Aug. 23, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Entering the 2015 season, University of Notre Dame women’s soccer head coach Theresa Romagnolo knew that her defense would be one of the pillars of the Fighting Irish game.
Through the first two regular season games, that much has been evident. What had been more of a question mark was the Irish offense, which managed just 1.64 goals per game in 2014.
It was a question that now seems all but answered through No. 9/8 Notre Dame’s first two regular season contests this season, as the Irish once again used an active midfield and quickness on the front line to upend Toledo 3-0 on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.
“I think our goal is to defend from the front and to put pressure early on teams,” Romagnolo said. “We want to make sure we’re staying connected from the front to the back. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.”
On a day in which lightning strikes delayed the start of the game and resulted in a 30-minute suspension in the first half, the Irish (2-0-0) again proved stingy, giving up just one shot to the Rockets (1-1-0). It was the only shot the Irish have given up so far this season, a fact which has seemed to fuel their offensive output. The defense has kept both early-season opponents Valparaiso and Toledo bottled on their own defensive ends, while Notre Dame has seen outside midfielder Sandra Yu and Sabrina Flores move up on the offensive end to give the Irish more weapons.
Junior forward Kaleigh Olmsted was the first to break through for the Irish on Sunday, putting the Irish on the board in the 12th minute on assists by freshman Natalie Jacobs and Flores. Yu followed with her second goal of the season five minutes later, depositing Olmsted’s cross into the top left corner from 30 yards.
“I think we’ve been a lot as forwards,” said Olmsted, who finished the day with a goal, an assist and two shots. “We’ve just recently started to look with our midfield, too, so I think it’s coming together and we’re connecting more. It’s really exciting, because we haven’t really been able to do that in the past.”
The Rockets kept the Irish scoreless for the next 60 minutes, but found themselves unable to make any offensive run. The score remained 2-0 until sophomore midfielder Taylor Klawunder drove home a header off a corner kick from senior defender Brittany Von Rueden.
Though the Irish showed some second-half lethargy, Romagnolo was confident the Irish could use the experience to improve as the competition ramps up in the coming weeks.
“I think there’s great things we took away from this game in terms of things we did well and with every game we’re always looking to improve,” Romagnolo said. “We’ve got some things we want to continue to get better at, but for me it was a good game. It was productive because we got to try some different things and saw some things we want to get better at.
Yu and senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson accounted for half of Notre Dame’s shots on Sunday, notching six apiece to give the Irish a huge presence around the net. Jacobs fired four shots to bump her season total to 11 to lead the Irish so far this campaign.
Notre Dame’s nine goals through two games are the most since the 2008 squad recorded 11 total in their first two games. Those contests were also shutouts, as that team allowed just one goal through its first seven matches.
“It definitely helps when your defense is as solid as we are,” Olmsted said of the entire team contributing to the offensive output so far. “They’re not tired, so they’re able to distribute the balls cleanly, and a cleaner ball to the midfield is an easier ball to the forwards. It gives us a lot of opportunity to create chances and get better.”
The Irish will host the 23rd annual Notre Dame Invitational next weekend, joining Santa Clara, Portland, Northwestern and Marquette in the invitational field. The Irish will square off with Santa Clara at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, while Portland and Marquette will play off-site in Milwaukee, Wis. Action will resume Sunday with Santa Clara and Northwestern playing at 11 a.m. ET, followed by the Irish and Portland at 1:30 p.m.
Season and single game tickets for Notre Dame women’s soccer are on sale now. Visit und.com/tickets or call the Murnane Family Ticket Office at 574-631-7356.
Joanne Norell, Athletics Communications Assistant
August 23, 2015
No. 9/8 Notre Dame 3, Toledo 0
Alumni Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Toledo 0 0 – 0
Notre Dame 2 1 – 3
Shots: ND 24 (12-12), TOL 1 (0-1)
Shots on goal: ND 10, TOL 0
Saves: ND 0 (Lexi Nicholas 0 in 78:04; Kaela Little 0 in 11:56), TOL 7 (Sam Tiongson 7 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: ND 7 (2-5), TOL 1 (0-1)
Fouls: ND 14, TOL 14
Offsides: ND 1, TOL 1
Yellow Cards: Sydney Vinton (TOL) 36:04