ND Women’s Soccer
Irish women’s soccer suffers disappointing home loss against Michigan
Annika Herko | Friday, September 8, 2023
It was a disappointing night for Notre Dame women’s soccer on Thursday, as they were handed their first loss of the year by the Michigan Wolverines. The Irish came into the game ranked No. 11 in the country, having dropped from their preseason No. 3 slot due to a tie with Milwaukee in August. Notre Dame’s 1-0 defeat will likely continue their descent in the rankings.
“I actually thought that tonight was our best performance of the season. I thought we played, for long stretches, fantastic. I feel great about our team in terms of that, but sick to my stomach with the result tonight. Soccer is a sport that if you don’t get all the details right, it can punish you,” said Irish head coach Nate Norman after the game.
The Irish truly did play their hearts out.
During the first half, they kept the pressure on Michigan goalie Stephanie Sparkowski, taking thirteen shots and two shots on goal. Graduate student midfielder Kiki Van Zanten led the Irish offensive effort beginning from the fourth minute of play, eventually ending the half with four shots and one shot on goal. Van Zanten has struggled to finish for the Irish this season. Entering the game, she had the lowest shooting percentage on the team, but her consistent ability to spread the ball around the field has helped the Irish on offense. Her fellow graduate student, forward Maddie Mercado, also kept the Michigan goalkeeper busy, posting three shots and one shot on goal before halftime.
The Irish controlled possession for 58% of the first half and kept the ball in the attacking half of the field for 69% of that time, but still could not take an early lead on “Irish Wear Green” night at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame had several chances to score around the 25-minute mark. They took three shots, including one where Sparkowski was out of position in the box. Unfortunately for the Irish, the Michigan backline was there to add extra support.
While the Irish dominated possession early, the Wolverines did scrape together four shots and two shots on goal in the half. The weather was uncooperative early and late in the game. It began raining unexpectedly, but the crowds were treated to a rainbow that stretched from goal to goal.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, both teams were ready for a fight. Freshman midfielder Morgan Roy had the Irish’s two best scoring chances to that point in the game, but one attempt hit the crossbar and the other was blocked. The Irish lost possession after several strong corner kicks.
Following an offside call against Notre Dame, Michigan freshman Gabrielle Prych scored her third goal of the season, receiving passes from Jenna Lang and Kacey Lawrence. Despite the Irish creating several strong opportunities to challenge Michigan’s Sparkowski, they ultimately could not come up with a response to Prych’s goal.
“Everyone else looked like they were moving in mud and she was on solid ground,” Norman said about Roy. “She was amazing. She deserved a couple of goals in the game.”
After Michigan earned its first road win at Notre Dame since 2003, the Irish will look to change their luck before their next match on Sunday at Bowling Green.
The Falcons are 2-3 on the season after tough losses to Michigan State, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Scoring has been their main struggle so far, as they are averaging just 1.2 goals per game, compared to 2.0 goals per game by their opponents. No player on the roster has scored more than one goal so far this season.
On preparing for their upcoming match, Norman was confident in his team’s ability to bounce back.
“They’re a good group,” he said. “They’re resilient. This will make us better.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized a quote from coach Nate Norman. The quote was referring to Morgan Roy, not Stephanie Sparkowski. The Observer sincerely regrets this error.