Oct. 12, 2015
By Curt Rallo
By the time the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team returned after a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Miami, the Fighting Irish knew they needed to find their offensive rhythm and their creativity.
More than anything else, the Irish needed to find their killer instinct.
Ranked in the top five earlier in the season, the Irish slipped out of the top 10 after back-to-back 1-0 losses to defending national champion Florida State and unranked Miami.
Returning to the field this week, Notre Dame went into attack mode, unleashing an energy and creativity that ignited the offense. The killer instinct was back.
No. 16/11 Notre Dame defeated Syracuse 1-0 Thursday and then overpowered Boston College 2-0 Sunday.
In the losses to Florida State and Miami, Notre Dame finished with a combined 23 shots.
In the two games since those losses, the Irish blasted 39 shots in beating Syracuse and Boston College.
Notre Dame (10-3-1 overall and 3-3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) will aim to keep the offensive rhythm in full swing Friday when the Irish play host to Wake Forest.
On Sunday against Boston College, Notre Dame ended up with 21 shots, 15 of them in an aggressive first half.
Taylor Klawunder got the Irish on the board with a header off a corner kick from Sabrina Flores in the 26th minute. Klawunder’s twin sister, Kaitlin Klawunder, fired in a goal off an assist from Kaleigh Olmsted in the 56th minute.
“That’s something we definitely wanted to work on in practice this week,” Taylor Klawunder said of creating scoring opportunities. “It was kind of a matter of getting back to playing and knowing what we do and following our instincts. This whole week in training that’s what we worked on, and we just played. I think that really showed in our two games this weekend.”
Klawunder said the Irish displayed a more cohesive effort offensively.
“I think the movement off the ball was better, and we had more creativity,” Klawunder said. “It wasn’t just the same thing over and over again. We were being more selfless with the ball. We were finding the players who were open sooner instead of holding onto the ball too long so those gaps were getting closed off. That’s the area we improved on and why we got so many shots that we did this weekend.”
Flores said the Irish improvements started in practice.
“After the Miami game we went back and had a great week of training,” Flores said. “Everything was attack, get a good offensive rhythm and go at it.
“I think we were too focused on doing one thing when we were supposed to be playing creative and free. We worked on that a lot in practice, and it makes the game so much more fun.”
Notre Dame’s offensive unit found its identity after the back-to-back losses, according to Flores.
“We had a stretch where we weren’t being ourselves,” Flores said. “We weren’t being creative. We weren’t taking chances and making our own decisions. This weekend you could see everyone was on the same page. We all wanted to help each other, and we were in a really good rhythm.
“I thought we had that really killer mentality, and then it felt really fun playing this weekend. Even though we didn’t score a lot, it was as great a feeling to get a lot of shots on goal. I think we’ve had a killer mentality all along. We just had to remind ourselves that we had it.”
Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said sometimes coaches can over-teach, and that it was a good sign that the Irish players realized on their own that they needed to regain their identity and take ownership of their actions on the field. She made a position change, moving playmaker Sandra Yu to forward to help the Irish gain an edge on offense.
Romagnolo liked the offensive rhythm and team play she saw Sunday.
“I just want to keep this going and build off of it. I think the first half was very good, and I think the second half was good. We made a couple of adjustments and lost the flow a little bit in the second half. I want to keep building on our ability to play make and obviously finish when we have a chance.
“I feel like they brought it to practice. Everyone was pretty unhappy coming off the Miami game, feeling that we should have got the result. They got back to business and got back to wanting to be better.”
Curt Rallo is a special correspondent for Fighting Irish Media.