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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame prepares for tough test against No. 4 Duke

| Thursday, September 21, 2017

Notre Dame will face a tough test Thursday as No. 4 Duke comes into town for a showdown at Alumni Stadium. For the Irish, this will be their second game in ACC play thus far, as the squad is coming off an impressive 4-2 victory over No. 11 Clemson this past Saturday. Notre Dame led for the majority of the game and consistently controlled the game on the offensive side of the ball, which has been the team’s calling card this year. In fact, the Irish have now tallied four games of four goals just nine games into the season, three of which have come in their last four contests. That puts the team just six goals away from tying its season total from last year — showcasing how its identity has changed since 2016. For Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo, the best part of this offensive explosion has been that it has come in more than just one way.

Graduate student and midfielder Sandra Yu defends her half during Notre Dame's 1-0 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 1.Peter St. John | The Observer

Irish graduate student and midfielder Sandra Yu defends her half during Notre Dame’s 1-0 double-overtime loss to South Carolina on Sept. 1.

“I think we focused on our attack a lot in the offseason and it also helps that we’ve returned some players we didn’t have last year such as [sophomore forward] Natalie Jacobs as well as [junior midfielder] Sabrina and [senior defender] Monica Flores. [Forward] Jennifer Westendorf has also gained a lot of valuable experience and is now a sophomore, and [graduate student midfielder] Sandra Yu up front has been tremendous,” Romagnolo said. “It’s been spread out scoring with a lot of players that can be dangerous which is good because it makes us hard to stop.”

The team sits at 5-2-2 on the season, and with just one game under their belt in conference play, the Irish will certainly be looking for a repeat of last year’s regular season performance which ended in a conference championship. Meanwhile, Duke will not be an easy task. as the Blue Devils sit at 8-1 on the season. Romagnolo, however, feels that her team has put in strong preparation as ACC play gets underway.

“I think our non-conference schedule was great and prepared us with tough opponents,” Romagnolo said. “Those types of games prepare us for what we will see, so you look at Clemson who is ranked high and we saw that game as a great team effort. We’re still getting people back and gaining chemistry, and it’s starting to click.”

After winning their ACC opener against Clemson on the road in South Carolina, Notre Dame will now have three straight matchups at home as Duke, NC State and Wake Forest all make the trip into South Bend over the next week. This marks a key point in the season where the team can seek to take advantage of the string of home contests in the early part of ACC play. While Romagnolo recognizes this, she also sees the importance in her team not getting ahead of themselves and just taking it one game at a time.

“We are just trying to get better at who we are,” said Romagnolo. “We always talk about an opponent but the focus is on what we do. We want to improve our team defense and be organized, continue to have good habits around the goal and have a strong competitive mentality to get it done. If you look at our opponents, you can’t even look beyond the next game because they are all individual battles. Otherwise, it gets too overwhelming. The goal is to be prepared and put on a good performance in our next game.”

Thursday’s matchup will be the first time the two schools have played each other since 2015, and the first time Notre Dame has played in Alumni stadium in eighteen days. The team is encouraging the Irish faithful to wear white and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a “White-Out Duke” T-shirt. Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m.

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