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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame comes from behind in the second half to defeat Cincinnati

| Friday, August 31, 2018

Notre Dame rebounded well from its first loss of the season to defeat Cincinnati in a come-from-behind victory, 2-1, at Alumni Stadium, with Olivia Wingate and Karin Muya scoring the Irish goals.

After its first loss of the season to Butler last week, Notre Dame made a formational switch from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2. Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman said he decided to make the change as a result of giving up some counterattacks, which was how Butler exploited the defense in Notre Dame’s 4-1 loss.

“[W]hen we play with four at the back, what we are really doing is pushing our outside backs very high up and that three gives them that [defensive] stability to really limit the opponents’ chances, especially on the counterattack,” Norman said.

This formational change, however, took some time for the Irish to adjust to in terms of passing, as the Irish had a hard time completing more than three passes in a row in addition to figuring out their proper spacing.

“The spacing [was] a little off and it took [the team] five or six minutes to settle in,” Norman said.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish senior midfielder and captain Sabrina Flores prepares to kick the ball downfield during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Cincinnati on Aug. 30 at Alumni Stadium.

This sluggish start for Notre Dame (4-1) gave Cincinnati (3-2) the game’s first opportunities. Notre Dame junior goalkeeper Brooke Littman had to dive out to claim a pass intended for Jill Vetere, which would have left her with a great scoring chance. A couple minutes later, Notre Dame had to hold its breath as the team could only watch as Vetere’s cross from the right hit the cross bar.

The rest of the chances in the first half went to the Irish. The first of which, in the 15th minute, was the best as Michelle Travassos, Cincinnati’s right wing back, attempted to play a back pass to goalkeeper Madison Less, but it was well short of the intended target. Notre Dame freshman forward Olivia Wingate intercepted the pass and was left with just Less to beat, but the Cincinnati goalkeeper got out quick enough to take away Wingate’s shooting angle and got just enough of her shot to deflect the ball wide.

In the 33rd minute, a corner kick from Irish senior midfielder Sabrina Flores was floated to the penalty spot for freshman defender Jade Gosar to head home. Less had initially frozen as the goal-bound header looked like it may get deflected on its way in. However, it did not, and she was forced to make an excellent reaction save down to her left using her leg.

Freshman midfielder Brianna Martinez and the Irish had another opportunity two minutes later when she intercepted a Bearcats pass in her own half and was surging forward before she was tripped from behind 25 yards from goal by Vetere. This led to an excellent scoring opportunity from the ensuing free kick, but the shot from Flores was well high.

The Irish, after outshooting the Bearcats 12-5 in the first half, were met by a resolute Cincinnati defense early in the second half. After withstanding the pressure in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Bearcats capitalized on a misplaced Irish pass.

Cincinnati’s Cassie Wheldon intercepted and drove forward before ripping a fierce low shot from 25 yards out that skipped in front of Littman and then bounced off of her chest. Before Littman could get off the ground to collect the rebound in front of her, the Bearcats’ Sydney Kilgore had already pounced to score and give Cincinnati the 1-0 lead.

After falling behind, the Irish could have let their heads drop, but instead they stuck together as a team and picked themselves up. Norman had been telling the team in practice that he wants them to be accountable to one another when the going gets tough.

“[I] let the players run the show to empower and inspire each other because they know what to do. They do not need to hear it from me,” Norman said.

The Irish backed up their coach’s unspoken faith in them by responding as perfectly as he could have imagined: quickly, and with a newfound vigor. Wingate collected the ball near the left corner after a blocked cross, and began dribbling to the center of the field. With Notre Dame’s first shot of the second half in the 65th minute, Wingate placed a curling shot into the far corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area to draw the Irish even.

In the 72nd minute, just seven minutes after equalizing, the ball was sprayed wide to the right to an unmarked Martinez. From the ensuing cross, Wingate, as she was getting pulled down, had her shot saved well by a diving Less. With Less down on the ground from her previous save, which left the Bearcats’ goal wide open, graduate student forward Karin Muya was able to score her first goal of the season to give the Irish a 2-1 lead.

Notre Dame kept the pressure on Cincinnati even after taking the lead and comfortably saw out the rest of the match to win 2-1, leaving Norman feeling “so proud” of his team.

Notre Dame looks to keep this feeling going in its next game against Ohio State (2-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Alumni Stadium.

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