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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame, UConn to clash in NCAA tournament

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 18 Connecticut will face off in a battle between two teams that each dominated their first round opponents when they meet in the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday.

The Huskies (18-3-0, 8-1-0 AAC) shut out Siena, 5-0, in their win last weekend, while the third-seeded Irish (14-4-1, 6-4-0 ACC) won by the same margin against Oakland to open the program’s 23rd consecutive tournament appearance.

Senior defender Cari Roccaro winds up a pass during a 1-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Senior defender Cari Roccaro winds up a pass during a 1-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium.

Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said the final score is unimportant to her as long as her team comes out on top.

“All I care about is scoring one more goal than the other team,” she said. “At this stage, everyone’s going to play hard. There are no easy games.”

Notre Dame is just the third top-25 opponent Connecticut has been matched up against this season. The other two ended in losses for the Huskies, first against No. 9 Rutgers — the No. 2 seed, who plays host to this weekend’s matches — and later against No. 22 South Florida.

The only other defeat Connecticut suffered this year was a 3-2 overtime loss to Cincinnati in the AAC championship semifinals Nov. 5.

The Huskies are led in attack by junior forward Rachel Hill, whose 14 goals in the regular season tied her for 17th nationally in scoring. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s leading scorer, senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson, notched 13 goals in the regular season, plus two more in the tourney’s first round.

“They’re a very organized team,” Romagnolo said of the Huskies. “They’re a quality opponent with two very good strikers up front who can score goals and get assists, so those are the two primary players we need to watch.”

Stopping Connecticut’s offense will be crucial to an Irish win, Romagnolo said. The Notre Dame backline, led by senior captains Katie Naughton and Cari Roccaro, has not allowed more than two goals in a game yet this year and has recorded six shutouts in its last seven matches.

“We talked a little bit about how we’re going to defend them in terms of focusing on their two strikers, but we’ll just try to stay in control of possession and create opportunities so that they have to worry about us rather than us worrying about them,” Romagnolo said.

If the Irish win Friday afternoon, they would play again Sunday against the winner of Friday night’s Rutgers-Hofstra matchup.

Against Oakland, most of the team’s starters rested during the second half thanks to the substantial lead. Romagnolo said even with a quick turnaround following a potential win, resting the starters again is unlikely.

“At the end of the day, we have to win this game, so unless we have the luxury of getting up by several goals, our focus has to be on getting through Friday,” she said.

With the week-long break from last Friday to this coming Friday, Romagnolo said Notre Dame is eager to continue its run toward the College Cup.

“It is important to get a good rest but also to stay sharp,” Romagnolo said. “They’re hungry to get on the field again. They’re just excited to be where we are.”

The Irish face UConn in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Friday at 4 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

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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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