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Notre Dame’s forwards lead offensive breakout

| Thursday, August 24, 2017

While the Irish were a primarily defensively-oriented team last season, scoring no more than two goals in nine of their 13 wins last season, this season looks to be different. Thankfully for the Fighting Irish, sophomore Jennifer Westendorf is back to build off of her incredible freshman campaign to lead the team in defense of last year’s ACC title.

Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf crosses the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Illinois State on Sept. 2, 2016.Observer File Photo
Irish sophomore forward Jennifer Westendorf crosses the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory over Illinois State on Sept. 2, 2016.

Westendorf led the team with six goals, and earned herself All-ACC freshmen team and second team All-ACC honors. She had a knack for scoring goals in crucial situations, as her five game winning goals were tied for the most in the ACC. While she was undoubtedly a heralded recruit, highlighted by her starting for Brazil’s U-20 national team at the 2015 South American U-20 women’s championship, Westendorf credits her early enrollment as a major boost for her ability to produce last season.

“I played with the team for an extra semester, so I was used to playing with them. I was happy with how my season turned out last year, hopefully this year can be even better,” she said.

And despite last season’s successes, Notre Dame’s scoring struggles were apparent. The Irish were shutout seven times last season, including in their surprising first-round NCAA tournament exit. For Westendorf, this year will take better offensive production for the team to take the next step and contend for a national championship.

“Last year our defense was on point, but we just lacked that goal scoring aspect,” Westendorf said. “[But this year] we’ve got some great freshmen coming in. A lot of our midfielders are the same, a lot of our forwards are the same, so I think we’re all going to build off each other.”

Adding to the team’s offensive firepower is sophomore Natalie Jacobs, who took a year off from Notre Dame soccer to compete with the United States women’s national team. Jacobs will play forward alongside Westendorf this season and is excited to produce with her talented counterpart.

“Jen’s got an awesome shot. She has an incredible ability to turn and hit shots,” Jacobs said.“I like playing beneath her, because she can lay it off to me and I can try to find her again. Those passes really help us on offense.”

Jacobs’ return to the team seems to have sparked the Irish on offense. While Notre Dame was held to a 0-0 tie against Butler that was reminiscent of last season in the season opener, the offense exploded for four goals in the second half against Ball State on Sunday, tying the team’s best performance of the 2016 season.

Westendorf and Jacobs scored in the game, with Jacobs notching her first goal for the Irish in 707 days. The Irish hope that the game will lead to more success in the future and Jacobs believes that the team learned how to be more dangerous offensively in the future.

“It’s about being relaxed and loose, not being too worried and being focused,” she said.“It’s about trusting ourselves and believing that we’ll have players that will be in positions to score. Being relaxed and playing how we know how to play is the key.”

The ACC boasts some of the strongest competition in the nation, but with Westendorf and Jacobs leading the offense, the No. 18 Irish will be a tough opponent for anyone.

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