Oct. 30, 2015
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The No. 14/8 University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team shut down one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best offensive teams, putting on an scoring display all its own as the Irish blanked No. 5/4 Virginia Tech 3-0 on Friday evening to conclude the regular season at Alumni Stadium.
After dominating on both sides of the ball throughout much of the first two-thirds of game time, the Irish struck with two goals in the span of 19 seconds in the 73rd minute to gather the game’s momentum and deliver a blow to the Hokies. Sophomore defender Ginny McGowan punched in her first career goal from the top of the box at 72:21 off a pass from senior defender Brittany Von Rueden, and senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson slotted a free kick chance over the head of Virginia Tech goalkeeper Kaylyn Smith at 72:40 after a Hokie yellow card.
Gilbertson capped her Senior Night in the game’s waning moments, poking in her second goal of the evening with 39 seconds remaining off a feed from sophomore midfielder Sabrina Flores.
“It means a lot to me,” said Gilbertson, who was honored along with classmates Katie Naughton, Cari Roccaro, Mary Schwappach, Von Rueden and Glory Williams prior to the game. “I’m so happy I could do that for my class and for this team. I think that this team is a national championship-caliber team and I was proud of everyone tonight. We played outstanding.”
The Irish outshot the Hokies 21-8, including a 13-5 margin in shots on goal. Gilbertson led all players with seven shots, including four on frame, while Flores, Natalie Jacobs and Kaleigh Olmsted tallied three apiece.
The three goals were the most for the Irish since August 23, when they defeated Toledo 3-0. The performance marked a breakthrough for a Notre Dame offense that has outshot opponents by an average of 18-5, but has averaged just 1.78 goals per game.
The Hokies entered the game with a 2.39 goals per game average, and have allowed just over one goal per game. Virginia Tech has scored 43 goals on the season, but was blanked for just the second time this season on Friday evening.
“Our defense was incredible and didn’t really give them a look,” Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “Our back four was incredible and I thought the midfield doubled back really well and the pressure that our front-runners were able to put on the ball just made things difficult for [Virginia Tech]. It was really our hard work defensively that led to us having a lot of the ball and being very creative.”
The Irish controlled the tempo from the start, peppering the Virginia Tech goal throughout the first 45 minute to take a 9-2 lead in shots into the half. The Irish put six of those attempts on frame. Twice did the Irish have point-blank opportunities, which were grabbed by Smith at the last second.
On the first, Olmsted drove up the right flank and sent a cross into the goal box, which was met by Gilbertson, but her shot pinballed between her feet and the hands of Smith, who finally reached behind her back and snared the save. On the second, Olmsted posted three yards in front of the net and tried to flush a rebound opportunity, but it was also stopped.
The next best scoring opportunity came off a Flores corner kick in the 20th minute, which Naughton headed just over the crossbar.
“We created so many opportunities in the first half and were kind of unlucky not to finish, but we just talked at halftime about continuing to believe and find a way to get it done,” Romagnolo said.
The Hokies didn’t put a shot on goal until three minutes into the second half, when Murielle Tiernan launched a shot from 25 yards that Irish goalkeeper Kaela Little saved on a rightward dive to keep the game scoreless.
Tiernan, who leads the Hokies and came into the game placing second in the ACC in goals this season with 13, put her first three shots on goal, but all three were saved by Little, who finished with five saves on the evening in her seventh solo shutout performance of the season.
Despite a flurry of chances from the Hokies to open the second half, the Irish regained the momentum when Von Rueden corralled a Virginia Tech turnover and sent it into the box for McGowan, who got a toe on the ball and flipped it in past Smith.
Ten seconds later, Hokie defender Sydney Curtis was shown a yellow card for a tackle on Olmsted, and Romagnolo called for Gilbertson to attempt the shot from just outside the penalty area right in front of the net. The Irish senior, who has had a prolific 2015 campaign, opted for a curving shot that spun over Smith’s fingertips, giving the Irish a much-needed cushion.
Injected with a fresh burst of energy, the Irish continued to attack the goal. Flores nearly nabbed her third goal of the season when she used some fancy footwork to drive into the box, but her shot clanged off the cross bar, and senior Katie Naughton’s rebound attempt was batted away by Smith at the goal line.
But the Irish found pay dirt for the final time in the 90th minute when Flores send a cross from the left side in for a charging Gilbertson, who put it away from eight yards out to round out the night’s scoring.
“It was awesome [for Gilbertson to perform well on Senior Night],” Romagnolo said. “She deserved [those goals] and created opportunities. She’s a great player and she’s hot right now. I’m really proud of what she’s doing.”
The Irish, who will miss the four-team ACC Championship, will get a week of rest before learning their seeding for the NCAA Championship — which begins with first-round matches November 13-15 — next Sunday.
“We have a nice chance to rest and take care of our bodies, do whatever it takes to start again on Tuesday and practice at the highest level,” Gilbertson said. “Now it’s tournament time and there’s no holding back. We just have to go at it and continue believing in ourselves 100 percent.”
#14/8 Notre Dame 3, #5/4 Virginia Tech 0
Oct. 30, 2015
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)
Virginia Tech 0 0 — 0
Notre Dame 0 3 — 3
Total Shots: ND 21 (9-12), VT 8 (2-6)
Shots on Goal: ND 13, VT 5
Saves: ND 5 (Kaela Little 5 in 90:00), VT 10 (Kaylyn Smith 10 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: ND 2 (1-1), VT 2 (2-0)
Fouls: ND 3, VT 9
Offsides: ND 0, VT 0
Yellow Cards: VT (Sydney Curtis) 72:30
Records: ND 13-4-1, 6-4-0 ACC; VT 14-32, 6-3-1 ACC
Next for ND: NCAA Championship First Round, November 13-15 at campus sites
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.