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ND Women’s Soccer

No. 23 Irish set to host Redbirds, Tigers over weekend

| Friday, September 2, 2016

No. 23 Notre Dame faces a busy weekend ahead, with home games against both Illinois State and Missouri.

The Irish (3-1-0) will face Illinois State on Friday after a comfortable 3-0 victory over Western Michigan on Monday. The Redbirds (1-3-0) earned their first win of the season Sunday, beating Eastern Illinois by a score of 4-0. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said the Redbirds’ 3-4-3 formation is a new challenge for her team to face.

“They’re a good team,” Romagnolo said. “I’ve watched them play a couple of different times, and I think they’re organized. They play a bit of a different system, so that’ll be an adjustment for us. They work hard — they’re a tough, organized opponent.

“From what I’ve seen, they play a 3-4-3, which we haven’t seen yet. And what that system does is apply pressure with greater numbers higher up the field, which makes it harder for your team to play out of the pressure. So in practice, we’re going to try and put one team in that system, play against that and talk about where the spaces are and how to exploit them.”

Romagnolo said she hopes her team can turn in another performance similar to Monday night’s victory over the Broncos.

“I want to see us read the space that’s on the field,” Romagnolo said. “If they’re going to press with six players and try to press us and force us to turn the ball over, I’d like to see us try to bypass the midfield sometimes, find our forwards right away, have our forwards hold it and we can play off of them. I want us to just read the space: If there’s a high line, I want us to take that space.

“I think what we did well against Western Michigan was that we varied the ways we attacked. There were times when we went over the top, there were times we went over the weak side, there were times we attacked up the middle and there were times we went 1v1. I felt we showed much better decision-making and took care of the ball well. I want us to keep improving on that and do it against a different system.”

Irish freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf  attempts to intercept a pass during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Wisconsin on Aug. 21 at Alumni Stadium.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf attempts to intercept a pass during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Wisconsin on Aug. 21 at Alumni Stadium.

Notre Dame will have only a brief respite before being in action again, taking on Missouri on Sunday. The Tigers (3-1) have had a grueling start to the season, with all three of their most recent games going to overtime. They also have seen plenty of goals at both ends so far this season, with nine goals scored and seven conceded. Freshman forward Sarah Luebbert has led the Tigers’ attack so far this season with three goals. It will be the last home game for Notre Dame until Sept. 25, with the Irish embarking on a four-game stretch on the road over the next two weeks.

Romagnolo said the veterans on her team have been important leaders so far, and hopes that will continue for this weekend’s games.

“I like to look to the veteran players as leaders,” Romagnolo said. “[Goalkeeper] Kaela Little, [midfielder] Sandra Yu, [forward] Kaleigh Olmsted — those are three players who have played most of their career for us. They’re seniors or captains, and when they play well, I feel like everything clicks for us. We really missed not having Kaleigh at Michigan — she was out with a concussion and that really impacted our chemistry up front and the connection with the midfield group. I thought [junior forward] Karin Muya in the last game came on really strong. She redshirted last season due to injury, and she’s just getting herself back into things. [Freshman forward] Jennifer Westendorf’s had some really nice flashes. Our back four has started to play really well together — [junior] Ginny McGowan and [sophomore] Rachel Heard are getting confident and gaining some good experience at center-back.”

Romagnolo added she thinks her young team should continue to improve as the season goes on.

“So far I’m happy,” Romagnolo said. “I think it’s a young group who are continually learning, and I want them to continue to grow, take the experiences their getting and to improve on those experiences. After every game, we talk about the things we do well and the things we need to keep improving on, and my hope is that we continue to grow after each game and just keep going from there.”

The Irish will face both teams at Alumni Stadium, with Illinois State at 7 p.m. Friday before Sunday’s encounter with Missouri, which kicks off at 5 p.m.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel