ND Women’s Soccer
Irish look toward road match against rival Wolverines
Tobias Hoonhout | Thursday, August 25, 2016
No. 11 Notre Dame will face its first major road test of the season Thursday night on national television when the team faces rival Michigan.
The Wolverines are 44-8-5 at home over their past five seasons, and have yet to be defeated in 2016, but Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo is relishing the challenge.
“[We are feeling] good,” Romagnolo said. “I think it will be a good test for us, being out of our comfort zone, so yeah I’m looking forward to it. Obviously, I think we are a young team and we are figuring out what our identity is going to be, and I think we saw some great flashes this past weekend. There’s a lot of new players on the field, so right now we are learning what we can achieve and learning from each other, and I think taking that on the road is always a good test, so I’m looking forward to the game tomorrow.”
The Irish played a strong defensive game this past Sunday, shutting out Wisconsin 1-0 at home. Senior goalkeeper Kaela Little was particularly determined, saving five shots in the second half to preserve the lead and register her second shutout of the season. Romagnolo said the defense will have to be at that same level against Michigan, who are second in the Big Ten after the opening weekend with six goals and six assists.
“I think our defense so far has done a very good job, and has improved from game to game,” Romagnolo said. “But again what I’ve said, because this group doesn’t have the experience of playing together because it’s such a new group, our focus after every weekend is reviewing film and looking at the areas we feel we can keep getting better at, so while I felt that we defended well, especially on Sunday, there were still some areas where I felt we could continue to grow.”
Romagnolo also mentioned Michigan’s direct style of play and long throw-ins in the final third could present a challenge for the Irish.
“We have to make sure that we are clearing balls low and winning second balls in the midfield,” Romagnolo said. “I think overall we are looking for our group to continue to take the lessons from each game and to continue to get better.”
Unfortunately for the team, however, senior captain and forward Kaleigh Olmsted is out with a concussion, and it will be on Little and other leaders to lead this relatively young team into hostile territory.
“I mean, against Wisconsin we had to deal with Rose Lavelle, who is arguably one of the best players in the country, so dealing with a player like that and being able to shut her out for ninety minutes was a tremendous feat,” Romagnolo said. “Michigan doesn’t have necessarily that special player, but they do have a tough, hardworking team, and they’re all quality players. I think each game poses some different pieces, but it pulls us to adjust and play in slightly different ways, and our group can constantly grow in their soccer minds, and figure out what is happening on the field, where’s the space to play, and adjust to each game to become better as we go along in the season.”
The game is at 7:30 p.m. ET at U-M Soccer Stadium.