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ND Women’s Soccer

Geyer: Notre Dame’s early struggles could be a blessing in disguise

| Tuesday, September 11, 2018

With new faces on both sides of the bench, Notre Dame has had to make some adjustments this year.

In his first season, head coach Nate Norman is leading a young team — 17 of the squad’s 27 players are freshmen and sophomores. The team, which is now on a three-game losing streak, has struggled early on as it tries to adjust to new personal and overall leadership.

Connery McFadden | The Observer

Irish freshman forward Olivia Wingate looks to possess the ball during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Cincinnati on Aug. 30 at Alumni Stadium. Wingate has generated 16 shots and two goals this season.

Although freshmen like Olivia Wingate have wasted no time in proving themselves, the inexperienced team’s struggles on the road have led to a tough season to this point. While the Irish (4-4, 0-0 ACC) average about 19 shots per game at home, they only have an average of around 12 on the road, translating to less in front of the net in more high pressure situations.

Notre Dame’s shooting struggles were made manifest this past weekend, where the team went winless on a California road trip, sustaining painful losses from both No. 1 Stanford and No. 12 Santa Clara. Against Stanford, the team had a season-low of seven shots on its way to a 3-1 loss, and while they almost doubled this total against Santa Clara by generating 13 shots on goal, the Irish still fell 3-2.

A main source of the Irish’s offensive struggles may come from the team’s loss of key talent. Two of the Irish’s three leading scorers from last season are no longer a part of the team. Natalie Jacobs, who lead the team with 13 goals and 33 points last year, transferred to the University of Southern California over the offseason. Sandra Yu, who was third on the team in points and goals, graduated last year and now plays for the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Although the season’s progress thus far may not seem to bode well for the Irish, it could actually be a blessing in disguise.

In the 2016 season, the team never lost more than one game in a row and ended up with a share of the ACC regular season title. Things seemed to be coming together perfectly for the Irish, but after earning a No. 2 seed in the NCCA tournament, things didn’t pan out. In a gross underperformance, the Irish lost at home in the first round against Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

The team also never lost more than once in a row in 2017, but lost 4-1 to NC State in the first round of the ACC tournament. Perhaps the struggles of this year’s team early on will create a growth atmosphere that will be beneficial later in the season.

This year’s Irish have great potential. There have been moments of brilliance in the season so far, coming from players in every grade. Even in its losses, the team has demonstrated skill and a fighting spirit.

The true test will come this weekend, when the Irish make their ACC debut against North Carolina State at home in Alumni Stadium. In fact, every contest from this point of the season forward will be conference play.

Hopefully these season-opening, non-league performances have been stepping stones for the Irish as they settle into ACC play. Regardless of how things have shaped up thus far, Notre Dame should never be counted out.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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