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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame makes strides as it splits Invitational

| Monday, September 4, 2017

With six games now under its belt, Notre Dame is getting into a rhythm, as it had encouraging weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational, suffering a close loss against No. 11 South Carolina on Friday before bouncing back in a big way Sunday to pick up the 4-1 win over Santa Clara.

Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf battles for the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to South Carolina in double overtime Friday at Alumni Stadium. Westendorf took four shots on goal during the goal, but was unable to covert. She leads the team in points on the season with seven: two goals and three assists.Peter St. John | The Observer

Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf battles for the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to South Carolina in double overtime Friday at Alumni Stadium. Westendorf took four shots on goal during the goal, but was unable to covert. She leads the team in points on the season with seven: two goals and three assists.

Friday evening, Notre Dame (3-1-2) saw its first competition against a ranked opponent of the season when action kicked off against the Gamecocks (5-1-0). On both sides of the ball, play was impressive for the Irish as they exhibited a strong effort on the attack led by sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf while also playing solid defense, especially on the part of junior Rachel Heard who was tasked with shadowing 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, senior forward Savannah McCaskill.

Throughout the game, it was Notre Dame getting the better scoring chances, but South Carolina was finally able to put an end to the game in double overtime when a chip shot by South Carolina freshman forward Ryan Gareis narrowly got past sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Littman.

Despite the loss, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo was pleased with her team’s performance, indicating that her team deserved a better outcome given their play.

“I felt that to that point that was our best game so far. It wasn’t perfect and there were some things we could’ve done better but it was an overall good performance,” Romagnolo said. “I was disappointed for our team because I felt that a tie would have been a good result for that game.”

Moving to Sunday, the Irish continued to play strong soccer, but yet again, they were not able to find a way to cash in on the strong performance and found themselves down 1-0 against Santa Clara (2-3-1) early in the second half when a penalty kick gave the Broncos the lead. Instead of getting frustrated, Notre Dame continued to play its style of game, and the payoff soon followed as the team surged to score four unanswered goals, giving it the 4-1 victory. Goals on the game came from Westendorf, senior forward Meghan Doyle who netted her first two of the season and sophomore forward Natalie Jacobs. Romagnolo was once again pleased with the team’s efforts Sunday, pointing to this game as a big sign of her team’s ability to overcome adversity.

“I thought this was our best performance on the year. We were connecting a lot of passes and moving off the ball well; our attackers were aggressive and we were relentless,” Romagnolo said. “Frustration could have set in as we were outshooting them and had that unlucky [penalty kick] put us down 1-0. I was really happy to see the team respond to adversity which went well and they continue to play great soccer. They brought a relentless spirit to the game and that helped them pull away.”

Coming out of the weekend, Notre Dame will have a week of practice before hitting the road for a weekend trip to Ohio for contests against Ohio State on Friday and Toledo on Sunday. If play is anything like this past weekend, Romagnolo will not be tremendously concerned with her team’s chances.

“We will take a look at them this week and focus on what it is that they do well, but more importantly we’ll focus on what we need to do,” she said. “We need to continue to work on our game so we can head into ACC play feeling good.

“ … It’s really exciting over this first month as we’re working to get into a rhythm. We’re still getting some players back who will help us but overall this weekend was a really big positive step.”

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