Oct. 21, 2015
By Curt Rallo
In women’s college soccer, a player can make a significant impact by handling the speed of the game.
For University of Notre Dame standout Anna Maria Gilbertson, mastering the speed of the game has taken her talents to an elite level.
Gilbertson, a 5-foot-8 senior forward from Davis, California, has stepped up her game for the No. 15/8 Fighting Irish. She scored the only goal in Notre Dame’s 1-0 victory against Wake Forest on Friday to help the Irish improve their record to 11-3-1.
When Gilbertson sprinted past two Wake Forest defenders to blast in a shot from the left side, she moved into third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in goals scored with eight. She leads the ACC with 82 shots.
Gilbertson’s eighth goal doubles her production from last season, when she scored four goals. In 22 games last season, Gilbertson had 63 shots (compared to 82 through 15 games this season). Gilbertson has also outpaced her shots on goal production, going from 29 shots on goal last season, to 35 shots on goal this season.
In Gilbertson’s case, mastering the speed of the game didn’t mean speeding up.
“The word for me is patience this year,” Gilbertson said on her improvement. “I’ve been really patient with the ball.
“When I get it, I stop for a second, take a deep breath, look around, look up, look and see what’s on, and then I’ll play it, and then I’ll try and see what’s going to happen. The patience of not freaking out when you get the ball and feeling anxious has been a big difference. It’s a matter of having patience, and having confidence when you have the ball that you’re going to do something good.”
Irish coach Theresa Romagnolo said that Gilbertson needed to slow down her game.
“Anna is so talented, but sometimes, she goes so fast,” Romagnolo said. “She just has to slow herself down sometimes and get that composure, whether it’s setting up her feet, or picking the right moment and reading the game.
“We showed her through video and we talked about it, but for the most part, Anna knows the game pretty well. You can show her a few things, but she really knows the game.”
By slowing down the game and finding the right pace, Gilbertson has emerged as a force in the ACC.
“Being patient has allowed me to find more spaces on the ball and find more open passes,” Gilbertson said. “If something’s not on, if I want to go dribble and there are too many defenders on me, I’ll stop, turn around, and play someone who is open and keep the ball for our team.”
“Learning patience was the big thing for me this summer. That’s something that coach Romagnolo highlighted, being patient with the ball, finding the open player, and knowing that we’re going to get a ball in the back of the net over time.”
According to Gilbertson, maturing as a player has been an important part of the process.
“I’ve learned a lot over the years, gaining experience,” Gilbertson. “Just working with our trainer for three summers has gotten me stronger and faster and fit. That’s helped me a lot. Staying consistent with training has been important.
“I’ve always had the potential to do this. I just think the confidence is the biggest factor this year.”
Romagnolo said that Gilbertson is displaying the traits of a senior leader.
“I think seniors always have a sense of urgency, and that helps,” Romagnolo said. “This is their last go at it, and they want to put everything on the table. They bring the experience, they bring the urgency, and also the leadership.”
Romagnolo loves the way Gilbertson has been a difference-maker for the Irish.
“She can score in so many different ways,” Romagnolo said about Gilbertson. “In every game, she’s dangerous. Having someone who is a threat like that is fantastic.
“Anna Maria goes 1-v-1 and creates a lot of her own shots, but the connection of the forwards continues to improve. We’re seeing more combination goals this season.”
Gilbertson is looking for great things as the Irish gear up to finish the regular season and make a mark in the post-season play.
“I knew in the pre-season that our team this year was going to be really good,” Gilbertson said. “I had a lot of confidence in all of us. When we came in for preseason, our chemistry was positive. I knew this is the year we’re going to do really well. It’s that confidence and knowing that we’re going to win that’s keeping us going.”
Curt Rallo is a special correspondent for Fighting Irish Media.