Nov. 13, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – When you’re on, you’re on.
The No. 10/7 University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team has played its fair share of one- and two-goal contests this season. It’s to be expected in a loaded Atlantic Coast Conference, a league in which so much parity exists that eight of 14 teams have earned bids to this season’s NCAA Championship.
But as the Irish exhibited in their final regular-season game in a 3-0 win over then-No. 5/4 Virginia Tech on October 30, they are more than capable of putting together strong offensive performances. That momentum carried into Friday’s NCAA Championship opener at Alumni Stadium, as third-seeded Notre Dame (14-4-1) cruised to a 5-0 win over Oakland (8-6-7).
“I love the way we came out and just went after them,” Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “We created a lot of offensive opportunities, defended well, put pressure on them and came up with the ball a lot. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ I loved the mentality to attack the goal today.”
The Irish saw four different players bury goals, as Notre Dame took control right away and seized a 4-0 lead by halftime. In total, the Irish outshot the Golden Grizzlies 34-4, including 13-2 in shots on goal.
Senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson registered her second straight two-goal game and added an assist for a career-high five points on the night. Junior Kaleigh Olmsted, senior Katie Naughton and sophomore Sabrina Flores also added goals, while senior Brittany Von Rueden recorded a pair of assists.
It was a performance indicative of a team finding its offensive rhythm, with the Irish maintaining possession of the ball throughout the majority of the game and setting a season-high for shots in a game.
“I think we’ve just continued to get better over the course of the year,” Romagnolo said. “I think tonight we looked really polished and we had that extra week to focus on getting more polished and they looked it. They’re confident; they’re excited; and there’s a lot of great things going on right now.”
“We’ve been clicking really well,” said Naughton, whose goal was her first since the season opener on August 21. “We have so many different types of players and we bring a whole lot of variety to the games, so it’s exciting to see what we can do in the next game.”
It was a fast start for the Irish, who got off three quick shots before Gilbertson gave the Irish the lead just seven minutes in. The goal-minded senior dribbled into the box and fired a left-footed shot from the right flank into the left post. It was the senior’s 12th goal of the season and sixth game-winner.
Just four minutes later, Olmsted crashed the net and buried a header when Von Rueden lifted a cross from the right side toward the back post. Olmsted got a head on it at the goal line, good for her fourth goal of the season and first since September 11 in a 2-0 win over Indiana.
The offensive flurry continued in the 27th minute when Naughton punched in her second goal of the season as Von Rueden tallied her second assist of the game on a free kick opportunity. A threat in the air on set pieces, Naughton charged into the box and and finished at the far post from five yards out.
“Finally,” laughed Naughton. “It was was exciting and was a perfect ball in by Britt on the free kick and great timing.”
Gilbertson’s second goal of the game (13th of the year) was another unassisted opportunity from 24 yards at the top of the box at the 38-minute mark.
While the second half gave the Irish an opportunity to empty its bench, Notre Dame added one last goal in the 54th minute, as Gilbertson sent a through ball to the front of the box to Flores, who poked it into the netting from 12 yards out. It was the third goal of the season for the sophomore midfielder.
All of Notre Dame’s 22 available players saw at least 10 minutes of action on Friday. Four of them – Mariel Adams, Megan McCashland, Ann Marie Niro and Cindy Pineda – saw their first action of the season.
“It was great not just to rest [the starters] but to see some players who maybe don’t get to play as much and to give them an opportunity in this type of environment to perform, and I thought they did great,” Romagnolo said. “I’m excited to be able to see and evaluate those players.”
With the win came a renewed sense of confidence that the Irish are playing their best soccer at the right time, and they hope to carry that into next Friday’s second-round match-up with the winner of Sunday’s game between Connecticut and Siena.
“This win is a great start for us,” said Naughton. “It’s what we wanted to accomplish going into the tournament, so it’s a great step in the right direction and it’s going to help catapult us into the rest of the tournament.”
#10/7 Notre Dame 5, Oakland 0
November 13, 2015
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)
Oakland 0 0 — 0
Notre Dame 4 1 — 5
ND1. Anna Maria Gilbertson 12 (-) 6:41. ND2. Kaleigh Olmsted 4 (Brittany Von Rueden) 11:07. ND3. Katie Naughton 2 (Von Rueden) 26:52. ND4. Gilbertson 13 (-) 37:49. ND5. Sabrina Flores 3 (Gilbertson) 53:18.
Total Shots: ND 34 (17-17), OU 4 (1-3)
Shots on Goal: ND 13, OU 5
Saves: ND 2 (Kaela Little 1 in 73:33; Lexi Nicholas 1 in 16:27), OU 8 (Emily Zweng 8 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: ND 6 (1-5), OU 0 (0-0)
Fouls: ND 6, OU 5
Offsides: ND 2, OU 0
Yellow Cards: ND (Brittany Von Rueden) 58:21
Records: ND 14-4-1, 6-4-0 ACC; OU 8-6-7, 7-1-3 HL
Next for ND: NCAA Championship Second Round, winner of UConn/Siena, November 20 in Piscataway, New Jersey (Rutgers)
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.