ND Women’s Soccer
Irish set to kick off season in Tallahassee
Gavin Aitken | Wednesday, September 16, 2020
After a return to form in 2019 saw the Notre Dame women’s soccer team reach its 26th NCAA tournament, head coach Nate Norman felt like the program was ready to take the next step towards seriously competing for trophies once again. Even though he could have never predicted where both his team and the sports world at large would be almost ten months later, the goal still remains the same.
“We want to be a team that’s right there at the end, trying to win an ACC tournament,” Norman said.
COVID-19 affected the Irish’s offseason in an unprecedented way. Rather than being able to spend the offseason drilling the new and old players together into a well-oiled machine, Norman had to rely on alternate ways of training that satisfied the social distancing aspect of their return. Even more difficult were the months the team could not be together in any form, which led to Norman sending his players training videos and information specific to each player. Even with that, certain players were unable to train outside in any fashion due to the massive outbreak of COVID-19 in their area.
Despite all these troubles, Norman was encouraged by how prepared his team was coming back to campus. And now as the Irish travel to Tallahassee for their first game of the 2020 season against Florida State, Riley remains confident.
“Collectively, I’ve been happy with where we’re at,” Norman said. “Even though people have come back in different places, I was pleasantly surprised that they were as fit as they were from an overall standpoint.”
It wasn’t only the team’s on-field efforts that were affected by the new social distancing regulations. Activities that helped improve the team’s chemistry off the field, including things like eating dinner together at the dining hall, have been taken away as options. Therefore, Norman has relied more heavily on the leaders of the team to help foster a unity among the squad, especially for the freshmen who have not been in the program for an extended period of time.
“I think the ability for your seniors or captains to keep the kids focused while trying to create unity … they have to motivate the younger players to improve their game, improve their individual aspects,” said Norman.
Notre Dame has brought back several of the key players in last year’s squad, including the top four goal scorers in seniors Sammi Fisher and Eva Hurm, junior Luisa Delgado and sophomore Kiki Van Zanten. Furthermore, Norman signaled out junior Olivia Wingate, sophomore Waniya Hudson, as well as Fisher and Hurm as players who came back much improved from the previous season.
With the increased focus on social justice issues stemming from the death of George Floyd in May, Norman has broadened his team’s view of the world through educational opportunities such as webinars. He also brought in two POC alumni of the women’s soccer program so they could share their experiences and perspective with the team as a whole.
“They’re very interested in things that we can do as the women’s soccer team at Notre Dame, as individuals to help out in our community and in our program,” Norman said. “Our conversation is built around those kinds of things.”
The Irish will kick off their season in Tallahassee at the Seminole Soccer Complex at 8 p.m. Thursday. The game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.