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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish to play fifth straight ranked ACC opponent

| Thursday, October 5, 2017

On Thursday, Notre Dame takes on No. 13 Virginia at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia, looking to get back to above .500 in conference play.

Graduate student midfielder Sandra Yu outpaces an opponent during No. 4 Duke’s 3-0 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 21 at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame suffered their first ACC loss of the season. Zach Yim | The Observer

Graduate student midfielder Sandra Yu outpaces an opponent during No. 4 Duke’s 3-0 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 21 at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame suffered their first ACC loss of the season.

The Irish (6-4-2, 2-2-0 ACC) recently fell to No. 15 Wake Forest and subsequently dropped out of the top-25. The late 2-1 loss against the Demon Deacons (9-2-1, 3-1-0) set the Irish back after they beat North Carolina State 4-0 in their previous game. Now, with a week off to prepare for the Cavaliers (7-3-2, 2-1-1), the Irish will look to get back on track in the ACC.

Virginia is the fifth consecutive top-25 opponent Notre Dame has faced in ACC competition. The Cavaliers are coming off a 7-0 shutout win over Pittsburgh. The squad has allowed just nine goals defensively this season compared to its 21 goals scored. The Cavaliers are also leading the ACC in shots taken with 202 while limiting their opponents to 71 shots on the season.

Freshman midfielder Taryn Torres leads Virginia with five goals, including two game-winners. Sophomore forward Taylor Ziemer has scored the most points for the Cavaliers, as she sits at 12 with four goals and four assists.

For the Irish, the sophomore forward duo of Natalie Jacobs and Jennifer Westendorf carry much of the offensive load for the team. Jacobs leads the team in goals with eight on the season, and Westendorf has the most assists with seven and sits third in goals with five.

If Notre Dame wants to beat the Cavaliers, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said her team will have to be strong defensively, something that has been an emphasis in practice.

“This past week, we were mainly working on our defensive organization,” Romagnolo said. “We focused on working together as one team and taking care of the ball.”

The Irish are at the midpoint of their ACC season, with the Virginia game landing after their first four conference matchups, and before their final five conference contests — including three straight on the road to end the regular season.

While Notre Dame still has to play No. 5 North Carolina and No. 16 Florida State, Romagnolo spoke confidently about her team, saying its mission is to win the remainder of the games on the schedule by thriving on defense and avoiding mistakes late in the game.

“Our goal for the second half of conference play is to win every game,” she said. “We want to beat Virginia tomorrow, and then we want to continue to win games by defending well. I think it is important for us to finish halves strong — capitalizing on mistakes by opponents late in the game and not making dumb mistakes as time is running out.”

Romagnolo said the little things will ultimately be the difference maker when it comes to beating opponents of the caliber that ACC teams exhibit, such as not granting the other team any easy opportunities to score.

“We need to keep paying attention to the little things that win us games,” she said. “The little things that I am talking about are: not turning the ball over, making sure that we stay compact on defense and clearing balls away well. Also, not giving the other team any easy chances and making them earn every single opportunity they see offensively.”

Notre Dame faces Virginia on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Klockner Stadium.

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