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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish face strong test in search of ACC double

| Friday, November 4, 2016

Top-seeded Notre Dame will travel to Charleston, South Carolina, for the latter stages of the ACC tournament, hoping to win its first ever ACC championship and first conference title since 2009 in the Big East.

The Irish (13-2-4, 7-1-2 ACC) earned the No. 1 seed on the final regular season game this year, after posting their best ever regular season ACC record. After an 88th-minute goal earned a victory over North Carolina State last weekend, the Irish will now face fourth-seed North Carolina, who comfortably dispatched Virginia, 3-0. Speaking after the victory over North Carolina State, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said that after winning the regular season conference title, her team knows that similar performances in the postseason should give them a strong chance of winning the conference title.

“It’ll take the same thing it took all year in our conference play,” Romagnolo said. “Just one game at a time, taking care of business, going out there, competing and bringing more quality and composure to the ball. That’s really it.”

Although they are seeded fourth in the conference tournament, the Tar Heels (12-3-3, 6-2-2 ACC) are currently ranked 10th in the country and recorded the largest victory of this year’s ACC quarterfinals. The Tar Heels have a history of ACC Tournament pedigree, but have have been comparatively unsuccessful this decade. Anson Dorrance’s squad reached the first 22 conference finals, and won 20 of them from the tournament’s inception in 1988 to 2009. Yet the Tar Heels have not made a the final since, something they have a chance to remedy against the Irish.

Although the Irish hold the top seed for the tournament, Romagnolo said the depth of the conference means her team is unlikely to have any more of a target on their backs than usual.

“I think we’ve got so many great teams in our conference, everyone gets up for every game,” Romagnolo said. “I don’t think they necessarily get up for us just because we’re the number one.”

The game is the first conference tournament clash between the two most decorated college programs of all time. North Carolina has won the NCAA Championship 21 times, most recently in 2010, while the Irish are a distant second with three. The rivalry has a rich history, as between 1994 and 2008, the Tar Heels defeated the Irish in the NCAA Title game five times, while on their way to a National Championship in 1995 the Irish became only the second team to defeat North Carolina in NCAA Tournament play and the first to defeat them before the final, while preventing the Tar Heels from winning the tournament for the tenth consecutive year. This year, the Irish recorded their first ever victory over the Tar Heels at Alumni Stadium, coming out as 1-0 victors and bringing the series to 2-2 since Notre Dame joined the ACC. Romagnolo said she hopes to look to that game in order to repeat the feat.

“We were just focused on beating N.C. State, so we haven’t been thinking about Carolina, but we’ll go back and watch the tape from that game, look at the things we did well, the things we need to do better and prepare for that matchup,” Romagnolo said.

If the Irish win, they will play either No. 2 seed Clemson, who shared the regular season title with the Irish, or No. 6 seed Florida State, who have won the last three ACC tournaments, for the title.

The Irish and the Tar Heels will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Should the Irish win, the conference championship game is on Sunday at noon.

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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