Mazurek: Irish have talent, need consistency
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Notre Dame has been one of the most puzzling teams in the country this season. Currently the Irish are ranked 14th, but their season has been a roller coaster to say the least.
The Irish dropped a heartbreaking, double-overtime loss to No. 11 Clemson on Sept. 19. Five days later, the team knocked off No. 1 Virginia. And when you thought the ride was over, they lost to No. 2 Florida State three days after that.
Though things calmed down a bit as the Irish moved into October, consistency continued to be an issue as they lost in Coral Gables, Florida, to give Miami its first ACC win. Their most recent game again shows what the team is capable of as it dominated No. 5 Virginia Tech, 3-0, on Friday.
Granted, the series of games just described would be a difficult stretch for any team. And yes, the ACC is far and away the most competitive conference in the nation.
But the fact this team has proven it can beat the country’s best team makes the losses to Clemson and Miami more painful.
Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo acknowledged the team’s lack of consistency after the loss to Florida State and said that is an area for improvement.
“We need to be more professional in how we approach games,” Romagnolo said. “We can’t choose when we’re going to play hard. We have to play hard and have composure in every opportunity that we have.”
With a 13-4-1 overall record and wins over Virginia and Virginia Tech, Notre Dame is a virtual lock for the NCAA tournament, though they won’t make the ACC tournament after going 6-4-0 in conference. When the Irish return to the postseason, nothing is a given.
This is a team that could win the championship. Their strong, experienced defense paired with senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson’s ability to score on any given run means they’re well-equipped to outlast teams with more raw talent.
But this is also a team that could lose in the second round if not careful. Gilbertson could go cold, or as the Miami game showed, one defensive lapse is all it takes.
Also of note, the Irish will most likely end up with a four or five seed, which means that to make a deep run, they will have to win two or more games away from home as the underdogs. Again, the team is capable of this, but it’s hard to expect the Irish to pull it off twice or three times in a row.
Having senior captain midfielder Glory Williams back in the lineup should help the team’s continuity, but even so, the Irish will rely heavily on contribution from younger members of the team like sophomore defender/midfielder Sabina Flores, sophomore defender Monica Flores and freshman forward Natalie Jacobs. Even junior midfielder Sandra Yu has not played the last two season due to injury.
These pieces have certainly contributed thus far for the Irish, but whether or not they can continue in the home stretch will determine how far Notre Dame will go in the tournament.