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Irish women’s soccer bounces back, pulls away from BC for 3-0 win

No. 16 Notre Dame women’s soccer traveled to Chestnut Hill on Thursday night and were the aggressor throughout. The Irish ultimately emerged with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Boston College.

After a dominant 7-0 start to the season in nonconference play, the Irish entered the game coming off of an up-and-down first two weeks of their conference slate. Notre Dame began ACC play with a loss on the road against Clemson. They then bounced back with a huge home victory over No. 2 Virginia. But then they lost again, this time against Pitt at home.

Meanwhile, Boston College’s front-loaded ACC schedule pitted them against a trio of highly ranked teams in Florida State, Duke and UNC in their first three conference games. The Eagles struggled as they dropped the games by a combined score of 12-0.

As the game began, Notre Dame controlled possession for most of the first half. The opening 45 minutes were defined by fast-paced ball movement and strong defensive play. This has been characteristic of an Irish team. They are among the nation’s best in putting shots on goal, but struggle in converting those chances into scores.

In the tenth minute, a cross was sent to senior midfielder Maddie Mercado in close range of the goal. But her volley attempt went just wide, and the game remained scoreless. She would have another chance just minutes later when graduate student forward Olivia Wingate played a perfect pass through the Eagle defense that left her all alone behind the back line. This time, Mercado delivered. She put a low shot just past the Boston College goalie to kick off the scoring for Notre Dame. The goal was the seventh of the season for Mercado, who has been effective as a starter after largely coming off the bench last year. The assist was Wingate’s third.

The Irish maintained their aggression after taking the lead. Late in the first half, junior midfielder Eva Gaetino’s header off of a corner kick seemed destined to go in. But it was deflected off the line in a goal-saving play by Boston College defender Eabha O’Mahony. Gaetino, who exited the game against Pitt early with a head injury, played a crucial role in the Irish’s impressive defensive performance in her return to action.

After the halftime break, the same duo that produced the Irish’s first goal reversed roles to combine for another. Mercado controlled the ball in the middle of the field and found an open Wingate to the right. Wingate slotted the ball home in the bottom right corner of the net. The goal matched Mercado’s team high with a seventh goal of the season, making the score 2-0.

The scoring continued for the Irish in quick succession. Less than a minute later, senior forward Kiki Van Zanten used a smooth spin move to navigate through a cluster of Boston College defenders and scored her third goal of the year from outside of the box to give the Irish a 3-0 lead midway through the second half.

With a Notre Dame victory seemingly in hand, Boston College increased the intensity of its attack. But graduate student goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood and the Irish back line kept the Eagle offense at bay and preserved a 3-0 shutout victory.

Looking ahead, the scoring outburst should provide the Notre Dame offense with a much-needed confidence boost. Especially since the team had scored just twice in its first three ACC games combined. The Irish, now 2-2 in conference play, will have a week off before returning to South Bend’s Alumni Stadium for a pair of important home games. The first comes against NC State next Thursday at 7 p.m. After, they take on No. 7 Florida State, the defending national champions, next Sunday at noon.

Contact Matthew Crow at mcrow@nd.edu.

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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 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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Irish hope to bring the rain at Purdue

Inclement weather may very well be the only thing that can slow down Notre Dame women’s soccer at this point. Sunday’s match at Indiana was postponed, forcing the Irish to wait an additional four days before resuming their special start to the 2022 season.

Nate Norman’s team is 5-0 with a +14 goal differential, its best margin through the first five games of a season in 14 years. The next challenge is a short trip to West Lafayette for a Thursday night battle with 3-3 Purdue.

Notre Dame swept the Boilermakers in two meetings last season, prevailing 1-0 in the regular season and eliminating Purdue from the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 victory in penalty kicks. The Boilermakers lost their second-winningest season in program history (15-4-3) at the hands of the Irish, so Drew Roff and his group are certainly ready for another shot at them.

To open the season, Notre Dame has won all five of its games by at least two goals, outshooting opponents 118-17 with a 65-7 on-goal clip. The back end has been reliable throughout the first few weeks for the Irish, allowing just one goal total. The offense, however, has come alive the last two games, bombarding both Illinois and No. 22 Wisconsin for four goals each.

Graduate forward Olivia Wingate has played the starring role in the Irish attack, netting three of her team-leading five goals in last Thursday’s 4-1 thumping of Wisconsin. Very few teams have the defensive talent to shut her down, so Purdue may have to focus on limiting her supporting cast, namely senior midfielder Maddie Mercado. The San Diego native has found the back of the net four times already, and closely trails Wingate’s 17 shots on goal with 15 of her own. Notre Dame’s prime attackers may have an unusually tougher bout with Roff’s defense, though, as Purdue has allowed three or more goals just once since the head coach began his fifth season in 2019.

Purdue, on the flip side, has stumbled out of the gate this year after a historic 2021 season. After defeating then-ranked USC 3-0 to begin the campaign, the Boilermakers lost back-to-back matches to Vanderbilt and Kentcuky before closing out August with a 2-1 win over Miami (Ohio). Purdue then embarked on a two-game Sunflower State road trip that included a 1-0 loss to Kansas last Thursday and a gritty conquest of Kansas State on Sunday. The Boilermakers struck twice in the first 25 minutes of play, but were reduced to ten players for the game’s final 47 minutes due to a red card.

Even so, Purdue followed the lead of sophomore goalkeeper Sara Kile and survived by a score of 2-1. Kile made a career-high 11 saves and has been leaned upon time and time again this season. Despite playing less than 12 minutes as a freshman, Kile has stopped 33 shots and let in just five goals in five games played, as Purdue has been battered 97-57 in the shots attempted department.

In front of her, sophomore forward Gracie Dunaway has paced the offense with a Big Ten-best four goals on the year. The Boilermakers have won all three games in which she scored, so Notre Dame’s cohesive defensive unit will undoubtedly need to keep close tabs on her. Junior midfielder Emily Matthews has often been involved in setting up her tallies, quickly racking up three assists on the young season.

In order to pull an upset and hand the Irish their first loss of 2022, Purdue may have to replicate its brilliant start at Kansas State. The Boilermakers cannot expect to contain Notre Dame’s potent offense for the full 90 minutes, seeing that the Irish have potted ten second-half goals in the first five games, including four late markers against Wisconsin. Thursday will be Purdue’s final tune-up before Big Ten conference play begins, while Notre Dame will have one more home contest with Ohio on Sunday prior to opening its ACC schedule.

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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.