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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish seek to continue hot start

| Friday, August 28, 2015

Off to a hot start, No. 7 Notre Dame hosts Santa Clara on Friday and Portland on Sunday in the 23rd annual Notre Dame Invitational at Alumni Stadium.

To open the season, the Irish (2-0) have come out of the gate strong on both ends, outscoring Valparaiso and Toledo by a combined score of 9-0. Senior defender and captain Katie Naughton said she believes the team has met their goals coming into the year thus far.

“I think that our preseason really prepared us for what we wanted to accomplish,” Naughton said. “We wanted to come out attacking, strong and relentless. We didn’t want to give our opposition any opportunities. Some of our team goals are not to allow any shots and to score more goals than we allow shots.

“We’ve pretty much met those goals, and it’s really exciting to see moving into these big games this weekend.”

Irish senior defender Katie Naughton passes the ball during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 national team on April 24.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish senior defender Katie Naughton passes the ball during Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over the Mexico U-20 national team on April 24.

The Irish have done just that up to this point, as the defense only allowed one shot over the first two games. In addition to stopping their opposition’s attack, they have been able to put pressure on other defenses, as the Irish took a total of 53 shots in those two games. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said the team’s versatility has been key thus far.

“We’ve got a lot of creative players who can move the ball well,” Romagnolo said. “I think we’re setting each other up really well. We’re playing a lot of combinations and getting around the outside, so we have a variety of different ways that we can attack opponents. You’re seeing different people be able to score goals in different ways as well.”

However, the Irish will be facing two teams this weekend that also have creative attacks, Romagnolo said.

“Both Santa Clara and Portland are possession-based teams,” Romagnolo said. “They’re going to look to build up the field. They’ve got players who have a lot of creativity and are playmakers. We’re going to have to make sure that we defend well as a group, and we pressure them and try to limit the amount of time that they have on the ball.”

First up for the Irish in the Notre Dame Invitational are the Broncos (1-1) on Friday. The team expects them to be their strongest opponent yet, Naughton said.

“They’re a very physical, strong and fast team so going up against an opponent like them is always a challenge, and it’s exciting because we get to battle on the field,” Naughton said. “It will be really exciting to see how we match up on the field against them because they’re going to be our best competition thus far.”

Then, the Irish will welcome the Pilots (0-1) on Sunday. Naughton said she expects Portland will be fundamentally sound in addition to being physical.

“They’re very technically sound,” Naughton said. “We will impose our will as best we can and see what happens.”

Despite the stronger challenges they pose than previous opponents, Romagnolo said the Irish game plan remains the same.

“[We need to] continue to move the ball on offense, create opportunities for ourselves, continue to get a lot of numbers forward in the attack and take chances around the goal,” Romagnolo said.

In addition to looking to continue their fast start, Naughton said the Irish have a little extra incentive for these two games. Last year in this event, the Irish suffered two narrow defeats to Texas Tech and USC. This time around they expect different results, Naughton said.

“That’s definitely in the back of our mind, knowing that we need some redemption from last year,” Naughton said. “We just need to take Santa Clara first, get the result we want and then move on to Portland.”

Notre Dame will play both of its games this weekend at Alumni Stadium, first welcoming Santa Clara on Friday at 7 p.m. before hosting Portland on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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