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ND Women’s Soccer

No. 24 Irish pick up one tie, one win in Iowa City

| Monday, August 28, 2017

Facing off against Minnesota and Iowa, No. 24 Notre Dame walked away from its weekend trip to Iowa City with a tie and a win, respectively, moving the team’s record to 2-0-2 on the season.

Action got underway Friday night when the Irish took on Minnesota in the first leg of back-to-back Big Ten match ups. The start of the game saw sophomore goaltender Brooke Littman face some good chances from the Golden Gophers (2-0-2), but she was able to stave them off and keep the game scoreless.

Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf runs past a defender during Notre Dame’s 5-4 loss to SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 11.Observer File Photo

Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf dribbles upfield during Notre Dame’s 5-4 loss to SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 11.

To start the second half, the Notre Dame offense was firing on all cylinders, creating a number of close chances that came up just short. But in the 56th minute, it was sophomore Jennifer Westendorf who broke the deadlock. The forward took a pass from freshman forward Eva Hurm and buried it in the back of the net, picking up her second goal of the season. The lead would hold for another 15 minutes before Minnesota sophomore Nikki Albrecht was able to get one past Littman, marking the first and only goal she has given up all season.

Play throughout the rest of the game was ultimately not enough to give either side the decisive goal, resulting in a 1-1 tie after a 110 minutes.

Despite being able to walk away from Sunday’s afternoon contest against Iowa (2-1) with a 2-0 win, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo was actually more pleased with Friday’s performance, pointing out the strong play of a number of team members.

“Offensively I think as a group we were better Friday, maybe being a little fresher, presenting some nicer attacks,” Romagnolo said.  “I thought [junior defender] Rachel Heard had a great weekend in the back, giving us very consistent play. Brooke Littman was great in goal as well. She made some nice saves for us Friday and now she has three shutouts in her first four games.”

On Sunday, Notre Dame wasted no time taking the early lead against the Hawkeyes. In just the twelfth minute, Westendorf took a corner kick that ultimately made its way to junior defender Sabrina Flores who netted her first goal of the season and gave the Irish the 1-0 lead. One minute later, sophomore forward Natalie Jacobs was able to draw a foul in the box, setting up for a penalty kick that she was able to capitalize on, helping pad a lead that the team would not give up the rest of the way. Despite a strong effort by Iowa in the second half, the Notre Dame defense stood strong and Littman picked up her third shutout.

While it was a generally positive weekend, coach Romagnolo realizes there are some things her team can stand to improve on moving forward in the season.

“We need to work on connecting more of our passes so we can control the game,” Romagnolo said. “Beyond that we have to work on executing in front of the goal. On Sunday we got after them early and took our foot off the pedal. While we showed some nice flashes we need to be more consistent moving forward, but overall we walk away with a positive weekend.”

As the team moves on, the next challenge awaiting them comes this coming weekend when South Carolina and Santa Clara come into town for the Notre Dame Invitational. Romagnolo hopes to take what they learned this weekend and improve upon it as this team continues to learn its identity early on in the season.

“I think there’s a lot of potential with this team. We’re still in the process of figuring out who we will be and what our identity is, how we will compete and play and what our mentality will be like … We want to work on keeping the ball and controlling more of the game. Creating more quality chances and executing while also staying defensively organized and disciplined will put us in good shape.”

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