Sept. 16, 2017
By Megan Golden
CLEMSON, S.C. — The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with an impressive 4-2 upset victory at No. 11 Clemson (6-2, 0-1) on Saturday.
Two weeks after Notre Dame suffered a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to then-No. 11 South Carolina, the defending ACC regular-season champions rebounded with their first victory against a ranked opponent in 2017.
For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame (5-2-2, 1-0) defeated Clemson, this time in rather dominant fashion. The Irish equaled a season-high four goals, including a season-high-tying two goals in the first half, against a team that had previously allowed just two goals this season.
How It Happened
On a 90-degree, September day at historic Riggs Field, the Irish wasted little time attacking the highly-touted Tigers. Sophomore Natalie Jacobs fed the ball from the right side of the field through the middle to sophomore Jennifer Westendorf, who spun away from the defender and scored her fifth goal of the season (7:01) to put the Irish up 1-0. The goal was Notre Dame’s fastest goal scored in a match so far this season.
The Irish continued their aggressive attack on goal, tallying four shots to Clemson’s one within the first 15 minutes of play.
Clemson had several opportunities, executing with abundant space on a 120-yard field, and rattling off several crosses from yards outside the box.
Just seconds later, senior Monica Flores crossed the ball to the left side of the attacking third, and Fisher was there to head the ball in for her first career goal (25:15).
The Tigers responded 57 seconds later as they drove the ball down the field and scored an unassisted goal from 35 yards out at the 26:12 mark. The shot was just their second of the game and their first shot on goal.
Notre Dame controlled the ball for much of the ensuing 25 minutes, outshooting the Tigers seven to two and possessing a 2-1 lead at the half. Clemson took just one shot on goal in the half.
The Tigers opened the second half with back-to-back corner kicks, both of which were cleared away by Notre Dame. Jacobs and junior Rachel Heard each saw touches on the ball as Notre Dame worked to regain possession in the 55th minute.
A few critical turnovers by the Irish quickly gave the ball back to the Tigers, which netted their second goal of the day at the 56:25 mark on a cross from the left side.
The Irish answered rather quickly as Jacobs got the ball from Westendorf to the right of the goal and scored her team-high sixth goal (58:48) of the season off the left post.
Notre Dame never backed down as graduate student Sandra Yu joined the action minutes later. Yu scored on a pass from Jacobs at the 67:50 mark, giving Notre Dame a 4-2 lead midway through the second half.
Sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Littman’s play in goal was critical to Notre Dame’s victory. In her first career ACC start, Littman did not gather a save but made aggressive plays to stop several Clemson crosses. The Irish defense limited the Tigers to two shots on goal in the match.
Notre Dame’s second-half play, particularly its ability to push the action up the sidelines, sealed its 4-2 victory and sent the Irish home undefeated in ACC play.
Note of the Match
Entering the contest, Notre Dame had scored just three goals in the first half in 2017. The Irish connected for two goals in the first period, their most since scoring two at Iowa on Aug. 27. The match marks the third time this season the Irish have scored in the first half.
Notre Dame has totaled 15 second-half goals and have limited their opponents to just three goals in the period.
Co-Captain Monica Flores Said…
On the team’s upset win…
“It feels fantastic. Not only did we get the ‘W,’ but we played well while doing it. From the start of this past week, we turned it on in practice and prepped for this day-by-day. In practice we were turned on, focusing on the details, and we saw that today.
“To start our second season — our ACC season — and do it in this fashion, I’m very proud of this team, but I also know it took every ounce of effort from every single player. This is only the beginning, and in order to continue forward, we have to amp it up even more.”
On the team’s offensive mindset against the Tigers…
“I think the whole team’s organization defensively made a huge difference. Attacking wise, the way we moved the ball, kept the ball, created angles and worked to help give options to each other were the difference makers. On that big of the field, it was essential. While we worked our butts off, we made the ball do a lot of the work, too.
“Finally, the services into the box, runs in the box and feistiness up top to get on the ball were all essential for the team’s success.”
- Notre Dame is 4-1 all-time against Clemson, including a 2-1 record on the road.
- Notre Dame outshot Clemson 18-4 and has outshot its opponents 76-32 in the first half and 73-52 in the second half this season.
- Notre Dame is 1-1 against ranked opponents this season.
- Sophomore Natalie Jacobs’ four points in the match give her a team-high six goals, three assists and 15 points this season.
- Sophomore Jennifer Westendorf leads the team with 17 points on five goals and seven assists. Westendorf is one goal shy of her single-season career high (six).
- Freshman Sammi Fisher tallied her first career goal and owns three points in 2017.
Coming Up Next
The Irish return to action against No. 4 Duke at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday at Alumni Stadium. The match will be streamed live by the ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN.
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.