ND Women’s Soccer
Defense propels Notre Dame early on
Jack Concannon | Friday, September 1, 2017
On their way to the program’s first ACC title last season, the Irish made a name for themselves on defense.
Notre Dame held their opponents to just under 10 shots per game last season, conceding only nine goals over the entire year. This year, the Irish have kept up the stalwartness, having conceded just one in four games this year.
Although the team lost senior captain and goalie Kaela Little after last season, sophomore starting goalkeeper Brooke Littman has so far filled the big shoes left her, keeping three clean sheets in four games so far.
“Brooke’s been great, she’s doing a great job. I’m proud of the preparation she put in all summer.”Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “We saw right away in preseason she was very sharp. She’s a redshirt freshman, and she’s learning. She’s exuding confidence and poise.”
And while Littman has been stellar in her opening campaign for Notre Dame, she hasn’t done it alone. Part of not giving up goals is not giving up shots, and the Irish have returned three defenders who started every game last year in senior Ginny McGowan, junior Rachel Heard and junior Natalie Ward. For a young player like Littman, Romagnolo believes that the experience off the back line gives her a huge advantage.
“This year all of our returning back four help direct in front of Brooke and help her out. Every group is a little bit different as to where the leadership comes from. This year’s group, that back line, they’ve seen a lot. They can make their own decisions on the field.”
The Irish were a defensive team last year, but this year they’re striving for a balanced approach to each match. Paced by sophomore forwards Jen Westendorf and Natalie Jacobs, the Irish have bagged seven goals in their last three games, and are looking to keep the offensive momentum going into their next two weekends and into conference play.
“Our goal every year is to be a great defending team and a great attacking team,” Romagnolo said. “We don’t want to be good at one aspect of the game. I think last year we did a phenomenal job of limited chances on our goal. We created a fair amount of opportunities but didn’t execute and finish the way we wanted to. Every year our goal is to be great on both sides of the ball.”
The Irish will take their balanced attack into their next matchup today against No. 11 South Carolina. The Gamecocks are the highest ranked team Notre Dame has played this season, and part of their success this season has been their offense, which has yet to score less than two goals in any game this season.
“They’ve got one of the strongest goal scorers in the country in senior Savannah McCaskill,” Romagnolo said. “She put up big numbers last year, and is dangerous anytime she’s on the ball. She’s clever about finding areas to pick up the ball, and if you give her the opportunity she’s going to finish.”
The Irish will take on the Gamecocks at Alumni Field on Friday at 7:00 p.m.