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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish hit the road for ACC opener against Clemson

| Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Saturday, the Irish will travel to Riggs Field at Clemson to take on the 11th-ranked Tigers in their first ACC match of the season. Both teams will go into the match well rested. The Irish (4-2-2) are going strong after a 4-0 rout of Toledo last Sunday. Clemson (6-1-0) is coming off of its first loss of the season against South Carolina last Friday.

Irish junior defender Sabrina Flores evades a defender during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 1 at Alumni Stadium.Peter St. John | The Observer

Irish junior defender Sabrina Flores evades a defender during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 1 at Alumni Stadium.

The match will pit the two top finishers from last year’s ACC regular season against each other as both squads open conference play. While an important match, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo insisted the team needs to take its season one game at a time.

“The goal in the ACC is to focus on one opponent at a time and to get results one game at a time, and ultimately win the conference,” she said. “We game plan for one team at a time, and [now] we’re focused on Clemson.”

After the Irish scored four goals in a game only once last season, the team has already done it twice this campaign, thanks in large part to sophomore Natalie Jacobs. Jacobs has scored in three straight games and is currently pacing the Irish with five goals scored. However, with five clean sheets through their first seven games, the Tigers will be tough to score against. It will be critical for Jacobs and others to find holes in their defense and create opportunities.

“Natalie can do so many different things for us. She’s a great passer of the ball, she’s a good finisher, she has good instincts around the goal, she has a great shot, she’s good in the air,” Romagnolo said on the forward. “There’s so many things that she does well that make her a valuable asset to the team.”

Defensively, Notre Dame will have their hands full, as Clemson has the offensive firepower needed to be a strong ACC team this season. Graduate student Jenna Polonsky and freshman Mariana Speckmaier each have four goals so far for the Tigers, and will look to give the Irish back line and sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Littman all they can handle. 

“Clemson is effective at what they do. They’re very direct. They’re strong and physical and win balls in the air. They win the 50-50 balls and are very opportunistic,” Romagnolo said. “To be honest, they work really hard, but I think it’s a great game for us. If we can bring soccer quality to the game and pick our moments, I think we can have success.”

While home has been a stronghold for the Irish, Notre Dame will look to continue the road success it has had this season. The Irish are 2-1 on the road, with the only loss coming by way of double overtime with Ohio State. The players and coaches are unfazed by the change in scenery that the Clemson match will bring and are focused on playing a strong game.

“We don’t really talk or worry about the environment. We just show up and want to put forth a good performance and get a result,” Romagnolo said. “Our number one goal is to be the best version of ourselves and to keep improving as we go through the season. We try not to worry about what we can’t control.”

The Irish will take on the 11th-ranked Tigers at Riggs Field at Clemson on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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