ND Women’s Soccer
Notre Dame falls to Virginia; loses for first time in 10 games
Tobias Hoonhout | Monday, October 10, 2016
In front of a big crowd at Alumni Stadium, the 20th-ranked Irish faced off against eighth-ranked Virginia, looking to continue their perfect record at home.
But after the dust cleared, the Cavaliers (10-2-2, 3-1-2 ACC) emerged victorious, thanks to a controversial penalty call that gave them the lead and ended Notre Dame’s 10-match unbeaten streak. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo was disappointed with the result, but happy with her team’s effort.
“I thought everybody played well,” Romagnolo said. “I mean I think it was a tough game to play, two good teams, just the possession turned over on both sides … as a whole I think everyone played pretty well, but yeah, [it’s] just annoying to lose on a call like that.”
Both teams came out rather cautiously, not wanting to give up the early goal, and the game turned into a bit of cat-and-mouse game, as neither team could get a good look offensively. As the half progressed however, Virginia’s offense began to get the upper hand, and the Cavaliers had several decent chances but failed to get a good shot on goal, thanks to the stout Irish defense, which has been the strength of the team all year. Any time a Virginia player was in a position to score, an Irish defender was there to make a tackle or block a shot. Kaela Little was largely untroubled, but did make a good save when she tipped a deflected cross over the bar.
When Notre Dame (9-2-3, 4-1-1 ACC) went forward, however, they struggled to get anything going. The Irish had no shots on goal in the first 45 minutes, and while the starting trio of freshman Jennifer Westendorf, junior Kaitlin Klawunder, and senior captain Kaleigh Olmsted worked hard, the final product was lacking. As the half went on, Romagnolo brought on juniors Meghan Doyle and Karin Muya in hopes of sparking some production, but it was much of the same, and as the clock wound down, Muya’s cross flew harmlessly into the hands of senior Cavalier goalie Morgan Stearns to close a disappointing half for the Irish offense.
The second half was a different story, however. After halftime adjustments, the game became much more open, and chances were there for both teams. The Irish started brightly, as senior midfielder Sandra Yu intercepted a pass and found Olmsted, whose cross was pushed out by Stearns. It was then Virginia’s chance, as freshman forward Meghan McCool had a good chance, but Yu made a crucial tackle to keep the game scoreless. Westendorf then had a good chance, as junior defender Monica Flores found her on the left wing with a crisp through-ball, but Westendorf’s low shot was right at Stearns. Virginia then came close when a free kick was whipped in dangerously, missed everyone, and careened off the post.
A few minutes later, the deadlock was finally broken. Virginia freshman forward Taylor Ziemer drove into the box with the ball, was taken down by junior defender Ginny McGowan, and the referee called a foul. Senior midfielder Alexis Shaffer stepped up and finished calmly to give Virginia the lead in the 60th minute.
Notre Dame pressed for an equalizer over the final half hour, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. The Irish came closest from a free kick in the corner, which was headed goal-bound by junior midfielder Taylor Klawunder, but was denied by a diving save from Stearns. In the final seconds, Notre Dame had a free kick in a dangerous position, but the subsequent delivery was cleared and the clock ran out on the Irish.
“We had some good chances,” Romagnolo said. “I thought we had some decent chances, it’s just almost like we didn’t get the break today. I felt like it would just get caught under our foot, or it would just bounce to them, the keeper just made the save, so we were close, but we just couldn’t get that final product … I thought it was a great game, again I’m really pleased with our team and the direction we are moving in, so I think we just have to have a short memory about this one, and move on. We’ve got to take care of our bodies this week, get sleep, take care of school, and be ready for the next one, because we have Carolina coming here Friday, and that’s going be another great battle.”
Notre Dame looks to get back on track next Friday when the Irish welcome North Carolina to South Bend.