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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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Sports

Irish offense stays red-hot, torches Boilermakers

The undefeated Notre Dame women’s soccer team trotted into West Lafayette, Indiana on a humid Thursday evening to face off against in-state rival, Purdue. It was a rematch of last year’s Round of 32 matchup, which the Irish won in penalty kicks. They left tonight with a still unblemished record (6-0-0) after a 3-1 victory over the Boilermakers. 

The Fighting Irish waited a week to get back on the pitch after a scheduled contest with Indiana University on Sunday, Sept. 4 was rained out. Graduate student Olivia Wingate recorded her first career hat trick the last time Notre Dame played, in a 4-1 win against Wisconsin.

The Purdue Boilermakers, a solid Big Ten school sitting 3-3 on the season, were coming off a strong road victory at Kansas State in which goalkeeper Sarah Kile recorded 11 saves. 

Notre Dame played aggressively right out of the gate on Purdue’s Folk Field. The Irish sent several balls hurling over the Boilermaker’s net and dominated possession of the ball within enemy territory. Fifteen minutes passed before the Purdue squad mounted a formattable attack on the Notre Dame side of the field.

Yet, for the remainder of the first half, Purdue was able to keep Notre Dame off the scoreboard with its gritty defensive play. The Irish became frustrated at the Boilermaker’s handling of the early pressure. 20 minutes into the game, the Irish bench was charged with a yellow card. In the 39th minute, junior midfielder Eva Gaetino received a personal yellow card to the roar of Boilermaker fans.

The more experienced Notre Dame team was able to rest their starters at the close of the first half, exercising the program’s depth as an advantage. The young and talented Boilermaker squad, which showed great discipline in the opening minutes of play, was unable to afford such luxuries.

Though the score lay 0-0 at halftime, the Irish were undeterred. All four goals in their last game against Wisconsin found the net during the second half. The Irish also possessed a 10-4 midgame shot advantage over the Boilermakers. 

The stalemate crept almost a quarter of an hour into the second period of play. In the 59th minute, senior midfielder Maddie Mercado shot in her fifth goal of the season to take the 1-0 lead for the Irish. Thirty-five seconds later, senior forward Kiki van Zanten landed her first goal this season off an assist by Mercado.

The Boilermakers, who had defended so well up until this point, rebounded right back from the one-two punch. Kayla Budish, the lone black jersey in the sea of white all night, tallied her first goal of her college career just over three minutes later in the 62nd minute.

Both sides played at a fast pace throughout the final 25 minutes of play. Notre Dame’s experience and communication skills ultimately carried the day. With less than eight minutes to go, sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert struck a dagger of a goal, her second of the year, building a 3-1 lead for the Irish.

The fatigued Purdue starters were unable to mount a persuasive attack in the final minutes of play against the fresh legs brought in to fortify the Irish defensive line.

The final score stood at 3-1. The Irish recorded 29 shots and seven shots on goal compared to the boilermaker’s six total shots with just three on goal.

An off day for the Irish still proved to be a convincing victory. The currently 12th-ranked Notre Dame women’s soccer team is knocking on the door of a top ten national ranking.

Next up, the Irish take on the Ohio University Bobcats at home on Sunday at Alumni Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

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Sports

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