ND Women’s Soccer
Irish host Oakland in first round of NCAA tournament
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, November 13, 2015
No. 3 Notre Dame hosts Oakland in the first round of the NCAA tournament tonight.
The Irish (13-4-1, 6-4-0 ACC) learned they earned a No. 3 seed and home field advantage Monday when the selection committee released the 64-team bracket. Their opponent, the Golden Grizzlies (8-5-7, 7-1-3 Horizon) earned their bid after a 1-0 overtime victory over Wright State in the Horizon League championship game Saturday.
Despite failing to qualify for postseason play in the ACC, the Irish enter the tournament after finishing the regular season ranked No. 11 nationally.
The Irish suffered from inconsistency though, as the team collected wins over current No. 1 seed Virginia on Sept. 24 and No. 4 seed Virginia Tech on Oct. 30 but also a loss to ACC bottom-dweller Miami. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said her squad needs to push itself to maintain the high level of play it is capable of throughout the tournament as a whole.
“The challenge is that this is the NCAA tournament, and we are playing with the potential that this is our last game,” Romagnolo said. “[Oakland] is a team that will fight, battle and scrap for everything.
“That mentality is something we need to bring to every game in this tournament [as well].”
Oakland, however, is an enigmatic first-round opponent for Notre Dame. The Golden Grizzlies haven’t dropped a match since a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee on Sept. 18. However, they also recorded a mere 1-4-4 record outside of Horizon League play.
Regardless, Romagnolo said she does not expect her team to overlook the Golden Grizzlies as its first-round opponent at home.
“It’s a different strength of schedule compared to the ACC, but they are a conference champion and deserve the respect they’ve earned for winning those the games,” Romagnolo said. “[We know] they’re a good team, just like every team in this tournament.”
Tonight’s match represents the 23rd straight season the Irish have played in the NCAA championships. The last time the Irish made it as far as the College Cup was their national championship season in 2010. To get back to that stage, the Irish need to continue the sharp play from their last match and carry it forward during each and every game the rest of the season, Romagnolo said.
“Our focus is on staying sharp after finishing strong against Virginia Tech,” Romagnolo said. “[Offensively], we need to establish possession on the ball and continue to create opportunities that we can finish.
“Defensively, we need to remain strong as a unit and keep putting [our opponent] under pressure and not allowing them to feel comfortable out there.”
The Irish begin their postseason run tonight at 7 p.m., when they welcome the Golden Grizzlies to Alumni Stadium.