Sept. 26, 2014
BLACKSBURG, Va. – Heart, determination, the will to win. Each of these traits have described the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team at various points during the 2014 season. On Thursday night at Thompson Field against No. 2/3 Virginia Tech, the Fighting Irish put forth the very fight that adorns their nickname with a 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) triumph.
After a back-and-forth struggle throughout the first half, Notre Dame broke the match wide open over a 10-minute stretch in the second frame. A great steal and assist by senior forward Karin Simonian (Westbury, New York/W.T. Clarke) as Virginia Tech tried to work the ball out of its own zone, and a perfect through ball toward junior striker Anna Maria Gilbertson (Davis, California/Davis) found Gilbertson in stride just inside the 18-yard box. Some nifty footwork from Gilbertson settled the service before she blasted a right-footed attempt past Virginia Tech goalkeeper Caroline Kelley for the match’s first goal in the 62nd minute.
It was clear that Notre Dame had left nearly everything on the field last weekend during a hard-fought ACC tussle with North Carolina at Alumni Stadium, but there seemed to be no lingering effects from that match on Thursday. In fact, due to the variation in formation from the Tar Heels to the Hokies, Gilbertson felt she and her teammates were able to adapt to what they saw on the pitch to translate within Notre Dame’s playing philosophy.
“It was a completely different game because the style Virginia Tech plays is completely different from how North Carolina plays,” Gilbertson said. “(Virginia Tech) squeezes a lot tighter and has a completely different formation, so there were a lot of different seams that we played through. I thought we took advantage of that and used our speed up top, because we are pretty fast up there. That helped us a lot.”
Notre Dame, after all, had plenty of incentive to earn a result in the match. Virginia Tech earned a 1-0 win during conference play last Oct. 13 before bouncing the Fighting Irish 2-1 in double overtime in an ACC quarterfinal match at Thompson Field in 2013. Knocking the highly rated Hokies off at home, and in the process ending their impressive 10-0 start, was not something the Notre Dame players took lightly.
“It meant everything, and it was awesome (to do that),” Gilbertson said. “I am so proud of our team, and I thought we played incredibly. It really meant the world to us. We are determined to win every game, that’s our team motto. I think we came here to win and we did it, so we are very proud of ourselves.”
Notre Dame essentially put the match away in the 70th minute, when sophomore forward Kaleigh Olmsted (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) notched her first goal of the season by finishing a tremendous pass up the channel from senior defender Taylor Schneider (Southlake, Texas/Carroll Senior).
Virginia Tech’s closest match of the season prior to Thursday’s defeat was a 2-0 win last weekend over nationally-ranked Clemson in the ACC opener for both teams. Allowing two goals in 10 minutes forced the Hokies to play on their collective heels for the first time in 2014.
“They changed systems in the second half, so Virginia Tech had more numbers in the attack,” Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “What you saw, too, was that we had a few countering opportunities to maybe score a third or fourth goal if we found the right numbers in the box. When they send numbers, they definitely will have more chances.
“What I will say about our team is it’s a group that works hard,” Romagnolo added. “They try to get better every day, and they are enjoyable to work with.”
Notre Dame squared the all-time series with Virginia Tech at 2-2 with the conference win, but past series history had little to no effect on the Fighting Irish game plan. Romagnolo said she did not even watch any film of last year’s meetings between the teams during preparation for Thursday night.
“I actually didn’t (watch last year’s film), I was watching Virginia Tech from this year,” Romagnolo said. “They are a bit different and we talked about the system we thought would be successful against them. I felt we did a great job of keeping the ball.”
Notre Dame and Wake Forest close a weekend two-game road trip for the Fighting Irish on Sunday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The match is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (ET) start at Spry Stadium.
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.
— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant