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Fisher’s hat trick downs Miami

| Friday, October 11, 2019

Thanks to a second half hat trick from junior midfielder Sammi Fisher, Notre Dame overcame a stubborn Miami side Thursday night at Alumni Stadium for a second consecutive 3-0 victory. With the win, the Irish moved to 8-0 all-time against the Hurricanes (3-5-2) at Alumni Stadium, but the perfect record was by no means secure at halftime. Miami put up stiff resistance in the first-forty five minutes, but Fisher only needed the first 13 minutes of the second half to complete the Irish’s first hat trick since 2013 and put the game firmly out of the ‘Canes reach. 

Fisher herself was impressed by the historical significance of her performance.

“That’s pretty cool,” she said. “Maybe we can keep that going throughout the season. But yeah, that’s awesome.” 

While Notre Dame (9-4-0) was able to score an early goal in the previous match against Syracuse, Miami initially proved to be a tougher nut to crack and also offered more in the attack than the Orange as well. The first chance of the game would fall to sophomore forward Oliva Wingate when she tried to catch Miami keeper Tyler Spears out at her near post. Wingate’s effort stung the palms of Spears, who was fortunate to see the ball deflected off that front post instead of trickling in behind her. 

‘Canes forward Michelle Giamportone would fire a warning shot of her own in the twentieth minute, however, forcing Notre Dame senior keeper Brooke Littman into a good save to her right. After that shot from a distance, though, the Irish grew into the game and began to dominate proceedings. In the twenty-second minute, sophomore forward Luisa Delgado unleashed one of her trademark strikes from distance after cutting inside on the Irish right, but Spears was up to the task. On the two ensuing corners, freshman midfielder Maddie Mercado had her volley blocked before Erin Hohnstein — a freshman defender making her first college start — saw her free header fly well over the crossbar. 

Notre Dame continued to play the vast majority of the game in Miami’s half, suffocating the ‘Canes with not just their advantage in possession, but also with relentless pressure high up the field, something head coach Nate Norman and his team take great pride in. 

“We want to be a good pressing team,” Norman said. “And … we challenge them every single day to be a good pressing team. And I love the work ethic today of … not only like the initial press, but we talked about like re-layering our press and turning back and doubling down when we get played (in) behind. So it was really good what they did today.” 

Nonetheless, Miami bent but did not break for the entirety of the first half as the game remained goalless. Norman, however, did not see the need for any major changes at interval, sensing that his team’s pressure was wearing the ‘Canes down. 

“(The coaching staff) tried to tell them to stay persistent in what they were doing,” he said. “I felt … as the game wore on, [Miami was] doing so much defending that spaces were gonna open up. And … we felt like those plays were probably gonna be in the wider areas so we just kept switching the ball, [because Miami was] eventually going to get really tired of having to switch. … Luckily, we got that goal early, which I think really helped us kind of gain that momentum. And obviously, that kind of opened up the rest of the game.”

After such stingy resistance by the ‘Canes in the first half, however, Norman might have been surprised that Fisher was able to give the Irish the lead just 22 seconds into the second half. Moments after kickoff, Fisher worked the ball to Notre Dame’s joint-top scorer, junior forward Eva Hurm, who this time turned provider, getting past multiple Miami defenders on the byline before cutting back to Fisher, who made no mistake from six yards out. 

Fisher’s second would also come via an assist from a low cross, which was this time supplied by Olivia Wingate. Fisher controlled the ball in the penalty area and then took two quick touches past Miami defender Selena Fortich before impressively squeezing the ball past Spears at a very difficult angle in the 50th minute. 

Eight minutes later, Fisher made history. By scoring her third goal in under 13 minutes, Fisher became the first to complete a second half hat-trick for the Irish since Melissa Henderson accomplished the same feat vs. Depaul in 2011. After Miami failed to clear a cross from freshman Waniya Hudson, Fisher pounced, lashing home a low drive past Spears from just over six yards out to secure to put the result beyond doubt. 

After his junior captain’s incredible performance, Norman explained what makes Fisher a consummate midfielder. 

“She does a lot of great … attacking movements,” he said. “So she not only can run at defenders and get her own shots off, [but] she can slip other people in. She’s great at kind of receiving the ball in these pockets of space, right in front of the back line where she can … turn and go forward, and she’s really shifty with her movements. … She just does a really, really good job of … receiving balls in tight areas and making plays off of it.”

Miami was unable to seriously trouble the Irish for the rest of the game, but while the Irish had multiple chances to add a fourth, they were unable to add to Fisher’s tally. In the end, 22 different players featured for the Irish, and Norman remained pleased with how both the team’s younger and more experienced members of the squad are continuing to contribute. 

“I think we have a great balance on our team,” he said. “We have some great older players and seniors. … Every single class I think is represented with strong players. And I think that’s ideally what you want in a program and you know, they’ve done a great job.”

The Irish now look to finish this most recent home stand undefeated, but they will have to go through a red-hot Louisville team to do so. The No. 16 Cardinals, who improved to 11-1-0 with a 1-0 victory against Clemson on Thursday, will go into Sunday’s clash at Alumni Stadium sitting third in the ACC standings. It will not get any easier for Notre Dame from there, who will then travel to Charlottesville to take on No. 1 Virginia.  

With these massive games with postseason implications looming, Fisher said the team is remaining focused on taking one game at a time and continuing to improve. 

“We’re gonna have some tough games coming up,” she said. “And we want to make sure … we’re ready for them and that … we’re taking … every game as serious as we can and go as hard as we can.” 

Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be available to stream off ACC Network Extra.

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