ND Women’s Soccer
Notre Dame wins first ACC title, but falls in first round of NCAAs
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, May 19, 2017
Buoyed by a formidable home record, Notre Dame earned its first ever ACC regular season title. However, the Irish couldn’t find a goal in their NCAA tournament opener with SIUE and were eliminated on penalties in the first round.
The Irish (13-3-5, 7-1-2 ACC) began the season having lost four starters to graduation and three more to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. However, they began the season with two wins, defeating Wright State 3-0 before shutting down Wisconsin’s senior midfielder Rose Lavelle in a 1-0 victory.
Although the Irish lost to Michigan on the road, three more home victories set the team back on course before three draws followed by a win in a four-game road trip. Notre Dame defeated Pittsburgh 4-0 before beating Louisville in overtime and Clemson 1-0 to bring their winning streak to four. But against Virginia, the team conceded its only home goal of the year in a 1-0 defeat. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said the team’s impressive defensive record throughout the year was a team effort.
“I think as a group, we defended very well,” Romagnolo said. “When we lost the ball, our team worked very hard to win the ball back, [and] we didn’t give teams much time on the ball. Our forwards applied pressure, our midfielders would pick up a lot of loose balls and 50/50s — they covered a lot of ground. And if it got to our back four, they did a tremendous job of staying organized and winning their one-vs-one battles. Then, if it got to Kaela Little in goal, she was always able to make a big save. So I think everyone was ready to step up. Defensively, everyone understood that what they did mattered. They couldn’t take a play off, they had to play hard every second of the game.”
A scoreless draw with Virginia Tech and a win over Wake Forest kept Irish hopes of a regular season ACC title alive going into the final game with Miami. With Duke and Florida State both losing, the Irish earned the regular season conference title and top seed for the ACC tournament with a 2-0 win over the Hurricanes.
Although the Irish defeated North Carolina State in the ACC tournament, the Irish hopes of adding an ACC tournament championship were dashed when a late North Carolina winner ensured a 2-1 victory for the Tar Heels in the ACC semifinals.
Coming into their 24th consecutive NCAA tournament, the Irish earned a second seed after an impressive regular season and faced off against Ohio Valley Conference champions SIUE in the opening round. Despite taking 21 shots to their opponents’ three, Notre Dame couldn’t get the ball past Cougars goalkeeper Juli Rossi as the game went to penalties. With each team having one of its first five efforts saved, Cindy Pineda stepped up but struck the inside of the post, with the Cougars converting their final spot kick to win and advance. Romagnolo said the defeat showed the team’s difficulties in scoring that had been present all season.
“I hate to say it, but I think that game was the epitome of our whole season,” Romagnolo said. “We didn’t score more than one goal in most games. We scored only 26 goals all year. So I knew going into the tournament that that was going to be one of our weaknesses: the ability to put the ball into the net. So you could see during the game that we had plenty of opportunities, but we just didn’t have anyone step up and do it. In previous games, we didn’t score a lot of goals but someone always found a way to get it done, but in that game we had those opportunities but we just didn’t capitalize.”
Romagnolo had special praise for her senior class, who she said were the leaders of the squad.
“They did a tremendous job of leading this team,” Romagnolo said. “We had a lot of different personalities that contributed in different ways, but as a class they came together with a united mission on what they wanted to accomplish and how they wanted to accomplish it, and they did a great job in empowering the team and making the team believe in what was possible.”