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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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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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Irish women’s soccer looks to build on perfect start, heads into ACC play

After finishing off a perfect non-conference schedule this weekend, the Notre Dame women’s soccer team will look to build on their momentum as they travel to Clemson Thursday night. 

“We have high hopes for this season, we have a really talented team,” head coach Nate Norman said after Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Ohio. “We’re clicking, we can do some major damage.”

The Irish (7-0-0), winners of their first seven games of the year, moved up to sixth in this week’s United Soccer Coaches Poll. The Irish are now one of just four undefeated teams, alongside Harvard, Rutgers and UCLA.

The matchup with the Tigers (4-1-2), ranked No. 24, will be the first ACC contest of the year for both sides. Notre Dame will be seeking revenge after the Tigers knocked them out of the ACC tournament quarterfinals last year in a nail biting 3-2 defeat. 

Notre Dame has been dominant through their first seven games — their first perfect non-conference slate in nearly 15 years. The last time this occurred in 2008, the team went 27-1 and advanced to the national championship game. The Irish have been outstanding on both sides of the pitch this year, notching 175 shots against just 31 from their opponents. 

“I’m really proud of us, we’re doing something that’s very special that we set a goal for ourselves and we were able to accomplish,” said junior center back Eva Gaetino. “We have to stay humble, we have to have humility and we have to understand that these games are going to be hard, but I also think that these wins have given us momentum going into these tougher games.”

Offensively, graduate student Olivia Wingate will continue to be crucial to the team’s success — she has already notched six goals on the year, one away from her career high. Senior midfielder Maddie Mercado has also performed extremely well, scoring five goals thus far. 

The Irish have had nine different players score a goal, and depth could prove important in what will be a grueling ACC schedule. “We have a really deep team,” Norman said. “It’s hard, there’s only so many minutes in games, so we’re trying to allow players, even some of our younger players, to develop and get time.” 

On the defensive side of the pitch, Gaetino has been a standout performer. She was recently named to the Mac Hermann Trophy watch list, which honors the top mens’ and womens’ college soccer players. 

“It’s details, details, details,” Gaetino said as to what sets the Irish defense apart. “Never turning off, always staying focused.”

While the Irish have more than risen to the occasion thus far, the real challenge is only just beginning. The ACC is perennially one of the top conferences in college soccer, and currently boasts six teams in the top-25 — including four within the top seven spots. 

“We set ourselves up really well,” Norman said. “Our conference is a beast of a conference, we’ve just got to really refocus ourselves and go into every game and try to be ourselves and have that attacking mindset and that identity to just go after teams and have that hunger.”

Contact Liam Coolican at lcoolica@nd.edu.

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Olivia Wingate prepared to lead undefeated Irish into conference play

Graduate student forward Olivia Wingate has been a huge part of the undefeated women’s soccer team this season, as she is leading the team with six goals.

Wingate reflected on her first season at Notre Dame when she had to adjust to playing soccer at the college level.

“When I came in, I was injured at first. I wasn’t really playing as well as I wanted to,” Wingate said. “I had to deal with coming from club teams and high school teams where I played really well, and I was a star player. Coming into a new environment and having to work your way up in the ranks and prove yourself everyday was something new.”

Wingate learned a lot of valuable lessons from her early seasons with the Irish.

“I grew in my attitude and mentality at tackling that everyday pressure and challenge to prove myself,” Wingate said.

Wingate feels that she has grown off the field as well during her time at Notre Dame.

“Off the field, I have grown a lot in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. With academics, it is a really hard and rigorous curriculum and adding being a student-athlete is really hard,” Wingate said. “I really grew in time management and my leadership abilities and being able to handle my academics as well as athletic pressures.”

Wingate shared that one of her favorite players growing up was Mia Hamm because of her prominence in the women’s game, and the position that she played.

“When I was little, I really loved Mia Hamm,” Wingate said. “I am a number nine so I took all that in when I was younger.”

Wingate has idolized Christen Press in the present day.

“I really enjoy Christen Press and her style of play. Obviously she’s still playing, and it’s fun to see her continue to do super well, so I love watching her as well,” Wingate said.

There have been plenty of influential players during her time at Notre Dame, but Wingate shared that 2019 graduate Sabrina Flores was especially influential to her.

“[Sabrina] is the sweetest person you will ever meet and truly dedicated to working harder than anyone else in the room wherever she is. She is super competitive, but she is also super level-headed. You never saw her get angry or mad at people; she was able to hold herself to a very high standard,” Wingate said.

Wingate also praised head coach Nate Norman for his role in helping her develop as a soccer player and person.

“Nate has also been a huge role model for me as well, and he is obviously a great mentor and friend,” Wingate said. “Over our years here, our relationship has gotten a lot stronger, and I am able to go to him with any questions I have. I know that he is going to give me honest feedback and pointers and any help that I can get.”

Wingate praised the rest of the coaching staff as well.

“They are super inspirational and motivational, and I couldn’t ask for a better set of coaches to lead the team,” Wingate said.

Wingate is in the midst of a breakout season, having scored a team-leading six goals for the Irish in just seven games. Wingate attributes her success to her ability to move off the ball.

“This year I have been able to work on my movement off of the ball a little bit more. I think it is better than it was last year,” Wingate said. “I am working a lot on being patient and staying within the middle of the goal inside the 18-yard box most of the time, so I am not trying to drift too wide. That gives me a better chance of getting looks that are more directly in line with the goal.”

The twelfth-ranked Irish are off to a red-hot start with conference play starting this week against Clemson, and Wingate hopes the Irish can build off of their early season success.

“It’s always great when a team is winning. It’s always a great confidence booster,” Wingate said. “Going into ACC play, we have to recognize that we are one of the best teams.”

The Irish have been very successful on both sides of the ball this season, and Wingate knows the Irish need to keep playing well going forward.

“We just have to keep doing what we are doing,” Wingate said. “We are scoring a lot of goals. We are great defensively; we have only let up three goals in seven games. We move the ball super fast, our tempo is great, and I think a lot of teams haven’t been able to keep up with us.”

Wingate and the rest of the Irish travel to South Carolina on Sept. 15 to play the Clemson Tigers. The game will be available on the ACC network at 8 p.m. EST.

Contact Nate at nmoller2@nd.edu.

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Irish beat Ohio, remain undefeated ahead of ACC opener

Irish sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert dribbles the ball during Sunday’s 3-1 win over Ohio at Alumni Stadium.

Notre Dame women’s soccer beat the Ohio University Bobcats 3-1 Sunday afternoon in a rain-soaked affair at home to remain a perfect 7-0 on the season. It is the team’s first perfect run in nonconference play since 2008 when they went 27-2 and made an appearance in the NCAA title game.

The weather conditions were a concern on Saturday afternoon with a steady downpour throughout the match, especially during the first half. Head coach Nate Norman spoke about how the conditions impacted his team.

“It wasn’t ideal, but today we went out trying to do what we always do,” said Norman. “It made the field very fast and slick, so if your passes aren’t perfect or if your first touch isn’t great then the ball slips away from you, but overall we just tried to stay with what we do.”

The game got off to a fast start when Notre Dame used some clever passing to break through the Ohio backline, graduate student striker Olivia Wingate scored her team-leading sixth goal of the year. Senior Kiki Van Zanten collected her second assist of the year on the opener.

Wingate has found extraordinary success at Alumni Stadium this year with all six of her goals coming at home this year, including the hat-trick performance against then-No. 22 Wisconsin on September 1 that earned her ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

In the 21st minute, Bobcats star forward Abby Townsend stepped up and buried a free kick from just a few yards outside the box to tie up the game on Ohio’s second shot of the game. Townsend’s strike came from the right side of the goal and curled perfectly around the Irish wall and to find the top corner and beat goalkeeper Ashley Naylor.

Norman emphasized the importance of sticking to the game plan and executing it following Ohio’s equalizer.

“I think it’s always about us being able to focus and that’s what we told them at halftime,” said Norman. “There’s nothing really we need to do differently. We just need to keep the tempo high, keep moving the ball, keep finding those pockets of space in their backline, driving at them and getting our chances.”

That is exactly what the Irish did in the second half as they found two more goals to put the contest to bed.

The first came from Van Zanten shortly after halftime. The goal came from a Kati Druzina cross that Ohio keeper Sam Wexell deflected into the middle of the box where Van Zanten was able to finish it into the bottom corner of the goal. The game-winner was Van Zanten’s second goal of the year after she also scored against Purdue last time out.

After the game, Coach Norman spoke glowingly about Van Zanten’s performance on the day and throughout the season.

“Kiki is fantastic. She’s been unbelievable this whole season. Her defensive work rate is second to none, she covers so much ground, winning second balls,” said Norman. “And some of the stuff she does going forward is fantastic. She’s got two goals in the last two games so she’s in a really good place right now. I’m super, super happy and proud of her.”

Throughout the game, junior midfielder Eva Gaetino looked dangerous on corners with a few efforts just missing the Ohio goal, but four minutes after Van Zanten’s goal she made one count. Coming off a Korbin Albert corner, Gaetino rose highest of all to head it home making it 3-1.

Gaetino said after the game that the goal was the result of many hours of practice.

“These past three weeks [we]…have been working on it just over and over and over again, every single day, just getting the timing down. That’s been a huge help and I feel like I’m finally getting the momentum to get that going every single game,” said Gaetino.

Outside of the set-piece hiccup, the Irish dominated proceedings, controlling the game for long spells of play. In the end, they out-possessed the Bobcats 69%-31% and outshot them 28-8, forcing 7 seven saves from their goalkeepers.

Gaetino spoke about the importance of humility for Notre Dame as they start conference play on the road against the Clemson Tigers this Thursday.

“I’m really proud of us, we’re doing something very special. We set a goal for ourselves and so far, we’ve been able to accomplish it. But going 7-0, we also have to stay humble and we have to understand that these [conference] games are going to be hard. But I also think that these wins have given us momentum going into these tougher games, which I think will be really good for us,” said Gaetino.

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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.

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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