Notre Dame welcomes Mexican U-20 teams to Alumni Stadium
Daniel O'Boyle | Monday, April 25, 2016
Alumni Stadium hosted 3,500 spectators Friday that came to see the latest chapter in Notre Dame’s series with the Mexico U-20 national teams. In the early kickoff, the Irish women’s team dispatched the Mexico U-20 women by a score of 4-1, before the Notre Dame men’s team was defeated 2-1 in the second game of the evening.
The games have formed a part of Notre Dame’s spring schedule for almost every year since 2005, and has featured players such as former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Javier Hernández. Irish women’s soccer head coach Theresa Romagnolo said the game is always a highlight of her team’s year.
“It was a fun game, a fun environment, we love this game, we look forward to it all spring,” Romagnolo said. “It’s a great reward for all the hard work we put in, and I was really proud of all the growth we’ve put in and the way we finished off very strong.”
Notre Dame’s women took less than three minutes to get on the scoreboard, as a cross from junior midfielder Kaleigh Olmsted found sophomore junior Kaitlin Klawunder, who sent it into the bottom corner of the net. A foul by sophomore defender Taylor Klawunder in Notre Dame’s box gave Mexico the opportunity to equalize, and Nancy Antonio converted sending sophomore goalkeeper Lexi Nicholas the wrong way. Although the Irish couldn’t find another goal in the first half, they had the much greater share of the chances, with freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf coming close on two one-on-one opportunities with Mexico goalkeeper Emily Alvarado.
Barely over two minutes into the second half, the Irish had added two more goals. A free kick in the first minute of the half from Westendorf was flicked across goal by junior midfielder Sandra Yu and bundled into the net by sophomore defender Ginny McGowan, before Westendorf added a goal of her own on a counter-attack just over a minute later. Continuing to control the game, the Irish added a fourth goal just past the hour mark, when a Westendorf corner found McGowan, who headed it into the top corner of the goal.
The game was of particular significance for Notre Dame sophomore midfielder Monica Flores. After her performance in last year’s game, she was called up to the Mexico U-20 squad herself as part of qualification for the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup. Flores said she loves the game because she feels a strong connection to both teams.
“It was quite an experience,” Flores said. “I played with them on Wednesday and it was amazing to be back because I hadn’t played with them in a while. Just playing with them for two days again was incredible. I wanted to stay with them but I had to run around and start training with Notre Dame to play against Mexico today, and it was weird because both teams are completely like family to me. It was definitely weird and definitely interesting to go at them as an opponent and as an enemy, because every game you have to go at your opponent like you want to beat them.”
The men’s team also took an early lead, as freshman forward Jon Gallagher slotted a ball from sophomore defender Blake Townes through the legs of goalkeeper Abraham Romero. Gallagher had two more first-half chances to widen the lead, but Romero kept his side in the game.
In the second half, a free kick from Carlos Antuna was swung into the box, where Edson Alvarez headed it over junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard and into the net. Romero pulled off another impressive save, diving across the goal to turn an Irish header around the post. Inside the last 15 minutes, Hector Mascorro broke into the box and squared the ball towards Pedro Goulart, who scored on what proved to be the last goal of the game.
Deep into stoppage time, senior midfielder Evan Panken hit a shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner of the goal, but again, Romero got the better of it and ensured the win for his team. Irish head coach Bobby Clark said the opportunity to play the Mexico U-20 teams is a great positive for the Notre Dame soccer programs and the local community.
“This is a fantastic event for the whole of South Bend and especially the hispanic community,” Clark said. “There was a fantastic crowd here on a cold night, we’re playing one of the best youth soccer programs in the world. You’re getting them on your doorstep and I think it’s fantastic for soccer lovers, it’s fantastic for the Mexican population. I just wish we would get more students out to be honest because it’s a great experience.
“It was a fun game. I’m obviously disappointed to lose, you never like to lose, but I think it as a great test for our players, I think we will have learned a lot and it should help us when we come into the toughest of the ACC games next year.”