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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame readies for top-20 matchup vs. Clemson

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

Coming off a double-overtime win last weekend, the No. 20 Irish continue their quest for a regular season ACC title Thursday night when they face No. 12 Clemson.

In a top-25 matchup, Notre Dame (8-1-3, 3-0-1 ACC) boasts the 10th-best defense in the country in terms of goals-against average, while Clemson (8-2-2, 2-0-2 ACC) has the second-highest scoring offense in the country.

Irish sophomore defender Natalie Ward dribbles upfield in Notre Dame's 1-0 victory over Missouri on Sept. 4Emma Farnan | The Observer

Irish sophomore defender Natalie Ward dribbles upfield in Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Missouri on Sept. 4

This past Sunday, the Irish played in their fourth double-overtime game, but for the first time came out with a victory, as junior midfielder Megan McCashland scored her first career goal off of a corner kick in the 105th minute to beat Louisville 2-1 on the road. Freshman Jennifer Westendorf whipped in the kick, and the unmarked McCashland hammered the header home to win the game and complete the comeback.

Louisville struck early in the first half to take the lead, but thanks to senior forward Sandra Yu, Notre Dame equalized in the 38th minute. The rest of the game was a tight affair, but the Irish had the advantage in shots on goal 11 to four, and through McCashland, picked up the win. The Irish had played in three double-overtime games prior, but all had been draws. This win marked the third-straight for Notre Dame, and moved the Irish into a three-way tie for second place in the conference.

The win over Louisville meant the Irish were able to extend their unbeaten streak to nine games, the best in the ACC and the longest for Notre Dame since 2010. But Clemson is unbeaten in their last seven, and coming off of a hard-fought 2-2 draw on the road to Virginia Tech. Additionally, the Tigers have perhaps the most explosive offense in the country. Besides having the second-ranked scoring offense in the nation with 3.08 goals per game, the Tigers rank first in five other categories, including total goals, assists and points. Senior Catrina Atanda is 11th in the country with nine goals, and sophomore Sam Staab is in a five-way tie for first overall with nine assists.

Overall, this looks to be one of the biggest tests of the year for senior captain and goalkeeper Kaela Little and her backline. While the Irish are undefeated at home and have yet to concede a goal at Alumni Stadium, Notre Dame’s offense will also need to produce like they have been doing recently to give the Irish a chance. The Irish have scored in each of their last five games, and the combination of senior captain and forward Kaleigh Olmsted and freshman star Westendorf, along with Yu and junior Karin Muya, is finally making itself felt — and at just the right time. It looks to be a very exciting matchup, and may go a long way in deciding who is crowned ACC champion at the end of the season.

The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium tonight.

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