Nov. 12, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A difficult loss during the semifinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship last weekend, to the tournament’s top seed Florida State, could have derailed many teams. In truth, last Friday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of the eventual conference champion Seminoles in Greensboro, North Carolina was the only multi-goal blemish of 2014 for the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team.
Instead of letting the setback fester and impact their NCAA Championship ambitions, the Fighting Irish have flipped the script in returning to the practice field this week. Working toward Friday night’s first round NCAA Championship showdown with Valparaiso at Alumni Stadium (7 p.m. ET on WatchND), Notre Dame is putting its brief ACC tournament run in the rearview mirror.
“(Florida State) was one of those games where you learn some lessons, and then you move on,” Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said following Wednesday’s team training session. “It was actually great to have a game like that entering the NCAA tournament because it’s a little wake up call again on the things that we need to do better, and things we want to keep improving upon as we move through the tournament.”
Notre Dame will officially make its 22nd consecutive NCAA Championship appearance this weekend, the second-longest active streak in the nation (33 for North Carolina, 1982-present) and the third-best string (26 for Connecticut from 1982-2007) in the history of the women’s Division I game. Along that line, Notre Dame has qualified for 12 NCAA Women’s College Cup berths, eight NCAA Championship finals, and has claimed three national championships.
For Romagnolo, Notre Dame’s rookie mentor entering her first NCAA tournament journey in just her fourth overall season as a collegiate head coach, prolonged postseason drives remain the prime objective for the Fighting Irish.
“I think it’s a testament to how great this program is, and how many great players and teams the program has been able to produce,” Romagnolo said. “It’s something that’s expected here, that we’re going to get to the tournament and we’re going to show up and perform well.
“We have a great team, and I am excited to continue to watch us improve and keep developing as we move through each stage of the tournament,” Romagnolo added.
Romagnolo is no stranger to success on the NCAA’s biggest stage, helping to guide Stanford to three consecutive College Cup berths as an assistant coach with the Cardinal from 2008-10. The crux of those teams paved the way for Stanford’s 2011 NCAA Championship victory, Romagnolo’s first season at the helm of Dartmouth.
With Notre Dame now an entire senior class removed from the program’s most recent national title victory in 2010, Romagnolo does not believe there will be extra pressure on her team to rise to the occasion during the 2014 NCAA Championship. That level of big-match intensity seems to follow the Fighting Irish every time the team steps on the field.
“I don’t think (it will be) any different than normal,” Romagnolo said. “Maybe there is the added excitement that this game means something, but we feel pressure in every game that we play. That’s what set us up for a four seed, having that pressure on ourselves to perform with every game. It’s about getting excited and up, and attacking the opportunity.”
That opportunity is simple. Notre Dame is a mere six wins away from claiming the fourth NCAA Championship title in program history. In order to reach that goal, and build that type of winning streak, the Fighting Irish are focused on the here and now while not losing sight of longer-term ambitions.
“The team is excited about the potential,” Romagnolo said. “The most important thing about the NCAA tournament is not getting ahead of yourself, maintaining our focus on Valparaiso. That’s the most important game on Friday because that’s the only game that matters. I think they get excited for the tournament, and they’ve got their sights set on what’s beyond, but at the end of the day their focus is on getting it done on Friday night.”
Tickets for Friday’s NCAA Championship first round match against Valparaiso are available by contacting the Notre Dame Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Fans also can order tickets online through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site, UND.com/tickets, or by visiting the ticket windows at Alumni Stadium on Friday night.
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.
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant