ND Women’s Soccer
Irish to square off with Spartans
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, September 4, 2015
This weekend, No. 6 Notre Dame will hit the road for the first time this season when it takes on Western Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Sunday.
The Irish (4-0-0) are coming off a four-game stretch at home in which they outscored opponents by a combined total of 13-1 en route to an undefeated start. More impressively, they scored more goals than they allowed shots during that stretch (13-5).
However, they are now set to hit the road to face their two strongest opponents of the year thus far. The Broncos (2-1-0) are coming off two straight wins following a double-overtime loss to Wisconsin to open the year. The Spartans (3-0-1) have yet to drop a match this season, or allow more than a goal in any one of their games. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she believes both teams will be as strong as their records indicate.
“I think they’ll both be really organized,” Romagnolo said. “I think they’re going to defend well. Both have good records. They’re both winning, so they believe in themselves, too.”
Irish junior forward Kaleigh Olmsted said the team needs to approach both games with the same aggression they have in all their other contests this season.
“I feel as though our team needs to take these games like any game and go at them the same way we went at Portland, Santa Clara and the other two games as well,” Olmsted said. “I think the challenge will be going in knowing that we have a good record and trying to stay focused.”
These two matches also represent the first time this season the Irish will take the field outside of the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium. Romagnolo said the team is excited to face the test of a hostile environment.
“We’re getting ourselves out of our comfort zone,” Romagnolo said. “We’ve been at home for a bit, so we’re excited to play on somebody else’s field and make sure we’re playing the same style and still doing the same things that we can do at home.”
In addition to playing on the road, Romagnolo said the weather will challenge each team’s mental toughness.
“One of the challenges will be that it’s going to be hot, as we’re playing at 4 [p.m.] and [noon],” Romagnolo said. “It’s something both teams are going to have to deal with, and you’ll see the mental toughness factor.”
And while the weather is out of their control, their strategy is not. In order for the Irish to continue their undefeated season through this weekend, they will have to balance possession and aggression in a way that opens up opportunities to score, Romagnolo said.
“We need to move the ball,” Romagnolo said. “We need to move the ball really well and be aggressive in the attack. I think finding the right combination of when to take players on and when to possess to open up opportunities for ourselves [will be key].”
Olmsted said this has been a significant focus of the team throughout practice this week in order to ensure success on the field when the first whistle is blown.
“We’re working on settling the ball, passing, trying to be more of a dynamic team and being more patient in front of goal and outside wide,” Olmsted said. “We’re working on getting around players and taking people on but knowing when to take them on and when to pass, and moving off the ball I think is the biggest thing.”
The Irish will take the pitch this weekend when they battle Western Michigan on Friday at WMU Soccer Complex at 4 p.m. before traveling again to play Michigan State on Sunday at noon at DeMartin Soccer Complex.