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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame posts consecutive shutouts in weekend sweep

| Monday, September 5, 2016

No. 23 Notre Dame won a pair of tight contests this weekend, as it defeated both Illinois State and Missouri by a score of 1-0.

On Friday night, the Irish (5-1) played host to the Redbirds (2-4) at Alumni Stadium. The lone goal of the game would come off the head of junior forward Kaitlin Klawunder, who connected on a corner kick in the 41st minute to give the Irish a lead they would not relinquish. The team secured its second consecutive shutout — as well as its fourth overall this season — behind four saves, three of which came in the second half, by senior goalie Kaela Little.

Despite outshooting the Redbirds 23-8, the Irish were unable to convert any of their opportunities until Klawunder’s goal. The corner kick came off the foot of senior midfielder Cindy Pineda, who had just entered the game seven minutes earlier with Klawunder. It was Klawunder’s third career goal and second career game-winning score.

Irish junior forward Kaitlin Klawunder tracks down the loose ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Missouri on Sunday.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish junior forward Kaitlin Klawunder tracks down the loose ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Missouri on Sunday.

“I thought the goal was great,” Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “It was very opportunistic and great timing considering Kaitlin had just come into the game recently. She has shown herself as a goal scorer who is going to play brave and going to put herself in the mix.”

The second half of Friday night’s match was highlighted by the play of the Irish defense, especially the three saves by Little. One of the night’s most significant plays came in the 85th minute when Little made a sprawling save to her right, which ultimately secured the victory for the Irish, as the Redbirds’ only other shot over the last five minutes was also saved by Little. The shutout marked the 26th clean sheet of the senior goalkeeper’s career.

In Sunday’s matchup against the Tigers (4-2), the first half belonged to the Irish. Notre Dame outshot Missouri 12-3 during the period but was unable to convert any of the opportunities. Freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf led the first-half effort with a team high of five shots.

On the other end of the field, Kaela Little made a save on the Tigers’ lone shot on target over the course of the first half. The defense as a whole held the Tiger attack at bay in the period, as Missouri only took three shots and two corner kicks, leading to a 0-0 score at halftime.

The second half started with both teams trading opportunities in the opponent’s half of the field, as Missouri took two corner kicks while Notre Dame had two shots in the first 15 minutes of the period. It was not until the 61st minute, however, that the scoreless tie was broken, as Westendorf connected on her third goal of the season with a strike from 20 yards out to put the Irish up 1-0.

Irish freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf takes a corner kick during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Missouri on Sunday.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf takes a corner kick during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Missouri on Sunday.

The Tigers would take four shots the remainder of the game, including three on goal, but Little made three saves to keep the Irish lead intact. Behind the defense’s third consecutive shutout, the Irish would end the game with a 1-0 victory.

After the game, Romagnolo said she was proud of the improvements her team has made since its only defeat of the year, a 2-0 loss on the road against Michigan on Aug. 25.

“We’re a young team, but now we’ve got a standard for how we can play and what we can bring to each game,” Romagnolo said. “Our defense has grown a lot, and, as a group, we’re doing a good job of making better decisions on the ball and creating a lot more chances for ourselves.”

The next match for Notre Dame is set for Friday, as the team heads out West to San Jose, California, to take on Santa Clara in Buck Shaw Stadium. Kickoff is set for 10:30 p.m.

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