ND Women’s Soccer
Notre Dame tops NC State, advances to ACC semifinals
Daniel O'Boyle | Monday, October 31, 2016
On one end of the field, top-seeded Notre Dame’s defense did in its ACC tournament opener against eighth-seeded North Carolina State what it did time and again in the regular season: limit chances, trust senior goalkeeper Kaela Little to handle the threats on goal she faced and come away with another clean sheet at Alumni Stadium.
At the other end, it took 87 minutes, but the Irish (13-2-4, 7-1-2 ACC) did what they had done time and again in the regular season as well — deliver a dangerous cross into the box and finish it to give the Irish a victory.
For the opening 45 minutes, few serious scoring chances came either way, but the Wolfpack (10-8-1, 4-5-1) were the more threatening side, outshooting the Irish in the first half, 5-3. Wolfpack freshman midfielder Ricarda Walkling had three shots saved by Little, including a 21st-minute effort from the edge of the box, which the Irish goalkeeper did well to hold on to, and a volley in space from 12 yards out that she couldn’t connect with cleanly. Freshman midfielder Tziarra King also had an opportunity to score for the Wolfpack after the Irish struggled to clear a free kick, but her shot deflected over the crossbar.
Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she thought her team’s slow start was due to its struggling with fatigue early on.
“I think it was a tough game,” Romagnolo said. “I think a lot went into Thursday night’s performance, and I think everyone across the board — with teams having to travel, I think people are a little bit tired today, and I think we looked a little bit tired.”
Notre Dame had its first serious scoring opportunity of the game early in the second half, when freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf capitalized on a mistake from North Carolina State’s sophomore defender Ella Bonner and set senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted free down the right-hand side of the field. But under pressure from a defender, Olmsted could only curl her shot into the arms of Wolfpack sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Wootten.
In the final 10 minutes of the game, the Irish began to press harder for the potential winning goal. Sophomore midfielder Shannon Hendricks played a pass that left junior forward Meghan Doyle with only Wootten to beat, and though her shot slid past the Wolfpack goalkeeper, it went wide of the post.
The Irish continued to press however, as sophomore defender Natalie Ward found junior forward Kaitlin Klawunder with a back-heel pass, and Klawunder sent the ball in to senior midfielder Sandra Yu at the penalty spot. Yu, however, was dispossessed before she could get a shot off.
With only three minutes remaining on the clock, though, the Irish launched its final offensive attack of the game. Ward’s high cross was met by junior forward Karin Muya in the six-yard box. Muya’s header was deflected into the air, but fell to Klawunder, who finished from close-range to win the game for the Irish.
Romagnolo said she felt a need for a tactical change at halftime, and switching to a 4-3-3 formation allowed the Irish to control the midfield and create more chances.
“We switched what we were doing in the second half, and I thought it helped us,” Romagnolo said. “We had people in better spaces on the field, I thought we defended better in the second half and limited the chances that they had, we created a couple of great chances and then Kaitlin coming off the bench gave that huge lift to us, so that was awesome.
“We went into a 4-3-3 in the second half. We just matched up with them, and that made it a simpler game, gave us some numbers in the middle of the field to help us win 50-50s. In our other system we’d been playing, we weren’t sliding very well, and we were a bit too slow, but in our 4-3-3 we felt we matched up with them, and it helped for our [1-on-1] battles.”
Notre Dame’s win sends the Irish to Charleston, South Carolina, for the ACC semi-finals. The Irish will face fourth-seeded North Carolina — who defeated fifth-seeded Virginia 3-0 in their quarter-final clash — Friday at 5:30 p.m.