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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.

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Sports

Notre Dame Women’s Soccer kicks off with a win

With a 4-0 win to make themselves 4-0 on the season, Notre Dame women’s soccer took down Illinois at Alumni Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Head coach Nate Norman summed up the win in three words.

“It was good,” Norman said. “I mean overall it was good. You know they’re a good team and I thought we handled the game very, very well.”

The Irish talent spans across the ages as all four undergraduate classes snagged a goal. Sophomore defender Katie Coyle opened the scoring in minute 33 with a one-touch goal off the assist from graduate student forward Olivia Wingate, who blew past the Illini through the left side of the box.

Coyle, a defender, said she made the run to split the team — “Even if it’s just pulling a defender out or hitting a ball across” — more than anything else. She said she was not expecting to score.

“I’m excited,” Coyle said. “I didn’t know it was going in, but I’m happy it did.”

Then, in the 45th with 12 seconds left in the first half, the Irish found the back of the net again, this time off the foot of junior forward Ellie Ospeck who stepped, for the first time this season, into the wing position. She sent the ball in with ease after junior forward Paige Peltier forced a diving save from the Illinois keeper. Ospeck’s tuck-in put the Irish up two at the half. 

Seasoned vet Maddie Mercado made sure Irish fans didn’t have to wait long for a third goal. The senior midfielder found the loose ball after a header attempt from senior forward Kiki Van Zanten was blocked, burying it in the top corner. To round out the undergraduate representation, freshman defender Leah Klenke stepped up. Klenke took on a defender one-on-one and beat her, sending the ball sailing over the keeper and curling it into the top right corner. 

In terms of what could have gone better, Norman had a short list, but nothing could shake his ultimate takeaway around the win. 

“I wish we could be a little more efficient sometimes with our finishing,” he said. “And I just wish we could keep the tempo consistently high. But I’m getting nitpicky with things — which is good, you know, you want to [nitpick] as a coach because overall they’re doing a great job and I’m just really proud of them.” 

Behind 11 goals, the Irish have claimed shutouts in each of their victories. They’ve seen four shots on goal this season and the Fighting Illini only got off eight shots on the day. This, however, has left Norman with minimal evidence to answer a lingering question: Who will be the starting keeper? Between juniors Ashley Naylor and Kaylin Slattery and graduate student Mackenzie Wood, all of whom have seen the pitch for the Irish this season, Norman and the rest of the coaching staff have a decision to make. 

“It’s a good problem to have, but eventually you want to go with a goalkeeper,” Norman said. “We’ll sit down and talk about it this week, but I think the reality is that they haven’t seen a lot of action so we haven’t probably had a lot of evidence to know one way or another.”

Regardless of who’s in the net, the Irish return to the pitch in Alumni Stadium for a midweek matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. EST and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network. 

Mannion McGinley

Contact Mannion at mmcginl3@nd.edu