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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish prepare for second-round matchup against Texas A&M

| Friday, November 17, 2017

On Friday, Notre Dame will take the field in an NCAA championship second round matchup against No. 2 seed Texas A&M.

The two teams have played each other twice in program history, with the last meeting coming in November of 2014, a game the Aggies (18-2-1, 9-1-0 SEC) were able to pull out by a score of 2-1 in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. Both teams will be focused on the matchup ahead of them, however, as the winner will advance to the third round while the loser will head home for the season.

Peter St. John | The Observer

Irish senior midfielder Sabrina Flores dribbles upfield during Notre Dame’s 1-0 double-overtime win over South Carolina on Sept. 1 at Alumni Stadium.

In the most recent matchup, Notre Dame (10-6-4, 5-3-2 ACC) came away with their most dominant win of the season as it defeated IUPUI 5-0 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Irish dominated the action on both sides of the ball, and with goals by freshman forward Erin Ospeck, senior midfielder Katie Uhler, graduate student midfielder Sandra Yu and a pair from sophomore forward Natalie Jacobs, the team cruised to victory last Saturday.

On the other side of the ball, Texas A&M’s first round matchup against Lamar was perhaps a bit closer than the Aggies would have liked as they narrowly escaped with a 1-0 win. The lone goal of the game came on an own goal by Lamar in the eighth minute, and A&M was able to hold on to advance to Friday’s meeting against the Irish. Since last week, Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo has worked on getting her team ready just like they have before any other game.

“We’ve been working on defending and we’ve been working on scoring goals,” Romagnolo said. “It hasn’t been too much different than all year, so we just want to be sharp and healthy.”

Coming into Friday, the Aggies will be riding a school-record 14-match winning streak as well as an 11-match win streak when playing at home in the NCAA championship. Their last loss at Ellis Field in the postseason dates back to 2007.

Worth noting in this game is that getting to two goals could be a crucial edge for both sides. In games in which they have scored two or more goals, Notre Dame is 10-0-0 on the season. The Aggies, meanwhile, have put together a 13-0-1 record in such games as well. The matchup is also one of two storied programs when it comes to the NCAA championship. For the Irish, this marks their 25th consecutive trip to the tournament while Texas A&M is competing in their 23rd consecutive, making the schools two of the five programs to have participated in every tournament since 1995 along with North Carolina, Virginia and Penn State. The Aggies have made it to the second round in each of their last 20 NCAA appearances while the Irish are coming off a first round elimination last year, when they were defeated 1-0 by SIU-Edwardsville. If they are to pull out a better result this time around, Romagnolo knows her team will have to come prepared.

“We want to focus on making transitions against their back three and find space on the field where we can connect,” Romagnolo said. “We want to move the ball around and open up space to attack.”

Notre Dame will be playing on the road for the first time this tournament, but they should be encouraged by the fact that they have been quite successful when traveling this season. The Irish hold a 5-2-2 record on the season when away, including 4-1-2 in their last seven road contests. If the Irish are to continue to win on the road, all signs would point to a successful ending to the season as the last time they were able to win at least seven road games was in 2010 when they won the national championship.

The winner of this battle will go on to the third round of the tournament where it will face the winner of No. 3 seed USC versus Baylor. Action gets underway Friday at 8:30 p.m.

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