ND Women’s Soccer
Irish look to Westendorf for leadership on both sides
Peter Baltes | Thursday, August 23, 2018
Irish junior forward Jennifer Westendorf added to a long list of impressive performances in her tenure with Notre Dame on Sunday. Westendorf provided a spark to the head coach Nate Norman’s offense, contributing a goal and an assist in No. 17 Notre Dame’s (2-0-0) come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Loyola Chicago (1-1-0).
Westendorf made her mark late in the game after neither team could score, despite Notre Dame taking six more shots than the Ramblers. Trailing the Ramblers 1-0 in the 75th minute, Westendorf found senior midfielder Sabrina Flores on a through ball into the penalty area; Flores promptly found the back of the net. No more than two minutes later, Westendorf scored on a header from Flores’s corner kick, giving the Irish a lead they would maintain until the final whistle. Over the course of the match Westendorf led the Irish in shots fired off at eight, four more than her nearest teammate.
Norman has seen Westendorf perform a role as an attacker who can help create plenty of scoring chances for the Notre Dame offense.
“She strikes the ball so well with both feet, so if you can free her up, she’s a great finisher,” Norman said. “She always gives us that threat at the top of the box … She’s tall, so she can get on the end of things in the air … she causes constant danger for other teams from that center forward position.”
Westendorf is coming off a sophomore season in which she was one of two team leaders in assists and goals with seven and ten, respectively. She is on pace to create a similarly strong offensive output this fall. However, while Westendorf has clearly been an integral part of the Irish attack, the forward has made significant improvements in her play on the other side of the ball as well.
“Her defending has just gotten tremendously better; she presses well,” Norman said. “Her hold-up play, which has always been good, has improved …She’s always been a great goal-scorer, but she’s just become so much more of a complete player and a complete leader too, off the field.”
Norman has seen Westendorf enthusiastically adopt the team’s community-based philosophy and set a strong example for underclassmen.
“We try to build our team around some core values, these pillars that we talk about,” he said. “I think Jen deliberately works very hard to represent all of those. She’s increased her work ethic; she’s someone who isn’t selfish, who’s aware of her teammates, who’s always trying to help them on and off the field.”
With most of the season ahead of them and conference play still yet to begin, Westendorf and the Irish will strive to continue their positive momentum. The team will likely look to Westendorf as they look to navigate a tough schedule of three top-25 matchups before conference play, including a game against top-ranked Stanford. The competition will continue into ACC play where they Irish will face five top-25 teams in the regular season.
Notre Dame looks to continue their undefeated start when they face Stony Brook at home on Thursday. Kickoff at Alumni Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.