On Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame women’s soccer notched a massive victory in their quest for an ACC title, taking down No. 3 Florida State 4-0 at Alumni Stadium.
The Irish started off hot thanks to sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert, who picked the pocket of a Florida State defender before charging in on net for a clinical one-on-one finish. And then less than five minutes later, Olivia Wingate ripped a shot from just outside the 18 yard box that found the back of the net.
Down 2-0 within the opening ten minutes, Florida State struggled to regroup over the remainder of the first half. The Seminoles earned a penalty three minutes after Wingate’s goal, but Jenna Nighswonger fired wide. Seemingly shaken by the deficit and the missed chance, Florida State struggled to connect in the midfield for large stretches of the first half. Notre Dame entered the break with a two goal advantage that matched their largest halftime lead of the season so far.
Head coach Nate Norman noted the hot start helped the team set the tempo for the rest of the match:
“I think every game we talk about the need to come out with a tremendous amount of energy and get after teams,” said Norman. “We thought that if we can just win the ball then we can go at them as quickly as possible. Obviously getting those two goals was great. It put us on the right foot, and we carried that on the rest of the game. I’m very proud of them.”
The Irish kept the momentum rolling in the second half. Racking up eight shots to Florida State’s five coming out of the break, Notre Dame finally cashed in after 25 minutes thanks to Maddie Mercado. Though she was kept out of the starting lineup by injury, the senior made her mark on the game off the bench, firing home a Wingate cutback. Wingate would go on to add a second goal to her tally to cap off the rout ten minutes before the final whistle, racing behind the defense and confidently slotting home a close range finish.
The win was a crucial triumph in both a short and long view for the program. For one, the victory represented a historic level of dominance for Notre Dame. The Irish hadn’t beaten a top-three opponent by a margin of four or more goals since 2000.
But in the context of this season, the Irish now own a pair of victories over top three opponents at home. As a result, Norman and co. find themselves in the thick of an ACC title race despite a pair of tough losses to Pitt and Clemson.
Junior centerback Eva Gaetino, who leads a defense that hasn’t conceded a goal since Sept. 25th, noted that the team has undergone a mentality shift since the 2021 season where Notre Dame was defeated three times in overtime by opponents ranked in the top ten.
“There is 100% a mentality difference,” Gaetino said. “Going into some of those games, it felt like everything would have to go perfectly and then we’d need a little bit of luck to win. But going into these games, if we do what we do and we do it right, we will win these games. And that’s what I think we showed today.”
Gaetino also noted that going forward the team would need to continue to hold firm mentally with their big win emboldening Notre Dame’s opponents as much as the team:
“[We have] more confidence. But I also think there’s a beaming red target on our backs now that we have beat these top three teams. I think [for some teams], we’re going to be their biggest game of the year, when previously we might not have been. I think we just need to have the humility to know that every game from here on out is going to be a battle, and we’re going to have to bring it every single game.”
Notre Dame women’s soccer will now enter a three game road gauntlet over the next two weeks, traveling to Louisville, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. If the Irish can make it through those next three games unscathed, they could play for an ACC title in their final game of the season against No. 7 Duke.
Contact J.J. Post at email@example.com.