ND Women’s Soccer
ND ranks ninth despite offensive departures
Renee Griffin | Friday, August 21, 2015
Though Notre Dame’s top two scorers from 2014 are gone – star midfielder Morgan Andrews transferred to USC and veteran forward Lauren Bohaboy graduated after last season – expectations, both internal and external, remain high, with the team ranked No. 9 in the nation heading into the Friday opener against Valparaiso.
Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she has faith the offense won’t diminish this season.
“What’s exciting is we’ve had a couple different additions to the midfield. We have an attacking style,” she said. “If you looked at our spring games, the mobility and creativity that we had in the midfield was exciting.
“The players got great experience there and created a lot of offense, which carried over into the exhibition games and should continue through the season.”
The five-player freshman class includes three midfielders: Ann Marie Niro, Natalie Ward and Shannon Hendricks. Senior captain Glory Williams will anchor the midfield as well.
This time last year, Romagnolo had only recently been named head coach. In her inaugural season, the Irish went 14-6-2 and reached the NCAA tournament’s third round, where they lost a heartbreaker to Texas A&M.
“I think anytime you become more familiar with your team, it’s always going to be an advantage,” Romagnolo said. “This is a great squad, they’re really receptive to learning and getting better. I’m very fortunate to be here.”
Among Notre Dame’s top players are preseason all-conference selections Cari Roccaro, a senior midfielder, and Katie Naughton, a senior defender.
Romagnolo expressed confidence in the mentality of the team and the abilities of the Irish leaders.
“What motivates this group is they want to be the best,” Romagnolo said. “We have six seniors on the squad who bring a lot of leadership, and I think they’re excited to make their mark and make this season special.”
However, Romagnolo acknowledged a dominant season won’t be easy with some of the country’s top teams on the schedule, such as No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia.
“We try to have a very competitive schedule,” Romagnolo said. “We have to be prepared for a battle whatever game we’re going into. The ACC is one of the toughest conferences in the nation.”
The Irish’s first foe, Valparaiso, last visited Alumni Stadium in November. Notre Dame defeated the Crusaders, 1-0, with a last-minute goal by junior forward Kaleigh Olmsted in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
“Early on, every team is forming their identity. It’ll be interesting to see how [Valparaiso has] developed,” Romagnolo said. “Based on the tournament, they’re a very blue-collar team, and they’re hard to break down.”
The Irish again take on the Crusaders on Friday at Alumni Stadium at 7:30 p.m., followed by a matchup against Toledo at 3 p.m. Sunday.