ND Women’s Soccer
Irish look to build off promising ’16 campaign
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, August 22, 2017
In the 2016-17 season, the Irish went 13-3-5 overall and 7-1-2 in the ACC. Despite consistently facing ranked teams, Notre Dame only lost one conference game — a 1-0 defeat to Virginia on Oct. 9, which also was the team’s only home loss during the regular season. The Irish won their last game of the regular season in a conference bout with Miami to clinch a share of the ACC title, Notre Dame’s first conference title since the program moved to the ACC.
In the ACC tournament, the Irish beat North Carolina State 1-0 in the quarterfinals, then lost 2-1 to North Carolina at MUSC Health Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, despite beating the Tar Heels 1-0 earlier in the season.
Following the strong regular season performance, Notre Dame entered the NCAA tournament in a great position to push deep into the tournament as a No. 2 seed. However, the dreams of a national title hit an early roadblock when the Irish faced Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the first round of the tournament. After both teams failed to score in regulation, Notre Dame was upset 4-5 in penalties to end their positive season on a disappointing note.
For this season, the Irish have some key returning players for 2017. In the attacking half, sophomore Jennifer Westendorf leads the line, after topping the squad with six goals as a freshman last season. Notre Dame also has a wealth of experience on the roster, including sisters Kaitlin and Taylor Klawunder, who return as seniors this season. Taylor was one of the leaders for the team in minutes played last season, racking up 1826 minutes at midfielder. Kaitlin played only 602 minutes as a forward, but still managed to finish third in points with seven points via three goals and an assist.
But the team also has some big shoes to fill. All-ACC first team forward Kaleigh Olmsted graduated last year after a strong season including four goals and five assists, and she tied Westendorf for the most points on the team with 13. At the opposite end, Kaela Little, who also graduated in May, racked up 1969 minutes as goalkeeper last season, and was the 2016 team co-MVP. She started all 21 games for the Irish, and had career bests in GAA (0.41), saves (91), save percentage (.910) and solo shutouts (13): numbers impressive enough to rank fourth nationally in save percentage, fifth in shutouts, and seventh in goals against average.
Notre Dame’s first game of this 2017 season and home opener ended in a 0-0 tie against Butler last Friday. No. 18 Notre Dame controlled possession for the majority of the match and totaled 15 shots against the Bulldogs, including four shots on goal, while the opposing squad finished with only six shots on the day. Sophomore goalie Brooke Littman had her first career start and had a relatively quiet day, only making two saves in the clean sheet. The draw marked the first time in 11 games that the Irish did not manage a win against Butler.
The Irish took on Ball State Sunday afternoon for the first time in program history and snagged their first victory of the season. Sunday’s home game at Alumni Stadium seemed to mimic the team’s previous game, with the scoreboard showing 0-0 after the first half, but the offense sparked to life in the second 45 minutes. At the 58 minute mark, sophomore Natalie Jacobs netted the first goal of the season, and soon after Westendorf, who led the team with five shots, scored goal number two. The Irish kept the momentum going and gained a 3-0 lead when graduate student Sandra Yu attacked the Cardinals defense and scored with an assist from the combination of Westendorf and freshman Eva Hurm. In the final sixty seconds, Notre Dame continued to press the Ball State backline. Freshman Sammi Fisher took a shot that rattled off the crossbar and found the feet of senior Katie Uhler, who was able to connect on the rebound for her first career goal and sealing Notre Dame’s 4-0 win in convincing fashion.
The Irish next come up against Minnesota this Friday at 6:00pm at UI Soccer Complex.