Categories
Sports

Irish set to face Omaha, begin College Cup run

This Saturday Notre Dame women’s soccer will look to start their run to the College Cup when they welcome Omaha to Alumni Stadium.

The Mavericks present an interesting opening foe for the Irish in their quest for a title. Hailing from the Summit League, their championship performance (a 0-0 draw against Oral Roberts decided by penalties) certainly doesn’t pop off the page as a team that would stun one of the four #1 overall seeds in the tournament. But what does catch the eye on their resume is their willingness to test themselves against power five opposition in non-conference matchups.

Over the course of nine non-conference matchups to start the season, Omaha faced off against five power five opponents. And while the results weren’t stellar (posting a 0-4-1 mark), the Mavericks did show some solid signs. In their season opener, Omaha actually took an early lead against Oklahoma State, but a second-half comeback brought the Cowgirls to victory. The Mavericks also drew Missouri, before ending their power five swing on a three-game losing streak to Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa State.

Notable in those five games was Omaha’s solid defense. According to InStat, against Oklahoma State and Missouri, Omaha held their opposition to less than one xG (expected goals) for the match.  Against Iowa State, despite the gaudy 4-1 scoreline, the Mavericks held the Cyclones to just 1.56 xG.

Quality defense has been a theme for this Omaha team in the postseason. During their three-game run in the Summit League conference tournament, the Mavericks didn’t concede a single goal. The run included an upset over second-seeded South Dakota State. The win was notable due to the fact that the regular season contest between Omaha and South Dakota State ended in a 3-0 rout for the Jackrabbits.

Against the Irish, expect Marissa Gohr to be pulling the strings in the Maverick attack. According to InStat, the redshirt sophomore leads the team in both chances created as well as key passes. She’s also one of five different Omaha players tied for second on the team with goals scored with two.

Emilie Erland leads the Mavericks in goals. Her third goal of the season helped her squad claim victory over North Dakota in the Summit League quarterfinals. The midfielder can progress the ball as well, as she’s one of the best dribblers on the team in terms of both volume and efficiency. 

For Notre Dame, the gameplan remains simple- play through sophomore standout midfielder Korbin Albert. Albert has been unconscious over the course of the back half of the season so far, exploding for 11 goals in the squad’s final eight games. The most impressive of her performances was the most recent —a hattrick against Florida State in the ACC semi-final — in which Albert produced all three Irish goals in a 3-3 draw with long-distance strikes.

How Omaha is able to contain Albert, both as a goal scorer and a chance creator will likely dictate the competitiveness of the game. If they’re able to key in on the sophomore and force Notre Dame to run their offense through other means, the Mavericks stand a chance of eking out another close win or their second straight penalty shootout. If Albert is able to break free and pull the strings for the Irish attack, it figures to be a long day for the Summit League champs.

Notre Dame will take on Omaha at 2 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Stadium in South Bend. The match will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

Categories
Sports

Albert scores three, but Irish drop ACC semis to Florida State

Thursday night Notre Dame fell to Florida State in the ACC tournament semifinals, losing 4-2 on penalty kicks after a 3-3 draw.

The game got off to an action-packed start, with two goals coming in the first fifteen minutes. It was the Seminoles who opened the scoring, with Clara Robbins powering a header past graduate student keeper Mackenzie Wood in the 13th minute.

But just moments later the Irish would find an equalizer. Sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert picked up the ball and raced into space before unleashing an ambitious effort from nearly thirty yards out from goal. But the distance proved to be well within the ACC Midfielder of the Year’s range. Albert found the side of the net to tie the game back up at one. 

The tie score wouldn’t last until the end of the half though. Onyi Echegini controlled a high ball played into the box, but was tripped by junior defender Eva Gaetino when she turned to face goal. Florida State received a penalty kick, which Heather Payne dispatched cleanly to give the Seminoles a 2-1 lead heading into the break.

Albert stuns Seminoles with two quick goals

Albert would quickly erase that deficit in the second half. Flicking the ball around a defender, the sophomore unleashed an excellent looping strike in the 57th minute to tie the game up once again.

And it would be less than a minute after her equalizer that the sophomore would strike again. Once again taking aim from long shot range, Albert once again found the top corner. Florida State goalkeeper Cristina Roque didn’t even move for this third strike.

But the Albert-inspired lead wouldn’t hold. Florida State would find an equalizer of their own in the 73rd minute, thanks to Emma Bissell. Mackenzie Wood was able to get a punch to a dangerous Seminole cross, but her effort fell to Bissell, who easily tapped a finish into a now-empty net. 

But after Bissell’s equalizer, the goals would dry up for both sides. Plenty of chances came both Florida State and Notre Dame’s way over the final fifteen minutes and ensuing 20 minutes of overtime. However, neither side could find the finishing touch. And for the second time in as many games for the Irish, their ACC tournament fate would be decided by penalty kicks.

Naylor’s save not enough as Irish lose shootout

This time, Notre Dame found themselves on the losing end. Ashley Naylor, who subbed in for Mackenzie Wood like she did against Pittsburgh, got the Irish off to a strong start as she saved Florida State’s opening attempt. But Roque immediately saved Maddie Mercado’s effort.

Tied at zero through one round, the teams then traded a pair of makes. The Irish goals came off the boots of Albert and senior forward Kiki Van Zanten. But in the fourth round, after a make from Florida State’s Ran Iwai, senior defender Waniya Hudson misfired for the Irish. With the advantage now firmly sitting with the Seminoles, midfielder Jenna Nighswonger fired home to clinch victory.

Notre Dame will now wait until Sunday to discover their seeding for the upcoming NCAA tournament. Current bracket calculus would make it seem the Irish are destined for a national two seed, with their path to the College Cup likely going through any of Tallahassee (Florida State), Chapel Hill (North Carolina), Los Angeles (UCLA) or Tuscaloosa (Alabama).

Categories
Sports

State of the Irish

Editor’s Note: Sammie McCarthy, Nate Moller and Aidan Thomas contributed to this report

After a week away from campus for Irish students, here’s a look at how the Notre Dame teams did over fall break.

Notre Dame volleyball goes 2-2

It was home cooking for the Irish volleyball squad, as head coach Salima Rockwell’s squad picked up a pair of victories against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. The Irish pulled out a five-setter against the Demon Deacons on Friday, Oct. 14, and followed up with a four-set win over the Hokies on Oct. 16.

The win over the Hokies was expected, as Virginia Tech resides at the bottom of the conference standings. However, Wake Forest entered the contest slightly above the Irish in the standings, so the five-set victory was a crucial pick-up for Notre Dame. Sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson led the way with 15 kills. Thompson added 16 kills against Virginia Tech.

However, this past weekend brought the Irish back to earth. After four straight ACC wins, Notre Dame ran into a buzzsaw of a Pittsburgh team. The Panthers are 10-0 in conference play, 20-2 overall, and they dismantled the Irish in three straight sets. Notre Dame then traveled to take on cellar-dwellers Virginia. It resulted in a stunning defeat for the Irish, who lost in three straight sets. In set three, Notre Dame lost the final nine points of the game, limping out of Charlottesville with a season that is spiraling fast. The Irish sit at 4-6 in conference play and in tenth place in the conference. They face second-place Louisville on Wednesday and 11th-place Duke on Sunday as they try to turn it around.

Notre Dame men’s soccer

Both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s soccer teams performed well over fall break. The men’s team won both of their games, one against the University of Illinois Chicago and the other against Virginia Tech. The women’s team also went undefeated over break, beating Louisville, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. 

The men’s team started their successful week with a road win over the University of Illinois-Chicago. The Irish defeated UIC, which competes in the Missouri Valley Conference, 4-2. Notre Dame started strong with an early goal by sophomore forward Matthew Roou. The Flames quickly answered with a tying goal. Fellow Irish sophomore and defenseman Kyle Genenbacher scored another goal to put the Irish up 2-1 at the end of the first half. Roou scored a second goal early in the second half, followed by another goal by freshman defender Mitch Ferguson. The Flames scored a second goal late in the second half but could not defeat the Irish. 

Notre Dame earned another win three days later versus ACC opponent Virginia Tech. Notre  Dame junior defenseman Paddy Burns scored the only goal of the game to lead the Irish to a 1-0 win. Notre Dame men’s soccer is now 7-6-1 overall, and 3-4 in the ACC. They are ranked eighth in the ACC and fifth in the Coastal Division. All twelve ACC teams qualify for the tournament, and the top four teams earn a first-round bye. The Irish are looking to win their final two regular-season games against Michigan and Pitt. A win over Pitt could vault the Irish to third in the Coastal and a higher seed in the ACC tournament. Notre Dame men’s soccer takes on Michigan this Tuesday at 7 p.m. EST at Alumni Stadium.

Notre Dame women’s soccer

Notre Dame women’s soccer also had a successful week, defeating Louisville, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in three consecutive road games. Not only did the Irish go undefeated over fall break, but they also did not give up a single goal.

The women’s team opened the week with a 2-0 road victory over Louisville. Senior forward Kiki Van  Zanten scored a goal in the first half and graduate student forward Olivia Wingate scored a goal in the second half to lead the Irish to victory. 

Next the Irish traveled to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. Notre Dame sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert scored the only goal of the game to earn the Irish another win. 

The Irish concluded fall break with a 3-0 win against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Albert continued her dominant week with two goals, one in the first half and one in the second half. Wingate contributed another goal late in the second half to secure a 3-0 win for the  Irish. 

After a rocky 1-2 start to conference play, the Irish have hit their stride and are consistently defeating some of the best competition in the nation. The team is ranked fifth in the country with a 14-2 overall record and first in the ACC with a 7-2 conference record. A win in their final conference game of the season against Duke will earn the Irish the top seed in the  ACC tournament.

If Notre Dame wins the conference championship, the team will automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament. Even if they do not, Notre Dame’s strong performance this season will almost certainly earn the team an at-large bid. 

Notre Dame takes on Duke, ranked fourth in the ACC and tenth in the country, this Thursday at Alumni Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network at 8 p.m. EST.

Notre Dame cross country

The men’s and women’s cross country teams competed a week and a half ago at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational. Despite facing multiple top-ten teams, both the men’s and women’s teams finished in fifth place. After the impressive performance, both teams are now ranked sixth in the country with a week to go before the ACC Championships.

On the men’s side, the Irish were led by sophomore Carter Solomon, who finished the 8k race in ninth place with a time of 23:23.4.

Head coach Matt Sparks has looked for someone to step up all season on the men’s side, and he was very impressed with Solomon’s performance in Wisconsin.

“Carter Solomon is the guy that is starting to rise to the top for us,” Sparks said. “We are trying to see him get out front and compete with the leaders throughout the race, and that was neat to see.”

Solomon was followed by freshman Izaiah Steury, who finished 28th with a time of 23:32.7.

Steury has been a huge part of the team all season, and Sparks has continued to be impressed with Steury’s execution in races.

“The other really exciting thing on the men’s side was Izaiah Steury,” Sparks said. “It was fun to see a freshman up there in the top-5 for us, and he was the top true freshman in the race, which bodes well for the future as well.”

Sophomore Josh Methner was the third Irish runner to cross the finish line with a time of 23:38.9. 

Last week’s meet was Methner’s first of the season, and Sparks expects Methner to improve and possibly be the team’s top runner by the end of the season.

“I expect to see him in the mix with Carter [Solomon] as we progress to the ACC championship,” Sparks said.

On the women’s side, the team found success in a pack with all five runners separated by just over 30 seconds. The top five for the Irish included junior Olivia Markezich, senior Katie Thronson, graduate student Anna Sophia Keller, sophomore Erin Strzelecki and sophomore Siona Chisholm. 

Sparks felt that everyone on the women’s team stepped up as expected.

“The women’s side came in as a holistic group. We are a veteran group with everyone from Olivia [Markezich] to our newcomer Siona Chisolm, who is a transfer from Canada,  and they all stepped up just as expected,” Sparks said.

Heading into the conference meet this weekend, Sparks hopes that graduate student Maddy Denner and senior Matthew Carmody can step up. Although neither runner was in the team’s top five in Wisconsin, both runners have proven themselves in years prior.

“We have two kids that we like to think are in our top five, but had off days and are improving,” Sparks said. “A year ago, Maddy [Denner] was our number one and Matthew [Carmody] has been in our top five the last couple of years. I expect both of them to make big impacts in the weeks to come,” Sparks said.

Categories
Sports

Albert scores twice as Irish thrash Wolfpack

Thursday night, Notre Dame soccer moved to 10-2 on the season with a 3-0 win over North Carolina State.

The Irish started off hot, generating a couple of nice early looks at goal before drawing a penalty in the 25th minute. Without senior midfielder and regular penalty taker Maddie Mercado on the field, the duties fell to senior forward Kiki Van Zanten, who made no mistakes sending Wolfpack keeper Maria Echezarreta the wrong way to give Notre Dame the lead.

After resting up at halftime, a refreshed Irish press took control of the game in the second half, limiting NC State to just two shots. It was sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert who provided the insurance, firing home a pair of goals to give Notre Dame a comfortable 3-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

The first was one of her best this season, curling the ball into the back of the net from just outside the box. The finish was made more impressive by the fact the sophomore was falling down, celebrating from the ground after the ball hit the back of the net. 

The next came on the back of a setup by graduate student forward Olivia Wingate, who picked up the ball at the halfway line and drove forward, eventually splitting the defense with a pass to Albert.

Albert opted not to shoot the ball on sight, deftly dribbling her way around three Wolfpack defenders to find space and fire home.

After the game Albert noted her transition from midfield to forward helped change her role in the Irish formation, putting her in position to net her first brace of the year.

“Overall when I moved up to the nine, I just knew I had to get the ball, turn and take my space. So either I collapsed the backline so I could play it wide or take the shot by myself.”

Moving forward, the road doesn’t get easier for the Irish. On Sunday, Notre Dame will welcome No. 3 Florida State to South Bend, with the Seminoles representing another crucial hurdle on the path to an ACC title.

Albert, however, focused on the play of the Irish heading into the match, not Florida State.

“I think we’re just going to go out there and play our best,” said Albert. “I think our team, we look at the next game like any other game. We don’t care about what the name is, or who it is. We just want to go out there and play our best.”

Head coach Nate Norman remarked after the game that Notre Dame’s win just weeks ago against No. 2 Virginia could give the team a helpful sense of confidence and composure heading into Sunday’s battle with the Seminoles.

“Hopefully that win gives us a bit of confidence and belief to go into that game, because that’s really just something you need to have when you play against the defending national champions,” Norman said. “They’re just a really good team. But I think for us we showed just so much energy from a defensive standpoint, being able to get the ball moving. We put a lot of pressure on Virginia and that’s something we’ll really try to take into [Sunday].”

With Florida State coming off an impressive 1-0 result against Virginia themselves, they’ll enter Alumni Stadium in impressive form. The defending national champions are still yet to lose this year and now boast statement wins over Virginia as well as an impressive Clemson squad that beat Notre Dame 2-0 in their ACC opener.

The Irish will take on the Seminoles at 12 p.m. on Sunday at Alumni Stadium. The match will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

Categories
Sports

Near misses costly as Irish fall to Indiana, 1-0

On Wednesday night, Notre Dame men’s soccer traveled to Bloomington for a non-conference game against in-state rival Indiana. The Irish came within inches of goals on several occasions but were ultimately unable to get in the scoring column, suffering a 1-0 loss. The game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 3 but was postponed due to inclement weather conditions. The defeat moved the Irish to 5-4-1 (2-2) on the season, while the Hoosiers improved to 5-2-3.

Notre Dame’s attack was firing on all cylinders to start the game. It was a continuation of their performance from last week when they defeated Kalamazoo and Boston College while compiling an impressive ten goals over the two games. In the ninth minute, junior defender Paddy Burns and sophomore forward Matthew Roou connected on a give-and-go that culminated with Roou lofting a well-timed pass to Burns inside the box. Burns’ volley got past the keeper but bounced off the left post, keeping the score level at 0-0.

After a stretch of scoreless play, a Notre Dame foul inside the box gave Indiana a penalty kick in the twenty-fifth minute. Redshirt senior Ryan Wittenbrink converted the penalty to give the Hoosiers a 1-0 advantage. Ceding penalties has been a recurring issue for the Irish, as their most recent defeat, a 1-0 loss against North Carolina, was also decided on a first-half penalty for the opposition.

Apart from the costly foul, Notre Dame head coach Chad Riley was pleased with the play of the defense, as well as that of junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, who recorded four saves against Indiana. Riley spoke postgame about the Irish’s defensive effort.

“Conceding another penalty, we’re a little bit frustrated with that,” Riley said. “As a unit, I thought [the defense] played pretty well and gave us some good performances. Indiana’s got some quality attacking players that were pretty good on the night. I thought, for the most part, that we did a good job containing them and limiting their attacks.”

Indiana took a 1-0 lead into halftime, and the Irish were the victims of another unlucky bounce early in the second half. With Notre Dame on the attack, sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau received a pass from sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher just outside of the box on the right side of the field. Boneau fired a shot to the left of the diving Indiana goalkeeper, but the ball deflected off of the left post for the second time in the game.

Later in the half, the Irish appeared to finally level the score, courtesy of a 71st-minute goal from freshman forward Wyatt Borso, but Borso was ruled offside. Riley spoke positively about the chances that the Notre Dame offense created, while also noting room for improvement and lamenting losing a winnable game.

“It’s a little frustrating anytime you lose a close game because, at the end of the day, we want to be the team that’s winning close games,” Riley said. “We had some good moments on the attack. We want to continue to grow our attack more while building on some solid defensive play.”

The overturned goal would be the closest that Notre Dame would come to evening the score, as Indiana held on to take the 1-0 win. Although the Irish did not get the result they wanted, they remain focused on their long-term goals. Riley discussed how facing a strong opponent in a difficult road environment will provide benefits that carry through the rest of the season as Notre Dame looks to turn these close losses into wins.

“It’s the good thing about these games, playing a good team like Indiana [on the road],” Riley said. “You know you’re going to get better from them. At the end of the day, you want to get better and pick up results as well.”

After the weather-induced break from their conference slate, Notre Dame will return home to host No. 11 Louisville (6-2-2) on Saturday. The Cardinals are currently playing at a high level, having defeating No. 8 Pitt and NC State in their last two conference games. The Irish will try to put this loss behind them as they return to ACC play.

“I think it’s just about leaving that result. Leaving that game, as far as the details of it, and letting our frustration be a positive for us and turn it into another performance where we show our growth,” Riley said. “On the bus ride home, we’ll lick our wounds a little bit. When we get off the bus, that game is over, we start recovering and preparing for Louisville.”

The Irish will aim to improve to 3-2 in ACC play as they host Louisville on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACCNX.

Categories
Sports

Irish women’s soccer looks to rebound against Eagles

Notre Dame women’s soccer takes on Boston College Thursday for its third ACC conference game of the season. The Irish are seeking to balance their ACC record after a loss to Pitt at home left them 1-2 in ACC play. After going 7-0 in non-conference play, the Irish have faced more difficulty against ACC teams. The game against Boston College is a chance for the team to redeem its record after the disappointing 3-1 loss to Pitt last Sunday.

At its best, the women’s soccer team is certainly capable of competing with the nation’s best talent; just last week the Irish beat the University of Virginia, at the time the second-ranked team in the country. However, the team has struggled to keep up this quality of play against other high-level opponents. The Irish have performed inconsistently in ACC play thus far, losing to Clemson in their first conference game of the season in addition to the recent loss against Pitt. Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman acknowledged this inconsistency when he said, “Some days are not your best and you figure out ways to grind it out.” 

The ACC is arguably the best conference in women’s soccer, boasting seven teams ranked in the top twenty-five by ESPN. As a result, conference play will not get any easier for Notre Dame. The Irish need to figure out how to consistently compete at a high level as they start to face tougher opponents if they want to maintain their spot in the national rankings.

The game against Boston College should provide Notre Dame with an opportunity to score a conference win. Boston College is currently 4-4-3, and have lost all three of their ACC games so far. And, Notre Dame will be their fourth ranked opponent in a row. The Irish will try to take advantage of the Eagle’s exhaustion after their recent tough schedule to pick up another conference win. Boston College does have the home advantage, but so far they haven’t had much luck on their own pitch. The Eagles are currently 2-2-2 at home, including a dramatic 0-6 loss to Florida State. Conversely, Notre Dame has yet to lose an away game against an unranked opponent. 

However, Notre Dame may be at a disadvantage this Thursday depending on the injury status of junior center back Eva Gaetino. Gaetino missed the second half of the game against Pitt due to a head injury, and it is unclear when she will return to play. Norman said after the game that he doesn’t have a timeline of her recovery yet. Losing Gaetino mid-game hurt Notre Dame’s performance in the second half against Pitt. Norman stated that losing Gaetino forced him to “really shuffle things around.” The Irish were unable to hit their stride again after she unexpectedly exited the game.

The Irish travel to Boston for the game, which starts Thursday at 6 p.m. EST. It will be broadcasted on the ACC network.

Contact Sammie McCarthy at smccart9@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Paddy Burns: ‘A leader on and off the field’

Looking at Paddy Burns’ resume through two and a half years of collegiate soccer, you’d be excused for thinking he was one of the most coveted recruits around before his enrollment.

Now a junior, Burns has played nearly every minute he’s been available for each of the last two seasons. A leader on and off the field, Burns’ composure was a key reason why he was the only underclassman to take a penalty kick in the Irish’ three postseason shootouts in 2021. 

He tied for the team lead in assists last season, the only defender on the roster to lead the team in any offensive category. Displaying a knack for coming up in big games when he was needed the most, the left back totaled a pair of goals as well as an assist in Notre Dame’s College Cup run, including the Irish’s equalizer in their quarterfinal showdown with Pitt.

His strong form carried over into 2022. He currently leads the Irish in goals despite exclusively playing as a fullback in Notre Dame’s back four. He’s been defensively sound, a mark of consistency on an Irish backline that’s steadily improved.

With such a stacked resume in such a short career, it’s no hard feat to imagine him being a prized recruit who the Irish had to battle hard to win. But that couldn’t be less of the case. In fact, Burns wasn’t recruited at all.

Hailing from Northern Ireland, Burns’ exposure to coaches and scouts in the American collegiate system was nonexistent. He racked up a wealth of on-pitch experience and accolades in his native Crumlin, captaining Northern Ireland’s U18 squad on multiple occasions and captaining his school’s team for seven years from 2012 to 2019. 

But without a collegiate scouting network in Northern Ireland, when he decided collegiate ball would be the best option for him, it was a shot in the dark. Burns only applied to only one college through the regular student admission process: Notre Dame.

“It was just Notre Dame, I honestly didn’t really know of any other colleges in America,” Burns said. “One of my best mates went to Duke, Lewis McGarvey who plays for their soccer team, so I knew of them. But my knowledge of the college system, college soccer and college sport in general, was pretty limited. I just knew this place had such an outstanding reputation, and then as a proud Irish Catholic, the mission of Notre Dame appeals greatly to me.”

Thankfully, Burns had perhaps the most on-brand guide to life at Notre Dame possible: then-Leprechaun Conal Fagan. But even with Fagan’s guidance, Burns knew his decision to head to campus was a bold one.

“I heard of Notre Dame through another Irish guy, who was a junior at the time, Conal Fagan, and he was the Leprechaun,” Burns said. “He was outstanding helping me through the application process and telling me about Notre Dame. But with COVID, I couldn’t fly out here… it was a leap of faith, honestly, I stepped off that plane in O’Hare airport in Chicago and didn’t know what I was getting into.”

Burns had no contact with the Irish coaching staff prior to being accepted into the University through the standard admissions process. But seeing his accolades in Northern Ireland, the coaching staff couldn’t say no to the unconventional new recruit. 

“Thankfully, I got in and got accepted to this magnificent place,” Burns said. “And when I got in, I emailed the coaches and they sort of took a chance on me and said they could take me onto the team. I’m just trying to repay the faith that they’ve shown in me. They put a lot of trust in me, taking me onto this team.”

Burns knew that his leap of faith wasn’t without risk. Moving across an ocean to an American University 3,500 miles away came with an understandable fear of homesickness. But the junior credits the program’s culture for making his transition as seamless as possible. 

“My time here wouldn’t be as great if it wasn’t for this soccer program… the family atmosphere here is just outstanding,” he said. “I’m so happy I’ve come here. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

And last week, after two and a half years, Burns’ actual family was able to witness his Irish soccer family. His parents made the trip to South Bend to witness him play in person for the Irish for the first time, and the junior didn’t disappoint. Burns notched a brace for the first time in his collegiate career.

“I wanted to do really well for them, and my younger brother who’s also a freshman at Notre Dame was watching, so that was just an added incentive. I was glad to get the two goals, but it was just a brilliant team performance,” Burns said. “Having my parents here was truly special, and I’m looking forward to catching up to them.”

Contact J.J. Post at jpost2@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

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.

Categories
Sports

Baffour finds back of net with seconds remaining to secure Irish 2-1 victory

After nearly missing out on a tie opportunity in the final minute of a 1-0 loss against Syracuse last weekend, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team bounced back against the University of Virginia in a 2-1 victory Friday night. This win was mostly by virtue of a final second goal off the foot of first-year midfielder KK Baffour.

The Irish remained deadlocked in a scoring standstill with the 4-2 Cavalier team over the opening 45 minutes of play at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. Despite the mutual shutout throughout the first half, Virginia controlled 58 percent of possession and let fly seven shots on goal compared to just four from the Irish.

The Cavaliers maintained their stranglehold over possession just past the outset of the second half. In minute 68, the Irish produced the match’s first point on a corner kick which trickled into the goal after it was deflected off a Cavalier bystander.

It looked as if the Irish were going to escape with a one-nil victory before Cavalier striker Kome Ubogue poked home the equalizing goal off an in-swinging corner kick in the minute 89.

With less than 40 seconds remaining in the game, Virginia won yet another corner. But sophomore forward Matthew Roou was able to clear the loose ball to Kaffour, who bounded downfield and punched in the game winner with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock.

Head coach Chad Riley was thrilled at his players’ performance coming off a tough loss to an undefeated Syracuse team.

“It’s an unbelievable message to the team,” Riley said. “You have to keep pushing to the very end and to their credit, [this team] does that.”

“Competing from the first to the last whistle [is] a quality we have,” Riley said. “That’s what we always talk about.”

Coach Riley was very complementarity of the toughness of the UVA soccer program and their fans.

“Virginia is one of the greats in the history of college soccer,” he said. “It was a great environment to test our group, and I felt they stood up to it really well.”

The Cavaliers were hot coming off two victories in which they had put up nine total goals to their opponent’s two.

“Virginia is a very good team. We knew that coming in and playing at home. They are one of the best attacking set piece teams that we’ve played against, and they’ve got really good delivery and a lot of guys that are quite big,” Riley said.

“I was really proud of the way that the group handled [UVA] for the most part. Obviously they got one on us, but the group did a great job making sure that that was the only one,” he said.

The Irish went into the match “just thinking about playing against a good team away from home and seeing if you can get a win,” Riley said. It’s a bonus that UVA will a have a “very high RPI at the end of the year.”

Such hard-fought victories will pay out when it comes time for ACC tournament and College Cup seeding.

The Irish will no doubt be riding high as they come upon a slew of home games against Chicago State, UNC and Boston College.

“It’s all about kind of just growing from game to game,” Riley said.

The Irish’s matchup against Chicago State is a 7 p.m. EST kickoff at Alumni Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

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.