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ND Women’s Soccer

Notre Dame loses to No. 3 North Carolina on late goal

| Friday, October 5, 2018

After starting .500 through four games of conference play, Notre Dame lost in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday night, falling to No. 3 North Carolina 2-1. The game marked the 28th time in school history the two programs have met, making the Tar Heels (10-2-1, 5-0 ACC), Notre Dame’s second-most common opponent behind UConn, with their last matchup ending in 1-1 tie last season at Fetzer Field.

On the night, Irish head coach Nate Norman was pleased with a lot of what his team was able to do throughout the match as he noted after the game.

“I thought we battled. Every time you play North Carolina you have to battle and win those 50-50 balls and balls in the air, and we played at that intensity level,” Norman said. “I was happy with that.”

Annie Smierciak | The Observer

Irish fifth-year forward Karin Muya dribbles the ball during Notre Dame’s 4-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium.

The match started off with strong offensive effort on both sides as each team scored within the first eleven minutes. Just 22 seconds into the game, North Carolina striker Alessia Russo buried one to take the early lead, but Notre Dame (6-7, 2-3) responded 10 minutes later when graduate student forward Karin Muya was able to net one in the 11th minute, assisted by senior midfielder Sabrina Flores and junior Alexis Martel-Lamothe. Each team would continue to make runs the remainder of the half to no avail as halftime saw the score still stuck at 1-1.

In the second half, each team went back and forth creating strong chances, but neither was able to capitalize. Finally, with roughly four minutes left in the second half, North Carolina was able to get a ball into the box where sophomore forward Taylor Otto punched it into the back of the net to score the go-ahead goal. Notre Dame was unable to muster any opportunities in the final few minutes and the Tar Heels escaped Alumni Stadium with the 2-1 win.

While the team can draw some positives from the match, Norman realizes that his squad will have improve in a number of areas ahead of their game on Sunday against No. 8 Virginia.

“I think as the game gets sped up we need to do a better job of just being able to calm the game down,” Norman said. “I felt like it got really frantic in the second half and even though we were both kind of creating a chance here and a chance there, you kind of run a risk, and I thought we got control of chunks in the first half but it was just kind of this chaotic game. I think that plays into North Carolina’s hands, and it’s going to be a different game Sunday and each game is a different challenge. Virginia is a different team and plays a different style, so we have to make sure when the game gets tight and frantic we have to get the ball down the field and play.”

Looking ahead, the Irish have one more game remaining in this four game home stand — No. 8 Virginia (10-2, 3-2) comes to town Sunday — before hitting the road to face ACC foes Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh over the following two weeks. The team currently sits at 6-7 on the season with a 2-3 record in conference play. Norman is hoping to make some adjustments and improve the record as the season heads down the home stretch of regular season play.

“We have to be great at what we are, and that is a team that has to be on the front foot and put defensive pressure on the other team,” Norman said. “I thought we did a good job of that today, and we have to be a team where there are large spells of the game where we have the ball and that gives us confidence going forward in the attack. We have to continue to be very deliberate in doing that.”

The Irish will look to get back to .500 against the Cavaliers on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Alumni Stadium.

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