KALAMAZOO, Michigan — The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team trailed for the first time in 2019 but used a second-half comeback to defeat the Western Michigan Broncos 2-1 Thursday night at the WMU Soccer Complex.
After conceding their first goal of the season, the Irish (3-0) trailed 1-0 at halftime even though they got into some dangerous areas in the opening 45 minutes. Head coach Nate Norman decided to switch things up in the second half and they proved to be the difference. Norman moved Autumn Smithers, primarily a center back, up to center forward after halftime and she responded with her second career brace to lift the Irish to the road win over the Broncos (0-2).
“I was a little disappointed at first because Nate was reading the lineup and I thought I was on the bench until he called me for center forward,” said Smithers. “It was the first time I have played that far up and I was very excited. I wanted to work hard and get some shots off and I was happy to come away with the goals to help our team win.”
Smithers scored the first goal in the 49th minute of the second half to level the score and then tallied the game-winner in the 76th minute. She is the third Irish player this season to record a brace after Eva Hurm and Luisa Delgado both scored twice in the recent win over Northwestern.
“I was proud of the resilience our team had in the second half,” said Norman. “It was a tough atmosphere for our first road game of the season and we fell behind in the first half. The team kept fighting in the second half and I was happy to come away with the win.”
How it Happened
Not much action occurred in the opening 30 minutes of the first half as possession flipped between both teams primarily in the midfield. The Irish had a strong chance in the 16th minute when a deflection in the box came out to Maddie Mercado and she took her chance at goal. Mercado’s shot had a ton of pace but the keeper made a fantastic save to keep the score level.
Western Michigan broke through in the 33rd minute after a strong play in the midfield to start the play. The Broncos played a ball into the box and Morgan Otteson gathered the deflection, took a touch and fired a shot just inside the far post for the goal.
In the second half, things started to change for the Irish after a halftime adjustment from Norman. Smithers moved from her usual center back position to center forward and it paid dividends in the opening moments of the second half.
Sammi Fisher brought the ball into the attacking third and laid it off for Smithers at the top of the box. She quickly turned and tucked her shot inside the far post and past the keeper for the equalizer in the 49th minute.
The lineup adjustments led to more possession for the Irish in the second half and in the final 20 minutes, Norman’s change made a difference once again.
Brooke VanDyck led the Irish into the attacking third with a run up the left side and lofted a ball towards the top of the box where Smithers was waiting. She took a quick touch with her left foot to get some separation from the defender and hit her shot low back to the left side outside of the keeper’s reach and into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal.
Following the second goal, Smithers shifted back to center back and anchored the Irish defense once again. The Irish kept possession over the last 15 minutes and did not allow the Broncos an opportunity to tie en route to their third-straight win and first road win of the season.
Stats of the Match
- The Irish begin the season 3-0 for the second straight season after the 2-1 win at Western Michigan.
- Notre Dame has scored seven goals in three games and all of them have come in the second half.
Coming Up Next
The Irish head back to campus to finish the weekend off with a home matchup against St. John’s. The former BIG EAST foes will square off Sunday night at Alumni Stadium. First touch is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.