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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame captures ACC regular-season title in win over Miami

| Friday, October 28, 2016

No. 12 Notre Dame defeated Miami 2-0 on senior night Thursday at Alumni Stadium to claim the ACC regular season title.

Coming into the game, the Irish (12-2-4, 7-1-2 ACC) were playing well having won two of their last three matches on the back of three consecutive shutouts, while the Hurricanes (10-8-0, 5-5-0) were also coming off back-to-back wins.

During the first 40 minutes of the game, Notre Dame and Miami remained scoreless with the Irish holding a 6-2 advantage in shots. The best scoring opportunity belonged to the Hurricanes, however, as Irish senior goaltender Kaela Little slipped while coming out to defend a shot in the 17th minute — giving the Hurricanes a chance at shot on an empty net — but they were unable to handle the ball cleanly, and Notre Dame escaped the situation unscathed. As the half continued on, the Irish continued to apply pressure and controlled the ball well. It finally paid off with just 90 seconds remaining in the period when senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted scored from outside the box to give Notre Dame a lead going into halftime. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she was pleased to pick up the lead at halftime.

Irish senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted chases down Cavaliers freshman defender Phoebe McClernon during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss against Virginia on Oct. 9 at Alumni Stadium. Grace Tourville | The Observer
Irish senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted chases down Cavaliers freshman defender Phoebe McClernon during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss against Virginia on Oct. 9 at Alumni Stadium.

“The goal was unbelievable,” Romagnolo said. “Kaleigh just crushed it. I loved the way she just dribbled up the gut to create it, and the shot she took was unbelievable. What can you say, it was just a world-class finish.”

The second half began with an early opportunity for Notre Dame when freshman forward and leading goal-scorer Jennifer Westendorf was awarded a free kick from just outside the box, which she fired over the top of the net, just missing out on a goal that would have given her team a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the second half. It wouldn’t take too long, however, before the Irish picked up that insurance goal when junior forward Meghan Doyle hit senior midfielder Sandra Yu with a cross inside the box, and Yu capitalized in the 57th minute to give Notre Dame a two-goal lead. Romagnolo said she was even happier with her team’s attack throughout the second half than she was in the first.

“I thought we played much better in the second half,” said Romagnolo. “I thought that our midfield defensively was sliding better and we didn’t give them as much time on the ball, and we were forcing them to turn it over. We were winning tackles and we were great on the ball, creating more attacks.”

As the half rolled on, the two teams traded scoring opportunities, but Little and the Irish defense held the Hurricanes at bay to keep their shutout streak intact. The game wrapped with a final score of 2-0, and Notre Dame was crowned regular season ACC champions.

With both Duke and Florida State picking up losses Thursday night, Notre Dame was able to move into the top spot in the ACC standings heading into the conference tournament. Romagnolo said she was proud of her team, but she recognizes that work is not done yet.

“I’m so proud of this group,” she said. “Looking at where we were in August to where we are today, it shows how this team has worked so hard and fought for everything. They find a way out there, and they’re so fun to coach.

“Heading into the tournament, there’s no easy game, so we have to go out there and give it everything we’ve got. We closed out the regular season and couldn’t be happier, so we’ll enjoy this for a couple of days and then focus on the postseason.”

Notre Dame’s postseason play will begin Sunday at Alumni Stadium, where the Irish will host North Carolina State in the ACC quarterfinals at 1 p.m.

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