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Late goal leads Irish to crucial victory over No. 2 Virginia

Notre Dame took home a landmark win Thursday night, dispatching No. 2 Virginia 1-0 in South Bend.

The win cements the Irish as one of the favorites in a competitive race for an ACC title. It comes against a Cavaliers team that had just defeated previous conference top dog North Carolina. The victory was Nate Norman’s first victory over a top-ten team in twenty one tries as Notre Dame’s head coach.

The pregame rankings couldn’t have been less indicative of how the game played out. Notre Dame asserted themselves early, showing complete comfort in their preferred 3-5-2 formation that struggled the game prior in Clemson. A couple of early chances fell to forward Olivia Wingate. But the graduate student was unable to convert and the teams entered the half tied.

In the second half, the Irish ramped up their pressure and got a goal to show for it. Outshooting the Cavaliers 11-5, Notre Dame seemed emboldened by their strong first half and continually threatened Cayla White in net. 

And while White held her ground for 75 minutes, the Irish eventually broke through on a set piece scramble in front of the goal. A corner kick by sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert found the head of junior midfielder Eva Gaetino, whose deflected header fell perfectly for senior forward Maddie Mercado. Mercado acted quickly, swiping the ball past White and into the back of the net with her first touch.

The final 15 minutes produced plenty of stressful moments for Notre Dame. Head coach Nate Norman made a slew of changes to add defensive stability and fresh legs to the field. But ultimately, the Irish held strong to close out the win. In a mark of an excellent defensive showing, graduate student goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood was only forced to make one save all game, notching her first career ACC clean sheet.

Despite being the lone goal scorer on the night, Mercado was quick to spread the praise for the teams overall performance.

“This team deserves all the recognition,” Mercado said. “One thing we said in the locker room was we wanted to go out like we were possessed, and I think we did that and more. I was there to finish but our team got us there, got us the corner, Gaetino got the header, and I turned and finished. So just a great team win.”

Coach Norman also gave credit to the team’s mentality, as the Irish rallied to the win within a week of a disappointing loss to Clemson in their ACC opener.

“We asked the team before the game to value certain things … I just felt like our energy levels and passion today was such a stark contrast from Thursday to now,” said Norman. “I’m just so proud of how [the team] fought and competed. We needed a game like that to prove to ourselves that we could compete with anyone and tonight was a really good night for us to do that.”

Looking ahead, Notre Dame’s ACC slate seems much more manageable with a win over Virginia under their belt. Tests against Florida State and Duke still loom. But Norman expressed excitement that Thursday’s win could be something of a statement of intent to opposing teams.

“We have a really simple goal,” Norman said. We want to win a national championship. And hopefully a win like this puts us in the conversation, puts us in the group that can do that. We just have to continue on and have some consistency.”

Notre Dame will look to build off their major win with another home clash against Pittsburgh looming Sunday. The game will kick off at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. It will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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Irish win over Virginia should bring overdue respect in coaches poll

Notre Dame entered the 2022 women’s soccer season ranked 16th in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll. Five weeks later, after a 7-1-0 start that matches some of the best in program history, the team currently sits in the rankings at a nonchalant No. 18.

In the four polls between that preseason ranking and the most recent edition, Notre Dame has jumped around at a ridiculous clip. After winning their first two games, the Irish fell to unranked status ( after being incredibly jumped by the likes of Wisconsin, who drew their opening game).

With a point to prove, Notre Dame cruised past No. 19 St. Louis and Illinois by a combined score of 6-0. Sure enough, they were rewarded with a ranking of No. 16 in the week two poll. Following a 4-1 dismantling of previously ranked Wisconsin, the Irish moved up to 12th. Then the week after that they progressed to sixth, staying in the win column once again.

But then disaster struck. The Irish, after being one of the five programs in all of women’s soccer to start 7-0-0, lost a game. On the road to a ranked opponent, no less.

This loss sent Notre Dame tumbling down to 18th in this week’s coaches poll, behind the likes of (among other teams), Penn State (one loss and two draws), TCU (two losses and two draws), Pepperdine (one loss and two draws), St. Louis (who you might remember from earlier in this article as having lost to Notre Dame in St. Louis), Northwestern (one loss and one draw to 3-1-6 Oakland) and South Carolina (one loss and three draws). 

Some of this, you might imagine, could be due to the other teams having a stronger strength of schedule. Their worst records perhaps came because they were playing better teams. This would be a fair defense if it were true. Per wosoindependent.com, Notre Dame leads the country in adjusted RPI and is second in unadjusted RPI. Those measurements that rank teams based on their wins, losses and strength of schedule. Only No. 1 UCLA ranks above them in the latter department.

This isn’t to say the Irish should have moved up into the top five following their loss to Clemson. But their drop of 12 spots is ridiculous and exposes the flawed nature of the coaches’ poll. The Irish have played at a fairly consistent clip week in and week out this season. But they’ve never come in within three spots of their previous ranking in each new edition of the poll. And after losing one game (on the road to a team ranked in the top 15, no less), the Irish fell below more than a half dozen different teams with worse records.

Thankfully, Thursday night Notre Dame showed why games are decided by how teams play on a field and not how they are ranked in a poll. With No. 2 Virginia in town, their schedule offered the Irish a perfect chance for redemption.

And prove a point they did, dispatching the Cavaliers emphatically in front of an excitable Alumni Stadium crowd. Controlling the tempo of the match throughout, the Irish held a Virginia offense to a single shot on target. And just days after that same offense found the back of the net three times against another College Cup contender in North Carolina to boot.

With the win, the Irish now once again, with perhaps not-so-baited breath, await their ranking for week six of the Coaches Poll. With the win over Virginia now in hand, the Irish seem destined for yet another roller-coaster ride in the poll. It will nearly certainly make this week the sixth straight one Notre Dame moves up or down at least four spots in the rankings.

Such a tumultuous first month of the season only goes to expose the poll’s biggest flaw: its recency bias. There were not 17 teams with no losses to go ahead of the Irish in last week’s poll. There certainly weren’t 17 one-loss teams with better resumes. But Notre Dame happened to be the most recent to lose, and that was the metric that mattered most.

Now, recent top-five win in hand, the Irish are in line for a likely drastic rise in ranking. Perhaps on some level, it will be a correction. An apology from the pollsters for dropping Notre Dame so harshly last week. But it is also because Notre Dame will be one of the most recent teams to deliver a statement win.

Which, of course, will be great news for the program. There will be celebrations. Prior snubbery will be forgiven. But it will also be another reminder, this time thankfully with a positive result for Notre Dame, that the coaches’ poll is in its present state is a largely flawed metric.

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Notre Dame women’s soccer drops first match of the season against Clemson

Notre Dame women’s soccer dropped their first contest of the season, falling on the road to Clemson 2-0 on Thursday.

Proving conference play is always a different beast, the Tigers threw down the gauntlet for Notre Dame early. Just twenty minutes into the match, Sami Meredith got into transition and slotted home the opening goal to draw first blood for Clemson. Meredith’s opener marked the first time all season Notre Dame conceded first in a match.

And though a tightened Irish defense would hold the Tigers without a shot on goal for the remainder of the first half, Clemson would strike again before game’s end. Emily Brough found the back of the net after a ball was played across the box to put Notre Dame away for good.

The Irish did generate a few big chances over the final 30 minutes in a spirited attempt at a comeback, but ultimately the finishing touch just wasn’t there on the road. Most notably, sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert cracked an impressive effort off the crossbar from a distance and graduate student forward Olivia Wingate nearly connected on the ricochet. Wingate would get another chance at goal in the minute 68, driving nearly the length of the pitch with the ball before coming up short on the final conversion. 

The loss drops the Irish to 7-1-0 on the season, but the chance for an immediate rebound looms this Thursday.

The Virginia Cavaliers travel to South Bend on Thursday night, giving Notre Dame a chance to knock off one of the ACC’s top dogs and make a statement heading down the stretch of conference play.

The Cavaliers dispatched No. 2 North Carolina 3-2 in a thriller Saturday night, meaning they’ll presumably arrive at Alumni Stadium on Thursday as a top-five team in national rankings, and definitively the top team in the ACC.

Junior Lia Godfrey has helped lead the way thus far for Virginia, notching four goals as well as three assists from midfield. It was goals from Godfrey, as well as Rebecca Jarrett and Alexa Spaanstra, that helped the Cavaliers charge back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat the Tar Heels on Saturday.

The match also stands as a chance for Irish head coach Nate Norman to make a major statement on his resume at Notre Dame. Since his appointment, Norman is 0-13-1 against the ACC’s consistent top tier of UNC, Virginia, Duke and Florida State and 0-19-1 against opponents ranked No. 10 or higher in the coaches’ poll. 

But there are plenty of signs that this could be the year Norman and the Irish break through. Last season, Notre Dame came painstakingly close several times to getting that first win against the ACC’s elite. They dropped three consecutive games against Virginia, Duke and North Carolina, two of which came in overtime and all of which were played on the road. 

A win on Thursday would boost Notre Dame to a top-five ranking and assert the Irish early as an ACC title contender. With a home crowd (Notre Dame is 15-1-1 at Alumni Stadium over the last two years) backing up an impressive squad that has enjoyed their best start to a season in years, Thursday is set to be a marquee matchup for the Irish and their head coach. 

The Irish return home on Thursday Sept. 22 to play Virginia at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed on ACCNX.

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

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Creating tiers of ACC women’s soccer

Through seven games of non-conference play, it would be difficult to call Notre Dame women’s soccer’s season anything but a roaring success. The team has notched a perfect 7-0-0 record, with every win coming by a multiple goal margin. The defense has allowed just three goals across 630 minutes of play. And with ACC play on the horizon, the Irish have risen to 6th in the Coaches Poll — their highest ranking in years.

But ACC play should provide the Irish with some of their hardest tests yet. As always, the ACC is tremendously deep, with a host of teams in contention for both the conference crown and the NCAA tournament. Here’s a look at where the best teams stand in the country’s strongest soccer conference.

TIER ONE: Title favorites, College Cup contenders

The teams: UNC, Virginia, Duke and Notre Dame

This group is led by North Carolina, who have looked near-unstoppable at times. Their handling of a pair of quality teams in Tennessee and Texas in the first weeks of the season were reminiscent of prior Tar Heel teams that would hardly look threatened until the College Cup. UNC came back down to earth with a loss to UCLA, but rebounded as well as one could have asked with a 3-0 dispatching of local rival, and fellow College Cup contender, Duke.

Virginia hasn’t played as intensive of a non-conference slate as UNC, but the Cavaliers passed their biggest test with a 1-0 win on the road against Georgetown. A home draw against Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) ended what had been a perfect run to start the season, but a trip to Chapel Hill this weekend could allow Virginia to respond with a major statement.

Duke has been the most inconsistent of any of the top tier. A furious comeback against Tennessee and an impressive road thumping of TCU give the Blue Devils a pair of ranked wins. But, in their most recent outing, they were outclassed in front of a home crowd against North Carolina. Led by one of the country’s best strikers in Michelle Cooper, the Blue Devils have the pieces. But, they’ll need to regain momentum after a big rivalry loss.

Rounding out the top tier is, perhaps, the most surprising addition: Notre Dame. There was a lot of hope for an experienced Irish team that has eight upperclassmen starters. But, I don’t think anyone expected Notre Dame to open the season a perfect 7-0-0 with dominant wins over ranked St. Louis and Wisconsin teams, and a total goal difference of +18 through seven games. If the Irish maintain their pace in conference play, they’ll be on a very short list of national title contenders.

TIER TWO: Title dark horses, NCAA tournament threats

The teams: Florida State, Clemson and Wake Forest

Florida State has been perhaps the most fascinating team in the ACC over the offseason and regular season. The 2021 national champions entered the season largely unknown, playing with a new coach and a largely changed roster, nobody was sure where the Seminoles floor and ceiling would be. Through six games, the question of floor has been answered. Florida State dispatched four of their weaker non-conference games with relative ease. But, the ceiling of the Seminoles is harder to determine. In their two games against ranked teams, Florida State has produced a solid but uninspiring two draws. Oct. 6 will likely be the first day anyone can make a serious guess as to the Seminoles’ odds of a College Cup comeback as this is when they start an absolutely brutal four game stretch against Virginia, Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina.

Clemson is another strange read in trying to sort out the rest of the pack behind the obvious standouts from the first half of the season. Much like Florida State, the Tigers have handled their weaker non-conference games without issue. However, they hold an unimpressive 0-1-2 record against likely tournament teams. A visit from Notre Dame on Thursday should say a lot about the Tigers’ chances of putting together a dark horse ACC title charge.

Rounding out the second tier is a seemingly always underrated Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have been far from flashy this season, winning just three of their eight games by more than one goal, but they’ve also been effective. They’re yet to lose, and have a credible draw against a very good Auburn team in their one test against ranked opposition. The Deacons surprised a lot of teams last year in an underdog run to the ACC semi-finals. So far this year they’ve shown a lot of promise that they could make a similar run. 

TIER THREE: Possible NCAA tournament teams, but unlikely ACC contenders

The teams: North Carolina State, Pitt and Virginia Tech

North Carolina State has been another tough team to get a bead on over the first half of the season. They’re 1-1-2 in the month of September (as opposed to 3-0-1 in August), with a confusing pair of ties with both nationally ranked South Carolina as well as lowly unranked Nebraska. They don’t have a statement win on their resume yet, and will have as much of an incentive as anyone to bring their best in conference play to get into the tournament field.

Pitt looked like a potential tier 2 team for much of non-conference play, though a loss to VCU brought the Panthers back down to Earth. But with senior forward partnership Amanda West and Leah Pais combining for 28 points in just eight games, it would be unwise to count out Pitt as a serious threat in the ACC.

Finishing this final tier is Virginia Tech. After surviving a brutal opening day scare against William and Mary, the Hokies have straightened out and worked their way to a solid 6-1-1 record. Much like the other teams in this tier, however, their lack of a statement win means they have work to do in ACC play.

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ND men’s soccer drops season’s first ACC match

Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame men’s soccer dropped their first ACC game of the season, falling 1-0 on the road to Syracuse.

It was the Orange who controlled the game off the bat, and the home side capitalized early. Giona Leibold fired home the opener, and what would prove to be the game winner, 22 minutes into the match.

The Syracuse dominance would continue throughout the first half, as the Orange racked up 14 shots in the first 45 minutes. Junior keper Bryan Dowd held firm, however, and the Irish were able to enter the break trailing by just one. 

In the second half, Notre Dame improved considerably. Syracuse still got their chances in the form of eight shots, but the Irish showed some fight back and got a few looks on goal of their own.

The best of those looks came with just a minute to go, when a Notre Dame corner kick generated a big chance on goal in a scramble in the six yard box. But the Orange stood strong, clearing the ball off the line and saving the victory.

After the game, head coach Chad Riley lamented the result but saw some silver lining in an improved second half performance:

“Credit to Syracuse, they were excellent today,” Riley said. “We were not at our best in the first half but managed to be down by one. I loved the team’s response in the second half and while we weren’t at our best they had to clear one off the line in the last minute. We will grow from it and be ready for [Virginia].”

Friday’s clash with the Cavaliers in Charlottesville could prove an important barometer of where the Irish stand with reference to the rest of the ACC. Virginia has had a turbulent start to the season, getting blown out by No. 9 Maryland but also earning an impressive 4-2 win against in-state and in-conference rivals Virginia Tech. 

Last year’s game against Virginia proved to be an important turning point in the Irish season. Notre Dame entered the game with a solid but uninspiring 4-4-1 record, showing flashes of promise but little consistency. After the Irish dispatched the Cavaliers 1-0 at Alumni Stadium, the team would rip off a five game unbeaten run that stretched nearly the entire month of October. 

That five game unbeaten run would be part of a longer final stretch of the season in which the Irish won eleven of thirteen games, capturing a first-ever ACC championship and advancing to a second-ever College Cup in the process. 

Notre Dame enters this year’s clash with Virginia in a similar spot. A 3-2 win over Michigan State showed the Irish have the potential to once again contend in the ACC. But Saturday’s loss to Syracuse and a season opening defeat to Seattle have shown the team still needs to develop in key areas. 

Coach Chad Riley and company will hope a matchup against the Cavaliers will once again be the catalyst of consistency the team needs heading into the back half of the season. Notre Dame will take on UVA 7 p.m. Friday night in Charlottesville, Virginia. The match will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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Women’s soccer continues to prove themselves an elite program

When one thinks of Notre Dame’s powerhouse athletic programs, plenty of options come to mind. The football team is an iconic staple of the University’s brand and the fencing team is in the midst of building a modern dynasty. But, there’s one team with a history of success you probably haven’t heard enough about: women’s soccer.

Since the NCAA began holding a women’s soccer national championship tournament in 1982, just four teams have captured three or more titles. Tied for second on that short list of total title winners is Notre Dame, which has seen consistent success spanning the history of the collegiate women’s game. The 1980s were the last complete decade in which the Irish didn’t capture at least one national championship. 

The program’s first came in 1995, when the Irish started their run against North Carolina. At the time, North Carolina had won all but one title. 

“There were only 24 people who thought we could win this game,” said head coach Chris Petrucelli, “and they were all in this locker room.”

The Irish would go on to win a historic 1-0 game. 

“We didn’t come here to beat North Carolina. We came here to win a national championship,” Petrucelli continued. 

And that they did. After the win over the Tar Heels (which ensured an end to a streak of nine consecutive national titles brought home to Chapel Hill), Notre Dame defeated Portland in the final, with three overtimes being required to separate the teams. After a grueling 125 minutes of open play, star midfielder Cindy Mosley (then Daws) fired home a direct free kick to bring a first-ever women’s soccer national championship back to South Bend. 

After an eight-year drought that saw the Irish make four College Cup appearances without a title, Notre Dame captured a second title in 2004. Anchored by a trio of future Canadian internationals in Candace Chapman, Melissa Tancredi and Katie Thorlakson, as well as goalie Erika Bohn, the Irish dispatched a UCLA team in the midst of what would become a streak of seven years of consecutive College Cup appearances. 

Tied 1-1 late into the second half, UCLA drew a penalty kick and had the chance to score a dagger of a late winner. But Bohn rose to the occasion and saved the penalty (the first she had faced all season) to hold a draw that would eventually lead to a shootout. In that shootout, Bohn’s heroics would continue, with the junior saving two more penalties to secure a 4-3 victory. 

Notre Dame’s final national title came in 2010, when the Irish charged into the College Cup as a national 4 seed, upsetting regional 1 seed North Carolina in the process. The string of upsets didn’t stop for the Irish, as Notre Dame dispatched third-seeded Ohio State in the semi-finals before beating the previously undefeated Stanford in the finals. Star forward Melissa Henderson assisted super sub Adriana Leon for the deciding goal in a 1-0 victory. The 2010 title moved Notre Dame women’s soccer to third place in the national title leaderboard among all Notre Dame programs.

The success for the Irish has filtered down to an individual level as well. This year, program alum Shannon Boxx was elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, adding one final accolade to a stacked resume. Boxx made over 100 appearances for the Fighting Irish, helping the team to their 1995 national crown. She would then go on to a 17-year professional career in which she established herself as a stalwart at defensive midfield for the United States Women’s National Team. 

In her time with the USWNT, Boxx would capture three Olympic Gold medals and would help the squad win the 2015 World Cup in her final year of soccer before retirement. Amassing 195 total national team caps, Boxx retired as one of the most decorated and consistent players in team history. 

Notre Dame women’s soccer’s relationship with the USWNT doesn’t end with Boxx. Kate Markgraf (then Sobrero) was another member of the 1995 national title squad that would go on to play a major role for her country. In just twelve years of play, Markgraf accumulated over 201 caps, one of just 26 players in international soccer history to play over 200 games for their country.

Markgraf also plays a major role in the play of the modern USWNT, despite being retired since 2010. Hired in 2019 to serve as General Manager of the squad, the 1997 graduate played a large role in replacing longtime USWNT coach Jill Ellis after she stepped down following the 2019 World Cup.

The impact of Irish alumnae on the international women’s soccer game isn’t just limited to the United States either. Melissa Tancredi, All-American defender and captain of the 2004 national championship side, would go on to carve out a major role with the Canadian national team throughout the 2000s and 2010s. 

Playing thirteen years, Tancredi notched 125 caps, and in the process, developed a knack for scoring when it mattered most. As a defender, she scored four goals in the 2012 London Olympics games and two goals in the 2016 Rio Olympics, as Canada captured Bronze in both tournaments.

Her teammate on the 2004 championship side, Candace Chapman, is another Notre Dame alumni to hold a place in Canadian national team history. One year Tancredi’s junior, Chapman also surpassed 100 caps for the Canadian WNT and played alongside her former Irish teammate in defense during Canada’s 2012 Olympic Bronze medal run.

Standing on the shoulders of the program’s historic legacy, the current Notre Dame women’s soccer team looks like perhaps the most likely squad in years to bring a fourth national championship home to South Bend. The Irish have flown through the first weeks of the season, racking up a 5-0 record and the potential for the program’s first perfect non-conference slate since 2008.

An experience-filled core (eight consistent starters hold either senior or graduate student status) has given the team a consistency and remarkable defensive solidity that stands out as impressive, even by Notre Dame’s high standards. The squad has allowed just seven shots on target in 450 minutes of open play. 

In front of that rock-sold defensive unit, the spark has been provided by sophomore Korbin Albert. A dynamic attacking midfielder, with both a keen eye for goal and an impressive passing range to match, Albert has flashed the potential to be Notre Dame’s highest-ever NWSL SuperDraft pick. Her creative talent has supplied a forward duo of senior Maddie Mercado and graduate student Olivia Wingate, whose 9 combined goals have helped the Irish outscore opponents 15-1 through five matches.

With ACC play on the horizon, Notre Dame’s toughest tests still loom in the form of contests against perennial College Cup contenders Florida State, Duke and Virginia. But thanks to the team’s electric start to the season, there is serious buzz surrounding the Irish. For the first time in years, this could be the year the Irish return to their position among the nation’s top teams and compete to add another national title to their stacked historical trophy case. 

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Wingate’s hat trick leads Irish to win, 5-0 start

No. 16 Notre Dame women’s soccer grabbed a statement win Thursday, romping 4-1 over No. 22 Wisconsin at Alumni Stadium. 

A frustrating first half saw the Irish control possession and rack up chances to the tune of a 9-1 advantage in shots. But they couldn’t find a goal for their troubles. However, just 15 minutes into the second half, the Irish broke the floodgates wide open.

It was graduate student forward Olivia Wingate who opened the scoring for the Irish, latching on to a searching long ball from senior defender Waniya Hudson and firing home in the minute 61. She’d then add a second exactly two minutes later in another one-one-one chance to give Notre Dame a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Irish head coach Nate Norman remarked after the game that he was proud of his team for staying the course after a frustrating first half and reaping the rewards of that patience in the second.

“Sometimes that’s soccer … it’s hard to score,” Norman said. “You have to create chances, create chances, create chances, stay focused and expect the next one to get past to the back of the net. I love the mentality and the focus there. You know, Liv, she missed a couple chances in the first half and she stayed focused and obviously got that second half hat trick which was fantastic.”

Though a Wisconsin goal from Emma Jaskaniec brought the Badgers within one with just under 12 minutes remaining, the Irish responded. A cross from sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert found senior midfielder Maddie Mercado’s run deep into the box, and the senior forward smashed home Notre Dame’s third of the game. And with just under five minutes remaining, Wingate finished off the game and her hat trick with a third clinical one-on-one finish.

After the game, Wingate noted that one of the Irish’s strengths this season has been an ability to keep on fighting in games where they face setbacks, allowing for the quick two-goal response to the Wisconsin goal.

“We are one of the most resilient teams that I’ve been a part of,” Wingate said. “We just keep going at ‘em. Even if we score a goal, we’re right back at ‘em,” she said. “That’s how we scored four, and we could have scored more. We take it as we go, and we always say ‘When you’re doing something good, keep your head down, be humble and go back to work,’ and if something doesn’t work out in your favor you keep your head up and keep going to work.”

The win puts Notre Dame in prime position to continue building momentum heading down the non-conference stretch as the team looks to enter ACC play undefeated. The Irish will head on the road for a two-game stretch next, staying in state the whole way as they travel to Bloomington to face Indiana on Sunday and then West Lafayette to face Purdue on Thursday. 

If the Irish can win both of those games and handle a visit from Ohio on Sept. 11, Norman’s side will have completed their first undefeated regular season non-conference slate since 2015 and their first perfect non-conference slate since 2008.

J.J. Post

Contact J.J. at jpost2@nd.edu

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Notre Dame hopes to continue shut-out streak against No. 22 Wisconsin

An undefeated No. 16 Notre Dame women’s soccer team returns home to play No. 22 Wisconsin Friday. While the Irish have so far come out victors, the Badgers are a highly ranked team, and it will not be easy to maintain their unbeaten streak. 

Currently, the Irish are in a good position both defensively and offensively to push through this season. Notre Dame has shut out, Marquette, Western Michigan,  No. 19 St. Louis and Illinois. The last time the Irish had a four-game shutout streak was in 2010. Individually, the Irish defense is also strong. Less than two weeks into the season, freshman Leah Klenke was named ACC defensive player of the week. The rest of the Irish defense only allowed four shots between the four games (one against Saint Louis and three against Illinois).  

Klenke, as well as the rest of the Irish, are not only showing out on defense but offensively as well. Senior midfielder Maddie Mercado leads the team with 3 goals, followed by Klenke and graduate student forward Olivia Wingate with two goals apiece. Over the span of 4 games, and 11 goals, seven different Irish players found the back of the net. Notre Dame is ranked first nationally in corner kicks per game (11.5), third nationally with shots on goal (12.75) and sixth nationally with shots per game (23.75).  However, head coach Nate Norman thinks the girls can do better. 

“I think just more efficient with our finishing, just having that belief that the chances are there — they come like every three minutes — so just expecting that they’re gonna come and just being sharper in the box, maybe one or two touch finishes,” said Norman. “We’re taking a lot of touches in the box. And then, I do want to be the fastest playing team in the country so just keep that tempo high and make people have to chase us.”

Against Illinois, the Irish held onto possession for 70% of the match and had a total of 27 shots. However, even with such a high shot count, the Irish were only able to find the back of the net four times, all by separate players. Two of the goals were given to Mercado and Klenke, while the other two were notched by junior forward Ellie Ospeck and sophomore defender Katie Coyle. All four goals were assisted, also by different players. 

“That was a really big game because I think we had done a lot of really good stuff and we thought we were pretty good, but I didn’t know if we quite knew it,” said Norman, “But after that game, I think they walked away and they knew we had a chance to be very, very good.” 

The Irish are on a hot streak and are looking to keep it going against Wisconsin. While the Badgers are certainly a tough team, the Irish have not made Alumni stadium an easy place to play. Over the course of the stadium’s life, Notre Dame has only lost 27 games and won a total of 111.

But, the Wisconsin roster is stacked. Emma Jaskaniec has scored in the past three Badger games. In net for the Badgers is Erin McKinney, who ranks fourth in save percentage with .941, as well as is tied for first in shutouts in the Big Ten. 

After Wisconsin, the Irish are on a two-game Indiana road trip, first in Bloomington before traveling to West Lafayette to play Purdue. 

Kick-off in Alumni stadium starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1. Live stats will be available on ACCNX.

Olivia Schatz

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu.