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Irish dominate Omaha to start NCAA Tournament strong

Notre Dame women’s soccer cruised by Omaha 5-0 Saturday, advancing to the NCAA tournament round of 32.

Three early goals put the Irish in control early. Sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert opened the scoring just six minutes in. Though Notre Dame was initially stymied by Omaha’s deep 4-5-1 block, Albert’s affinity for finding the back of the net proved an effective tool in breaking down the Maverick defense.

After Albert’s curled opening tally, Omaha’s defensive solidity weakened considerably. In the eighth minute, a searching cross from graduate student defender Brianna Martinez sailed across the goal untouched. Forward Olivia Wingate tapped it home to double the score. 

Wingate would then double up just moments later. Senior midfielder Maddie Mercado took a shot that deflected into her path just a few feet away from the net. The graduate student made no mistake, giving the Irish a commanding 3-0 lead before the 10-minute mark.

Following Wingate’s second goal, with the match comfortably in Irish control, the scoring touch mostly dried up for Notre Dame. The Irish continually generated shots — 26 to be exact. But they wouldn’t find the back of the net until late in the second half.

Mercado would then get her first of the contest, marking the senior’s first goal since Oct. 9. Mercado’s goal was perhaps the best of the afternoon as well, as she bent the ball into the top corner of the net from distance.

Notre Dame would get one more for additional emphasis before the game’s end thanks to Paige Peltier. The junior forward added her first career goal with five minutes remaining in the contest, heading home a corner from graduate student defender Ashley Zugay.

After the game head coach Nate Norman credited Albert’s early goal for helping the Irish take control of the game from the start.

“Getting the early goal was everything to set the tone,” Norman said. “I think in these types of games, these first-round games, you want to get all over [the opposition.] They’re coming into the game, trying to build confidence as the game wears on, and I think to get that early goal deflates them and doesn’t allow them to get any comfort in the game.”

Norman also discussed how his team looked more experienced in their first NCAA tournament game compared to last year’s run, which had been the longest in his tenure as Irish coach.

“That run last year obviously ended before we wanted it to, it created that hunger,” Norman said. “Just having that experience, what it feels like, the emotions going into the game. Even having someone like [graduate student forward] Kristina [Lynch] here too, she’s won two national championships, and it’s really crucial to have someone like that in our group as well.”

With the win, Notre Dame advances to meet Santa Clara in the round of 32 Friday night. The Broncos will mark a tough test. A College Cup team last year, Santa Clara also features the nation’s second-leading scorer in Izzy D’Aquila. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. The match will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

Contact J.J. Post at jpost2@nd.edu.

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