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Sports

Notre Dame looks to maintain undefeated homestand against No.16 Louisville

| Friday, October 11, 2019

After a tough 1-0 road loss to No. 10 Clemson on Sept. 20th, Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman admitted his team was frustrated. The Irish (9-4-0, 3-2 ACC) were then in the midst of a three game losing streak that also included one-goal defeats on the road at No. 7 South Carolina and at home to Iowa, but Norman’s team was not being played off the park. The Irish were controlling large portions of games and creating enough chances the win, but they were not being clinical or professional enough to come away with the result. 

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish junior forward Eva Hurm chases down a ball during Notre Dame’s 3-2 loss to Iowa on Sept. 15 at Alumni Stadium.

“I actually think that not only are we playing with [higher-ranked teams] … in many instances, we’re playing above that level, and … whether it’s taking care of a little finer detail defensively, or with finishing … or with grinding out the result … it’s becoming a little bit infuriating,” Norman said. “But we’re doing so many good things and controlling large portions of the game against quote-unquote top 10 teams, but … at the end of the day, we’re still coming out with that loss. So we got to figure out how to fix that. And hopefully, we’ll have a little chip on our shoulder and play with an edge … because I think we all realize how good we can be and we need to take care of business.”

With the exception of 3-0 loss to No. 3 North Carolina on a brutally hot day in Chapel Hill, the Irish have since “taken care of business.” Against No. 16 Louisville at Alumni Stadium on Sunday, Notre Dame will look to finish its most recent home stand undefeated after back-to-back 3-0 wins over Syracuse and Miami, respectively. 

Goals have certainly not been a problem for the Irish of late. While 10 different players have found the back of the net for Irish this season, the stars in the Notre Dame attack have been in fine form over the homestand. Forwards Luisa Delgado and junior forward Eva Hurm both scored in the victory over Syracuse, while junior midfielder Sammi Fisher equalled Hurm’s team-leading tally of five goals by completing a second half hat trick against Miami, a feat that had not been accomplished by the Irish since Melissa Henderson did so in 2011 vs. DePaul. After the win against Miami, Norman reflected on the benefits of having multiple attacking options. 

“I think having so many players that can put the ball in the back of the net [makes it] hard for the other team to kind of hone in on someone,” Norman said. “Hopefully we … can continue to be efficient in front of goal.”

Both Syracuse and Miami have been unable to record wins in conference play this year though, so the Irish are aware that Louisville will present a much different challenge. Nonetheless, the Irish have proven that they are more than willing to play on the front foot if they enter the game as the supposed underdog. After his team dominated possession and pressed very high up the field against both the Orange and ‘Canes, Norman admitted that there would be no drastic shift in identity come Monday. 

“I think it’s hard for us not to be us, you know, we’re always going to try to be us,” he said. “But I mean Louisville, I’ve watched a few of their games and … they are a complete team. They have great fours. They’re a great defensive team, They’re great on the counter. They can press you but they can also sit in. It will be interesting what they do, but it’ll be a really good challenge for us and I’m excited to play the game.”

Of course, Notre Dame’s back line — which is coming off two successive clean sheets — will certainly be tested by the Cardinals in comparison to what the Syracuse and Miami attacks could muster. The Louisville attack has tallied 28 goals already this year and is headlined by junior midfielder Ekic Emina. Emina, who grew up in Louisville, leads her team with twenty points, having scored seven times and recorded six assists. Norman admitted organization in the back line will be key if Louisville are able to bypass the Notre Dame press. 

“I just think we have to be focused,” he said. “When teams do kind of gain possession on our defensive third … we have to be organized and … you have to kind of almost switch away from your press mode a little bit, and you may have to get pressure on the ball, but make sure you have cover around people, and we got to be good [at] transition defending. I mean … if you’re going to press people, you have to be able to transition back.” 

After her historic performance Thursday, Fisher reflected on how the heartbreaking losses against top teams earlier in the season has influenced the team’s mentality in practice, and was confident in her team’s chances to finally defeat a ranked foe this season. 

“Yeah, those games, they’ve definitely pushed us to work harder this season,” she said. “And we’re hoping [that with] these big games coming up, we can definitely get the results. … So we’re excited. And hopefully Sunday is the first of many.” 

Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

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