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Irish to take on Seminoles in ACC Semifinal matchup

This Thursday Notre Dame women’s soccer will take on Florida State in the ACC semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

The game will be a rematch of an earlier contest between the two foes, during which Notre Dame triumphed 4-0 in South Bend. 

But the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story. While Notre Dame was efficient with their chances, the performance was far from the dominant rout the four-goal difference would indicate. The Irish took just four more shots than Florida State, and inStat determined that Notre Dame’s total xG (expected goals, which measures the likelihood of a goal occurring on a given shot) was just 1.38, lower than the Seminole’s total of 1.99.

Critical for the Irish will be putting pressure on the Florida State backline. Notre Dame’s opener in the early October showdown came when Korbin Albert dispossessed a Seminole defender in their own half and raced down the field to score. That goal, and the press that created it, helped set the tone for the rest of the match.

On the note of Albert, getting her involved will be another major key for the Irish if they want to advance to the ACC championship. The star sophomore has five goals in Notre Dame’s last four games, as well as an assist. Often rotating between a free-roaming role in attacking midfield and forward, head coach Nate Norman will likely try and use Albert in a variety of different ways to keep Florida State honest.

An interesting note for the Seminoles will be who gets the nod in goal. One unique aspect of their season has been the utilization of two goalies rotating in the starting slot, each so far playing every other game no matter the opponent. Based on their last few games, it would seem Mia Justus is in line to earn the starting nod for the ACC semifinals. But given Justus was in net for Notre Dame’s impressive 4-0 victory a month ago, it’s possible that Florida State opts to go with Cristina Roque to give the Irish a different look.

Jenna Nighswonger will likely pull the strings in attack for the Seminoles. The senior midfielder leads the ACC in assists with 13 — three more than the next highest total. Nighswonger will enter in fine form, with six assists in Florida State’s last four matches, including an impressive three-assist performance in a 5-1 romp over current No. 8 Duke. 

Playing ahead of Nighswonger will likely be Onyi Echegini, who leads the team with nine goals. Opposite Echegini will be Jody Brown, who has posted an even six goals and six assists as a winger in Florida State’s 4-3-3 (or as Echegini’s striking partner in the 4-2-1-2 variation they used against Notre Dame).

If Notre Dame is able to get past the Seminoles in their semifinal showdown they’ll be slated for a championship match against the winner of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry game occurring on the other side of the bracket. The Irish tied Duke in their final game of the regular season 2-2 and have yet to play North Carolina this season. 

The semifinal will air in prime time at 8 p.m. Thursday and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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

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