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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish defense shines over the break as Irish win two

| Tuesday, October 25, 2016

No. 14 Notre Dame was defensively perfect over fall break, earning two wins and a draw without conceding a goal in any of its three games.

The Irish (11-2-4, 6-1-2 ACC) started off against then-No. 11 North Carolina on Oct. 15, and earned their first ever home victory over the Tar Heels (10-3-3, 5-2-2 ACC). After an evenly-matched first half, freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf fired a 57th-minute free kick into the top-right corner for what would prove to be the only goal of the game. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she felt her team had been on top of the game even before Westendorf’s goal.

“I think we’d been playing well up to that point,” Romagnolo said. “I think we’d been playing well against Virginia even though we lost to them, so I think we were just continuing to play well. I thought we executed better against Carolina, we kept the ball really well, so we created more chances for ourselves during that game.”

Irish senior Kaleigh Olmsted pursues the ball carrier during Notre Dame's 1-0 loss to Virginia on Oct. 9 at Alumni Stadium.Grace Tourville | The Observer

Irish senior Kaleigh Olmsted pursues the ball carrier during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Virginia on Oct. 9 at Alumni Stadium.

The Irish travelled to No. 25 Virginia Tech on Thursday, and neither team could find a goal. A Kaela Little save just before halftime kept the game scoreless, while among the chances for the Irish was a Westendorf free kick early in overtime that went narrowly wide.

“I think it was a fair result on the day,” Romagnolo said. “I don’t think we performed our best. Given how we performed I thought it was a fair result, but we could have played a lot better. Coming away with a draw was a fine result.”

On Sunday, the Irish earned a win over Wake Forest thanks to a late goal from junior forward Megan McCashland. Senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted played in a cross to McCashland, who sent a header into the net to earn the Irish another victory.

“I thought we were definitely the better team against Wake Forest,” Romagnolo said. “We were keeping the ball well and pressing well especially in the second half, so we were really controlling the game. But Wake Forest is a good team again and there were not a lot of moments for us to break through on goal, we had to continue to persevere, which we did. Kaleigh Olmsted had an incredible assist, to Megan McCashland at the back post. So it just took a lot of perseverance to find that goal in the 89th minute. They just kept working hard and defending well, and they really didn’t give up many chances in the second half to Wake Forest, other than a couple corner kicks, but other than that they didn’t have a lot.”

This was the second late game-winning goal for McCashland this season, after scoring the winner in double overtime against Louisville. Romagnolo said McCashland’s impact this season in big moments has been pivotal.

“It’s incredible,” Romagnolo said. “To have her ready on the bench to step in is great. She played some really important minutes leading to that goal, so she did a great job on the field defending and attacking and making that run out of the midfield to get on the end of that cross was fantastic. I’m really proud of her being able to step up in another big moment.”

The Irish play their final regular season game of the season Wednesday when they meet Miami. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

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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