Categories
Sports

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.

Categories
Sports

Irish win over Virginia should bring overdue respect in coaches poll

Notre Dame entered the 2022 women’s soccer season ranked 16th in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll. Five weeks later, after a 7-1-0 start that matches some of the best in program history, the team currently sits in the rankings at a nonchalant No. 18.

In the four polls between that preseason ranking and the most recent edition, Notre Dame has jumped around at a ridiculous clip. After winning their first two games, the Irish fell to unranked status ( after being incredibly jumped by the likes of Wisconsin, who drew their opening game).

With a point to prove, Notre Dame cruised past No. 19 St. Louis and Illinois by a combined score of 6-0. Sure enough, they were rewarded with a ranking of No. 16 in the week two poll. Following a 4-1 dismantling of previously ranked Wisconsin, the Irish moved up to 12th. Then the week after that they progressed to sixth, staying in the win column once again.

But then disaster struck. The Irish, after being one of the five programs in all of women’s soccer to start 7-0-0, lost a game. On the road to a ranked opponent, no less.

This loss sent Notre Dame tumbling down to 18th in this week’s coaches poll, behind the likes of (among other teams), Penn State (one loss and two draws), TCU (two losses and two draws), Pepperdine (one loss and two draws), St. Louis (who you might remember from earlier in this article as having lost to Notre Dame in St. Louis), Northwestern (one loss and one draw to 3-1-6 Oakland) and South Carolina (one loss and three draws). 

Some of this, you might imagine, could be due to the other teams having a stronger strength of schedule. Their worst records perhaps came because they were playing better teams. This would be a fair defense if it were true. Per wosoindependent.com, Notre Dame leads the country in adjusted RPI and is second in unadjusted RPI. Those measurements that rank teams based on their wins, losses and strength of schedule. Only No. 1 UCLA ranks above them in the latter department.

This isn’t to say the Irish should have moved up into the top five following their loss to Clemson. But their drop of 12 spots is ridiculous and exposes the flawed nature of the coaches’ poll. The Irish have played at a fairly consistent clip week in and week out this season. But they’ve never come in within three spots of their previous ranking in each new edition of the poll. And after losing one game (on the road to a team ranked in the top 15, no less), the Irish fell below more than a half dozen different teams with worse records.

Thankfully, Thursday night Notre Dame showed why games are decided by how teams play on a field and not how they are ranked in a poll. With No. 2 Virginia in town, their schedule offered the Irish a perfect chance for redemption.

And prove a point they did, dispatching the Cavaliers emphatically in front of an excitable Alumni Stadium crowd. Controlling the tempo of the match throughout, the Irish held a Virginia offense to a single shot on target. And just days after that same offense found the back of the net three times against another College Cup contender in North Carolina to boot.

With the win, the Irish now once again, with perhaps not-so-baited breath, await their ranking for week six of the Coaches Poll. With the win over Virginia now in hand, the Irish seem destined for yet another roller-coaster ride in the poll. It will nearly certainly make this week the sixth straight one Notre Dame moves up or down at least four spots in the rankings.

Such a tumultuous first month of the season only goes to expose the poll’s biggest flaw: its recency bias. There were not 17 teams with no losses to go ahead of the Irish in last week’s poll. There certainly weren’t 17 one-loss teams with better resumes. But Notre Dame happened to be the most recent to lose, and that was the metric that mattered most.

Now, recent top-five win in hand, the Irish are in line for a likely drastic rise in ranking. Perhaps on some level, it will be a correction. An apology from the pollsters for dropping Notre Dame so harshly last week. But it is also because Notre Dame will be one of the most recent teams to deliver a statement win.

Which, of course, will be great news for the program. There will be celebrations. Prior snubbery will be forgiven. But it will also be another reminder, this time thankfully with a positive result for Notre Dame, that the coaches’ poll is in its present state is a largely flawed metric.

Categories
Sports

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.

Categories
Sports

Irish offense stays red-hot, torches Boilermakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Sports

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.

Categories
Sports

Wingate’s hat trick leads Irish to win, 5-0 start

No. 16 Notre Dame women’s soccer grabbed a statement win Thursday, romping 4-1 over No. 22 Wisconsin at Alumni Stadium. 

A frustrating first half saw the Irish control possession and rack up chances to the tune of a 9-1 advantage in shots. But they couldn’t find a goal for their troubles. However, just 15 minutes into the second half, the Irish broke the floodgates wide open.

It was graduate student forward Olivia Wingate who opened the scoring for the Irish, latching on to a searching long ball from senior defender Waniya Hudson and firing home in the minute 61. She’d then add a second exactly two minutes later in another one-one-one chance to give Notre Dame a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Irish head coach Nate Norman remarked after the game that he was proud of his team for staying the course after a frustrating first half and reaping the rewards of that patience in the second.

“Sometimes that’s soccer … it’s hard to score,” Norman said. “You have to create chances, create chances, create chances, stay focused and expect the next one to get past to the back of the net. I love the mentality and the focus there. You know, Liv, she missed a couple chances in the first half and she stayed focused and obviously got that second half hat trick which was fantastic.”

Though a Wisconsin goal from Emma Jaskaniec brought the Badgers within one with just under 12 minutes remaining, the Irish responded. A cross from sophomore midfielder Korbin Albert found senior midfielder Maddie Mercado’s run deep into the box, and the senior forward smashed home Notre Dame’s third of the game. And with just under five minutes remaining, Wingate finished off the game and her hat trick with a third clinical one-on-one finish.

After the game, Wingate noted that one of the Irish’s strengths this season has been an ability to keep on fighting in games where they face setbacks, allowing for the quick two-goal response to the Wisconsin goal.

“We are one of the most resilient teams that I’ve been a part of,” Wingate said. “We just keep going at ‘em. Even if we score a goal, we’re right back at ‘em,” she said. “That’s how we scored four, and we could have scored more. We take it as we go, and we always say ‘When you’re doing something good, keep your head down, be humble and go back to work,’ and if something doesn’t work out in your favor you keep your head up and keep going to work.”

The win puts Notre Dame in prime position to continue building momentum heading down the non-conference stretch as the team looks to enter ACC play undefeated. The Irish will head on the road for a two-game stretch next, staying in state the whole way as they travel to Bloomington to face Indiana on Sunday and then West Lafayette to face Purdue on Thursday. 

If the Irish can win both of those games and handle a visit from Ohio on Sept. 11, Norman’s side will have completed their first undefeated regular season non-conference slate since 2015 and their first perfect non-conference slate since 2008.

J.J. Post

Contact J.J. at jpost2@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

ND Rankings in the ACC

Notre Dame Women’s Soccer 

Notre Dame women’s soccer completed the 2021 season with an ACC conference record of 7-3, good for a fourth seed in the ACC tournament. The team was eliminated in the first round of conference tournament play to the fifth-seeded Clemson Tigers. The Fighting Irish were able to ascend further in the Women’s College Cup, losing out in the round of 16. 

This year the Irish landed sixth in the 2022 preseason ACC coaches poll. An impressive performance in the 2021 NCAAs, coupled with a hot 4-0 start to the 2022 season, lends hope that Irish could advance to the semifinals or even the finals of the ACC tournament this season. To get there, Notre Dame will have to wade through a stiff field of ACC competition such as 2021 Women’s College Cup champions Florida State and 2022 ACC women’s soccer preseason favorite Duke.

Notre Dame sophomore Korbin Albert, possibly the most dynamic attacking midfielders in the ACC, is one player to look out for this season for the Irish. Last season Albert was awarded third team all-ACC honors and racked up 12 goals. This ranked second nationally amongst Division I freshmen. In August, she was named to the 2022 women’s soccer preseason all-ACC team.

Notre Dame Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame men’s soccer won their first ever ACC title last year in an impressive run that included the defeat of Louisville on penalties in the quarterfinals and the shutout of Duke in the championship round. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish went on to fall to the Clemson Tigers on penalties in the semifinals of the 2022 Men’s College Cup. 

In the ACC preseason coaches poll this year, Notre Dame men’s soccer earned one first place vote. The team is predicted to finish third in the ACC’s coastal division. Just off their 2021 NCAA victory, the Clemson Tigers were selected as the 2022 preseason ACC men’s soccer favorite. This season the Fighting Irish will hope to overcome the replacement of their top-two goal scorers with a returning core of young contributors. Don’t let Notre Dame’s home opener loss have you fooled; the team fell to 1-3-1 last season before making their stunning post season run. Expect the Fighting Irish to make a final four appearance in ACC tournament among 2022’s conference competition.

Returning as one of the top goalkeepers in the country, junior Bryan Dowd will be the anchor of the Fighting Irish defense this year. A Notre Dame postseason legend, Dowd secured six straight shutouts over the ACC and NCAA tournaments last season. Dowd stands alone as the only goalkeeper on the 2022 ACC preseason watch list. 

Notre Dame Cross Country

Last fall, Notre Dame hosted the 2021 ACC Cross Country championships. The Fighting Irish men captured their second consecutive ACC championship last season and will hope to win their fourth team title in five years in 2022. The Notre Dame’s women’s cross country grabbed a fifth-place finish at the ACCs in 2021. In seven of the past eight seasons, the Fighting Irish women have placed in the top five at the ACC championships. At the 2021 NCAA division I Cross Country Championships, the men’s team finished ninth and the women’s team finished fifth. Notre Dame men’s coach Sean Carlson earned his second consecutive ACC Men’s Coach of the Year award in 2021.

This season the Fighting Irish will host two meets in September, including The National Catholic Invitation on September 16th. Bank on both the men’s and women’s teams being strong contenders for ACC champions and top five finishers nationally. The 2022 ACC championships will be held in late October at Charlottesville, VA where the Syracuse men and NC State women are perennial contenders. The 2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships will take place in November at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Keep an eye on senior Olivia Markezich this year as she comes off an All-American season in 2021 and an 11th place finish at the NCAA championship. All-American returners for the men include senior Jake Renfree and junior Joshua Methner.

Notre Dame Volleyball

Forget about 2021, Notre Dame volleyball is looking to transition this year under new head coach Salima Rockwell. A three-time All-American at Penn State, Rockwell has filled three assistant volleyball coaching since arriving in South Bend. The Fighting Irish landed ninth in ACC’s 2022 preseason volleyball coaches pool. Louisville, who received ten first-place votes in the coaches poll, and Pitt, who received five first-place votes, are expected to be top contenders this season in the ACC. Notre Dame finished eighth last season in the ACC and Fighting Irish fans should hope to see the team finish in the top half of the conference in 2022. An invitation to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament this season would be a step in the right direction for the Fighting Irish.

A key returning player for Notre Dame is junior libero Hattie Monson. In the 2021-2022 season Monson played in all 103 sets for the Fighting Irish and led the team with 407 digs. Monson was honored as member the ACC All-Freshman team in 2020 and as a member of the ACC All-Academic team in 2020 and 2021. SMU transfer Kaylyn Winkler is another name to look out for this season for Notre Dame Volleyball. Winkler led the AAC with a .384 hit percentage in 2021 and led her team, the Mustangs, with 114 blocks. The Irish will also hope to see leaders emerge among the five freshmen welcomed to the team for the 2022 season.

Peter Breen

Contact Peter at pbreen2@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

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