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.