notre Dame has been significantly different from her first year at her previous post, Dartmouth. As the new coach of the Big Green in 2011, she posted a record of 4-12 and 2-5 in the Ivy League. In her time with the Irish, Romagnolo has seen her squad improve significantly as the season wore on, posting a 7-1-2 mark over its final 10 games.

“We’ve got a great group of women to work with,” Romagnolo said. “They show up, they train hard every day. They’re eager to get better. They’re receptive to information. So, I’ve been very impressed with their drive and motivation to become one of the best teams in the country.”

The Irish were rewarded with a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and a first-round matchup with Valparaiso on Friday night. Five other ACC squads will join Notre Dame in the tournament, including all three squads that qualified for the ACC conference championship along with the Irish — No. 2 Florida State No. 4 Virginia and No. 6 North Carolina. All three teams earned higher seeds than the Irish, but Romagnolo said she was satisfied with her team’s placement in the bracket.

“It was fair,” she said. “We like our part of the bracket. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s about going out there and giving your best performance, whoever is on the opposite side of the field.”

Despite the program’s streak of NCAA appearances, it has been four years since the Irish last advanced to the College Cup, when they won the NCAA title in 2010. With a completely new roster and coach, the squad is eager to return to the spotlight but is tempering its expectations, Romagnolo said.

“They’re excited about the potential [of going to the College Cup],” she said of her team. “But the most important part of the NCAA tournament is not getting ahead of yourself and maintaining our focus on [Valparaiso]. … That’s the most important game because that’s the only game [we’re guaranteed]. So obviously, they’re excited for the tournament and they have their sights set on what’s beyond, but at the end of the day, they’re focused on Friday night.”

Romagnolo makes her NCAA tournament coaching debut Friday night when Notre Dame hosts Valparaiso at 7 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