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ND Women’s Soccer

Irish set for home test against Gamecocks

| Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Notre Dame faces its first real test of the season this coming Friday in a match against South Carolina. Despite being unbeaten, the Irish (2-0-2) fell out of the NCAA Division I top 25 rankings according to the United Soccer Coaches poll, while No. 11 South Carolina (3-1-0) visits Alumni Stadium after defeating No. 24 Central Florida and losing to No. 18 Wake Forest.

The game between the Gamecocks and the Irish is the first of this weekend’s Notre Dame Invitational. Notre Dame will also play Santa Clara on Sunday in the team’s final game of the tournament.

This past Sunday, the Irish recorded their second win of the season, defeating Iowa 2-0 after junior defender Sabrina Flores and sophomore forward Natalie Jacobs each scored first-half goals to secure the win for the Irish.

Statistically, Notre Dame ranks among the upper quarter of Division One, averaging 18.75 shots per game, leading to seven goals in four games, while only giving one goal. Irish sophomore goalie Brooke Littman has been a major reason for Notre Dame’s defensive strength, recording 14 saves and holding a save percentage of 93.3 percent, despite not seeing the field last season

Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo reflected on Littman’s hard work and dedication to the sport during the summer.

“She has put a lot of work in, and she has prepared herself well all summer by playing in a league and having a lot of goalkeeper training,” Romagnolo said.

“Her hard work this summer makes up for the lack of experience, and I’m really proud of what she’s doing,” she added. “She’s learning, challenging herself, and she’s showing really exciting potential of the type of goalkeeper she can be.”

But South Carolina is also coming off of a win after besting High Point University 3-0 at home on Sunday. The Gamecocks limited the Panthers to just three total shots, while sophomore Elexa Bahr and freshmen Luciana Zullo and Sharah Eskew all scored. Bahr and senior Savannah McCaskill lead the Gamecocks’ offensive attack and each have three goals under their belt this season. South Carolina’s strong defense has allowed only 12 shots on goal in four games. South Carolina averages 13.75 shots per game, while limiting their opponents to 5.5 shots per game.

Romagnolo said she is excited for the team’s potential this season and emphasized the importance of cohesion on the field in order for improvements to be made.

“We’re seeing glimpses of things we can do really well,” she said. “We have great potential in some areas, and there’s things we want to consider to improve on. We’ve had a couple injuries in the course of four weeks and we haven’t necessarily had the same group on the field consistently, which leads to a lack of cohesion. But again, there are glimpses where we are brilliant and that is really exciting. I’m excited about the improvement and the strides that we’re making.”

Romagnolo noted the importance of this weekend and how it will shed light on the future the team’s preparation for ACC matches.

“I think this weekend will be a tremendous test for us,” she said. “We’re going to play two top opponents at home. We are going to see where we’re at and continue to look at what we’re doing well, what we need to keep working on and what we should keep preparing ourselves for when we head into conference play.”

Notre Dame’s first-ever matchup against the Gamecocks takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Stadium.

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