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ND Women’s Soccer

Griffin: Irish dominate opponents now, but can they continue?

| Thursday, August 27, 2015

No. 7 Notre Dame scored nine goals in the first two games of its season last weekend, good for 10th in the nation. But this early in the season, the question remains: Can the Irish sustain that production when things get tougher?

It’s always good to dominate the opponents you’re expected to dominate — a feat Notre Dame football fans know is easier said than done — but once the ACC calendar gets underway, the Irish offense will face defenses far more staunch than Toledo and Valparaiso brought.

The Irish head into the Notre Dame Invitational this weekend, where they will face Santa Clara and Portland. In the same tournament last year, the then-No. 11 Irish suffered two momentum-killing home losses to Texas Tech and USC.

Sophomore midfielder Taylor Klawunder dribbles upfield in a 2-1 loss against Texas Tech on August 29 at Alumni Field. Klawunder has 2 goals this season.Emily McConville | The Observer

Sophomore midfielder Taylor Klawunder dribbles upfield in a 2-1 loss against Texas Tech on August 29 at Alumni Field. Klawunder has 2 goals this season.

The Irish attack averaged a mere 1.64 goals per game last season, and 13 of the team’s scores came from the combined efforts of now-graduated forward Lauren Bohaboy and now-Trojan midfielder Morgan Andrews.

Notre Dame’s defense is solid, and a major reason why the team made it to the third round of last year’s NCAA tournament, but it won’t be enough to shut out elite ACC opponents such as No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia.

And so this task of putting points on the board falls to a mix of veterans and fresh faces.

Five upperclassmen found the back of the net last weekend, including the fourth and fifth-leading scorers from last year, senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson and junior forward Kaleigh Olmsted. Sophomore midfielder Taylor Klawunder, meanwhile, has managed to equal her two-goal tally from her first year of collegiate play in just the two games of 2015.

Of course, among the veterans leading the charge are senior defenders and captains Katie Naughton and Cari Roccaro. But they make the most impact on the other end of the field in front of junior goalkeeper Kaela Little.

Sophomore forward Karin Muya looks to pass the ball in a 1-0 victory against Baylor on September 12 at Alumni Stadium.Rosie Biehl | The Observer

Sophomore forward Karin Muya looks to pass the ball in a 1-0 victory against Baylor on September 12 at Alumni Stadium.

It will be the newer weapons on offense, however, who will need to step up if the team is going to live up to its top-10 ranking and potentially improve on last season’s meager offensive production.

Injuries sidelined junior midfielder Sandra Yu for her first two seasons at Notre Dame, but she has already made her healthy presence known with one goal in each of the first two games.

Freshman forward Natalie Jacobs, who was ranked No. 3 in the country at her position coming out of high school, has been a welcome addition as well, starting against Toledo and Valparaiso and scoring once.

Still, the current offense is altogether unproven. Fortunately, Notre Dame has some time until its first real test against a ranked opponent, which is a Sept. 19 matchup at Clemson. The Irish will have to work to mesh on offense to compete with the best of the best in the ACC.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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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.

Contact Renee