ND Women’s Soccer
Notre Dame earns pair of wins to start season
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Coming off of a successful season in 2017 but with a new head coach at the helm, No. 14 Notre Dame got off to a hot start to open the 2018 campaign with wins over Central Michigan and Loyola Chicago.
This past Thursday, the Irish (2-0) began the season with a matchup at home against Central Michigan (1-1), and ultimately prevailed in a 3-1 win. Offensively, the team showed no signs of struggles early on as sophomore forward Eva Hurm scored just eight minutes into the first half, burying a close opportunity in the back right corner. While Central Michigan would go on to tie things up just ten minutes later off of a long cross that made it to the back of the net, the Irish came out of the gates strong from halftime.
After two close looks at the goal, Notre Dame was finally able to capitalize with a moment of brilliance from freshman midfielder Brooke VanDyck in the 62nd minute. After beating her initial defender, the freshman passed to graduate student forward Karin Muya for a give-and-go, with VanDyck slotting home the return ball. Notre Dame followed up with another goal just a few minutes later, the second on the night for Hurm to extend the Irish lead to 3-1. The score remained unchanged the rest of the way as Notre Dame held on for the win, outshooting the Chippewas 28-10 in the process.
On Sunday, the Irish pulled out another win, this time by a score of 2-1 over Loyola Chicago. After a string of close chances for the Irish over the first 70 minutes, it was Ramblers (1-1) that first made it on the board, but Notre Dame was quick to respond. With fifteen minutes left in the contest, senior defender Sabrina Flores notched her first goal of the season off a pass in the box from junior forward Jennifer Westendorf to tie things up at Alumni Stadium. Less than three minutes later, the two switched roles as Westendorf got her first goal of the season on a back post header coming from a corner kick by Flores. Twelve minutes later, the Irish had held on to secure their second win of the season and improved to 7-0 all-time versus Loyola.
Looking forward, Notre Dame will certainly look to ride the momentum of their early wins to continue a strong start under new head coach Nate Norman. For the past four years, the Irish had been coached by Theresa Romagnolo, going 51-21-13 in the process. Expectations will be high for a program that won an ACC regular season title just two seasons ago, and early on the team will be tested. The Irish close out the month with matchups against Stony Brook, Butler and Cincinnati, playing two of those contests at Alumni Stadium.
Conference play will not pick up until Sept. 16 when Notre Dame hosts North Carolina State, giving the team ample opportunity to sharpen its game before getting into the bulk of their season. However before taking on their ACC foes, Notre Dame will have to face three top-25 programs, including top ranked Stanford on the road. The Irish have earned a reputation over the past couple of seasons as being strong defensively, but if the start of this season is any indication, Notre Dame offense looks to be the difference maker.