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ND Women’s Soccer

Quick start propels Notre Dame past Pittsburgh

| Monday, September 26, 2016

A dominant first half was enough for No. 24 Notre Dame to cruise past Pittsburgh at Alumni Stadium, with four different goal scorers before the break powering the Irish to a 4-0 victory Sunday afternoon.

The Irish (7-1-3, 2-0-1 ACC) took the lead less than five minutes into the game when junior defender Monica Flores’ corner kick found junior forward Kaitlin Klawunder, who sent a header past Panther senior goalkeeper Taylor Francis and into the net.

Irish junior defender Monica Flores attempts a sliding tackle during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Missouri on Sept. 4 at Alumni Stadium.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish junior defender Monica Flores attempts a sliding tackle during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Missouri on Sept. 4 at Alumni Stadium.

Just three minutes later, Notre Dame almost made it 2-0 thanks to another cross by Flores, but senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted could only send Flores’s fast-paced ball wide of the wide open net.

It didn’t take long for the Irish to find that second goal though, as Olmsted sent in a cross from the left that was met by freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf, who volleyed the ball in from close range. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she felt like the team was hungry for more after its first goal.

“I feel like we’ve been close on a lot of opportunities, and we’ve been winning 1-0 or tying,” Romagnolo said. “So I think today, the floodgates opened a bit and they were excited to be back at home, and I think they were just attacking balls in the box and we got a lot of good numbers in the final third.”

The Irish extended their lead again before the 20-minute mark, as sophomore midfielder Natalie Ward sent a high cross into the box. Olmsted rose above the Panther defenders and headed the ball in to push Notre Dame’s lead to 3-0.

The Irish continued to dominate in terms of possession and scoring opportunities, Junior midfielder Taylor Klawunder’s header from a Flores corner beat Francis in the Panther goal. But a Pittsburgh defender produced a diving header on the goal-line to keep the ball out, keeping the game at 3-0.

It wouldn’t be long before the Irish did add a fourth tally though. Junior forward Meghan Doyle’s cross was met by junior forward Karin Muya, whose header looped high into the air and slipped through the hands of Francis and into the net.

Romagnolo said every member of the team was responsible for the successful first 45 minutes.

“In the first half, we were making each other look good,” Romagnolo said. “We were moving the ball well, we were trusting the pass. … Monica [Flores] had a great game in the first half, especially in the center mid — she was doing a great job moving the ball for us. I thought [senior] Sandra [Yu] and Taylor Klawunder again owned the midfield, which is something they’ve been doing well all year. Kaleigh [Olmsted] had her first goal of the year, and it was a really special goal to have. [Jennifer Westendorf] had a great goal off of Kaleigh’s cross. So I think there are a lot of highlights, especially in the first half.”

Alexis Martel-Lamothe almost got in on the act too, as a ball from sophomore midfielder Shannon Hendricks found the freshman defender in space, but with Martel-Lamothe’s shot looking destined for the bottom corner of the goal, Francis managed to get a fingertip to the ball and turn it around the post.

The Irish controlled the second half, not creating any more serious chances but preventing the Panthers from doing the same as Romagnolo used the comfortable lead to make changes to the lineup. Romagnolo said making an early impact gave her great freedom to experiment.

“I think it’s huge,” Romagnolo said of being able to rotate fresh legs into the game. “It just gives you that nice cushion. For us, it let us try some people in new positions, to rest some people — obviously we wanted to stay sharp and focused in the second half after being up 4-0, but it gave me an opportunity to play some people who don’t get as many minutes and give them that look, so it was a great day.”

After a four-game road trip that saw the Irish travel across the country to meet Stanford, Santa Clara, Syracuse and North Carolina State, the game was the first at Alumni Stadium for the Irish in three weeks. Romagnolo said it was good to be back at home, where her team is a perfect 6-0 and has yet to concede a goal all season.

The Irish will once again take to the road Saturday when they play Louisville at Lynn Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kickoff is set for 7 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