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ND Women’s Soccer

Naughton brings durability, experience to Irish

| Thursday, September 24, 2015

In her collegiate career, defender Katie Naughton has recorded 6,900 minutes competing in games for Notre Dame — and there are still nine matches left in her final regular season.

With Naughton anchoring the defense, No. 16 Notre Dame has never allowed more than 20 goals in a season. Naughton and the Irish are off to another strong start defensively this year, conceding just four goals over their first nine games.

Naughton has started every game since the beginning of her freshman year, and 2015 is the third year as captain for the Elk Grove Village, Illinois, native.

“When I first was named captain [as a sophomore], it was a new territory for me, so I was trying to learn the ropes from the upperclassmen and get a feel for things,” Naughton said. “But over the years, I stepped into that role and now am more comfortable leading, with help from the rest of the captains.”

Irish captain and senior defender Katie Naughton picks a pass during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 National Team on April 24 at Alumni Stadium. Naughton has scored one goal this season.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish captain and senior defender Katie Naughton picks a pass during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 National Team on April 24 at Alumni Stadium. Naughton has scored one goal this season.

One of her fellow captains, senior defender Cari Roccaro, has also been a reliable player for the Irish over her 55 starts, and works with Naughton to protect the Irish goal.

“[Cari and I] have played together for several years,” Naughton said. “She hasn’t always been on the backline, but through youth National Teams and stuff, we have been able to play on the defensive line together.

“That’s helped us develop a chemistry within the entirety of the backline, so we can all be on the same page, have each other’s backs and trust in each other with whatever comes our way. It’s comforting.”

Naughton has competed on the international stage since 2009, most recently with the U.S. U-20 team. That experience was valuable because it helped her stay in shape and improve her skills for play at Notre Dame, Naughton said.

“The training and the atmosphere of [national team] practice really helped me in the college environment because it’s faster, with all of the best players in the country, and the coaches are always top-notch,” she said. “You’re always going to get the best of everything, so it’s been really helpful for me coming into the college arena.”

Still, Naughton, like the rest of her Irish teammates, has found herself challenged by collegiate offenses. She said the top-ranked Florida State attack that Notre Dame lost to 3-1 in the 2014 ACC semifinals is “pretty unbelievable, probably the best I’ve seen in a really long time.”

“From that [Florida State game], we learned that we have to step up the level of our own game, because to see them kind of run over us was defeating and demoralizing,” Naughton said. “If we want to compete on the national stage, we have to be able to keep up with them.”

Irish senior defender Katie Naughton looks up the field during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 National Team on April 24 at Alumni Stadium. Naughton has started all nine games this season.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish senior defender Katie Naughton looks up the field during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 National Team on April 24 at Alumni Stadium. Naughton has started all nine games this season.

After 2014 ended in the NCAA tournament third-round loss, Naughton said she had high standards for both the Irish and for herself this season.

“For the team, we definitely want to make the best run that we possibly can,” she said. “For myself, the goal is just to be a consistent player and continue to do my job on the backline and make sure we make the other team pay for sending anything our way.

“There’s always going to be some bumps and bruises along the way, but as a whole I think we’ve definitely met and exceeded most of our goals so far.”

With the 2015 season heating up and a matchup on the road against No. 1 Virginia on Thursday, time will tell if the senior will exceed 2,109 minutes played this year — a personal high she reached when she was a freshman — while guiding the Irish on a deep postseason run.

Naughton will graduate in December as a Anthropology and Spanish double-major and set her sights on the next level of competition.

“I’ll be done here in a couple months, which is bittersweet,” she said. “The [National Women’s Soccer League] draft is in mid-January, so we’ll see what happens. I obviously want to play soccer for as long as possible.”

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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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