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ND Women’s Soccer

Iowa’s three first half goals send Irish to second straight loss

| Monday, September 16, 2019

The Fighting Irish back line has played outstandingly during the early stages of this season, but it was their defense that let them down in a 3-2 loss against Iowa yesterday, Notre Dame’s (6-2) first at Alumni Stadium this year.

Notre Dame dominated the time of possession for much of the game, but it was a 10 minute stretch in the first half in which the Hawkeyes scored three straight goals that ultimately sunk the Irish.

Allison Thornton

Irish junior forward Eva Hurm dribbles the ball downfield during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Iowa.

“We had some missteps on defense today that provided [Iowa] with some great opportunities,” head coach Nate Norman said after the game. “Anytime you give up three goals early against a good team, it’s going to be hard to get back into the game.”

While Iowa has recently been the team finding the back of the net early, scoring within the first 10 minutes of its last two matches, it was the Irish who experienced a dream start yesterday. Nearly ten minutes in, sophomore midfielder Luisa Delgado curled a left footed shot inside the near post to put the Irish in front early. After receiving a pass from junior midfielder Sammi Fisher, Delgado beat her defender on the right flank by faking right and cutting back to her left before unleashing her majestic strike past the outstretched left hand of Iowa goalkeeper Claire Graves.

Five minutes later however, trouble began brewing for the Irish. The Hawkeyes responded quickly, as defender Hannah Drkulec headed home a corner taken by midfielder Natalie Winters to even the score at one. Drkulec made a sweeping run from the top of the 18 yard box to the back post, where she elevated above three Irish defenders for a free header.

Just 30 seconds later, Iowa took the lead on a goal by midfielder Josie Durr that appeared to result from a miscommunication by the Irish defense. Norman explained that some players pushed up the field on a fifty-fifty ball while others stayed, leaving space in the middle of the field for striker Devin Burns to collect the loose ball and play a through pass to the right foot of Durr, who then poked the ball over the right shoulder of oncoming sophomore Irish sophomore goalkeeper Mattie Interian.

Set pieces, and specifically Drkulec, again haunted the Irish less than ten minutes later, as the defender scored her second corner-kick goal of the game from Winters to make it 3-1 Hawkeyes. Drkulec made nearly the same run to the back post that she had earlier and again found herself uncontested as she snapped a header past the diving Interian.

“Any time you give up set piece goals, it’s more of a controllable thing and that’s frustrating,” Norman said.

Notre Dame did begin to claw its way back later in the first half, as substitute freshman forward Kiki Van Zanten and sophomore forward Olivia Wingate came on and injected some life into the Irish. With thirteen minutes to go in the first half, Van Zanten’s pressure high up the pitch forced a turnover by the Iowa back line. The freshman striker won the ball and played a pass to the left foot of sophomore striker Wingate, who was dragged down in the box by midfielder Hailey Rydberg. After the referee awarded a penalty kick from the spot to the Irish, junior midfielder Sammi Fisher beat Graves to the bottom left corner to bring Notre Dame within one.

With less than two minutes remaining before halftime, Wingate and Van Zanten again connected inside the 18 yard box, but Graves made an incredible kick save on Van Zanten’s strike from 10 yards away to preserve the Hawkeye lead before the break.

In the second half, the Hawkeyes tightened up their formation, dropping all 10 players behind the ball looking to protect their one goal advantage. Notre Dame’s best chance of the second half came with 10 minutes left in the game. A cross from the right wing found its way through the box but was saved by Wingate on the end-line, who played the ball back to a wide open Fisher on the six yard line. Graves was headed in the wrong direction, but Fisher couldn’t connect cleanly, and her strike flew wide to the left. Iowa was able to clear away a corner kick in the final minute to hang on and hand the Irish their second straight loss.

“There’s just not a lot of space, and you have to rely on getting balls into dangerous areas when a team is packing it in like that,” Norman said. “We just have to do a better job of being more aggressive and decisive in the box when we get crosses in like we did in that second half.”

The Irish will look to bounce back this Friday when they open conference play on the road against No. 20 Clemson. Kickoff is at 5:00 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.

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