Notre Dame women’s soccer beat the Ohio University Bobcats 3-1 Sunday afternoon in a rain-soaked affair at home to remain a perfect 7-0 on the season. It is the team’s first perfect run in nonconference play since 2008 when they went 27-2 and made an appearance in the NCAA title game.
The weather conditions were a concern on Saturday afternoon with a steady downpour throughout the match, especially during the first half. Head coach Nate Norman spoke about how the conditions impacted his team.
“It wasn’t ideal, but today we went out trying to do what we always do,” said Norman. “It made the field very fast and slick, so if your passes aren’t perfect or if your first touch isn’t great then the ball slips away from you, but overall we just tried to stay with what we do.”
The game got off to a fast start when Notre Dame used some clever passing to break through the Ohio backline, graduate student striker Olivia Wingate scored her team-leading sixth goal of the year. Senior Kiki Van Zanten collected her second assist of the year on the opener.
Wingate has found extraordinary success at Alumni Stadium this year with all six of her goals coming at home this year, including the hat-trick performance against then-No. 22 Wisconsin on September 1 that earned her ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
In the 21st minute, Bobcats star forward Abby Townsend stepped up and buried a free kick from just a few yards outside the box to tie up the game on Ohio’s second shot of the game. Townsend’s strike came from the right side of the goal and curled perfectly around the Irish wall and to find the top corner and beat goalkeeper Ashley Naylor.
Norman emphasized the importance of sticking to the game plan and executing it following Ohio’s equalizer.
“I think it’s always about us being able to focus and that’s what we told them at halftime,” said Norman. “There’s nothing really we need to do differently. We just need to keep the tempo high, keep moving the ball, keep finding those pockets of space in their backline, driving at them and getting our chances.”
That is exactly what the Irish did in the second half as they found two more goals to put the contest to bed.
The first came from Van Zanten shortly after halftime. The goal came from a Kati Druzina cross that Ohio keeper Sam Wexell deflected into the middle of the box where Van Zanten was able to finish it into the bottom corner of the goal. The game-winner was Van Zanten’s second goal of the year after she also scored against Purdue last time out.
After the game, Coach Norman spoke glowingly about Van Zanten’s performance on the day and throughout the season.
“Kiki is fantastic. She’s been unbelievable this whole season. Her defensive work rate is second to none, she covers so much ground, winning second balls,” said Norman. “And some of the stuff she does going forward is fantastic. She’s got two goals in the last two games so she’s in a really good place right now. I’m super, super happy and proud of her.”
Throughout the game, junior midfielder Eva Gaetino looked dangerous on corners with a few efforts just missing the Ohio goal, but four minutes after Van Zanten’s goal she made one count. Coming off a Korbin Albert corner, Gaetino rose highest of all to head it home making it 3-1.
Gaetino said after the game that the goal was the result of many hours of practice.
“These past three weeks [we]…have been working on it just over and over and over again, every single day, just getting the timing down. That’s been a huge help and I feel like I’m finally getting the momentum to get that going every single game,” said Gaetino.
Outside of the set-piece hiccup, the Irish dominated proceedings, controlling the game for long spells of play. In the end, they out-possessed the Bobcats 69%-31% and outshot them 28-8, forcing 7 seven saves from their goalkeepers.
Gaetino spoke about the importance of humility for Notre Dame as they start conference play on the road against the Clemson Tigers this Thursday.
“I’m really proud of us, we’re doing something very special. We set a goal for ourselves and so far, we’ve been able to accomplish it. But going 7-0, we also have to stay humble and we have to understand that these [conference] games are going to be hard. But I also think that these wins have given us momentum going into these tougher games, which I think will be really good for us,” said Gaetino.