Junior defender/tri-captain Katie Naughton was one of the many Notre Dame standout performers during last weekend's games at Santa Clara and Stanford

Pitch Points: A New Week, Same Focus For The Irish

Sept. 10, 2014

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With a weekend of triumph now in the rear-view mirror, the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team continues to move forward. Following an upcoming weekend non-conference homestand against Baylor on Friday at 7 p.m. (ET) and Toledo on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni Stadium, the rapidly approaching Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) portion of the 2014 Fighting Irish schedule will soon be on the horizon.

Still, it is hard to completely overlook the accomplishments of last weekend’s West Coast soccer voyage for the Notre Dame squad. A 2-0 win at No. 16/21 Santa Clara, a hard-fought 0-0 draw at No. 4 Stanford, and most importantly, a continuation of trying to reach the benchmark of perfect team execution.

The Fighting Irish quickly erased the sour taste of a pair of home defeats during the previous week’s Notre Dame Invitational less than 18 minutes into the road trip at Santa Clara with the match’s first goal, and never seemed to look back for the duration of the road swing.

“We were starting to do certain things well during our invitational, but we just hadn’t put the whole package together for the duration of the game,” Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “What you saw in California is that we were able to put a complete defensive effort together, and were able to get things going on the offensive end.”

A catalyst on defense was the superb play of sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley). Little, who was a late scratch against USC on Aug. 31 during the final game of the Notre Dame Invitational, shined during her West Coast debut with the Fighting Irish. The second-year netminder stopped all seven shots she faced during the 1-0-1 Notre Dame weekend, including six saves against a very dangerous Stanford lineup, to earn TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week recognition.

“I think Kaela is one of the best goalkeepers in the country, and her ability to grab crosses and stop shots is fantastic,” Romagnolo said. “She’s also very mobile and agile inside of her box. She commands the area, and I know our players believe in her ability. That’s a big piece.

“I also thought we had great possession this past week,” Romagnolo added. “For us, it’s continuing to make the right decisions about when to possess and when we can be more direct, based on what the opponent is giving us. Our possession this past week was great, starting from Kaela in the back”

Notre Dame has already utilized the depth provided by its large roster early in the 2014 campaign, as 23 different players have seen match action for the Fighting Irish thus far this season. Of that group, a total of 16 different players have earned at least one start. Along with depth comes competition to solidify one’s spot in the Notre Dame rotation.

“Every week we are looking at who the best 11 are, so it’s really up for grabs every week,” Romagnolo said. “(A lot of) it is based on training and who is showing up to compete. We are really fortunate that we have such a talented, deep roster. With 33 players, even making the travel squad is competitive. That is a coach’s dream, the key is just making sure that everyone believes they can make it on the field in training and continue to work hard every day.”


**

IRISH RISE IN THE NATIONAL POLLS
With its pair of results earned during last week’s road trip, Notre Dame made some hay in the most recent edition of the national rankings. The Fighting Irish climbed six spots to No. 19 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/Continental Tire top 25 rankings, and five slots to No. 13 in the Soccer America women’s college poll.


**

A NUMBER OF PLAYERS RECOGNIZED FOR STELLAR PLAY OUT WEST
Notre Dame players reaped the benefits of last weekend’s successful road swing to begin the current game week, as sophomore goalkeeper Kaela Little was named to the TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week, sophomore midfielder Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H./Milford) was tabbed to the honorable mention TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week, and junior defender/tri-captain Katie Naughton (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) earned CollegeSoccer360.com Primetime Performers Honor Roll recognition.

Little extended her current shutout streak to 244:40 with a pair of clean sheets last weekend. The Irish keeper made seven saves in net, including six against Stanford, to key Notre Dame’s 1-0-1 West Coast road trip.

Andrews notched her first goal of 2014 in the 18th minute at Santa Clara, the eventual game-winner. She led all Notre Dame players with four shots (all on goal) during the match.

Naughton was a key factor in anchoring the Fighting Irish back line during the pair of clean sheets at Santa Clara and Stanford, skillfully sweeping a loose ball away from the goal line to steal a goal from the Cardinal late in Sunday’s contest. Naughton was also one of six finalists for the ESPNW Women’s Soccer Player of the Week award.

**

To purchase a season pass or single-match tickets for the 2014 Notre Dame women’s soccer season, call the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356, visit the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets or stop by the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office windows during normal business hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday). Tickets also can be purchased at Alumni Stadium on match days.

For more information on the Fighting Irish women’s soccer program, follow Notre Dame on Twitter (@NDsoccernews or @NDSoccer), like the Fighting Irish on Facebook (facebook.com/NDWomenSoccer) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.

–ND–

— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant