Oct. 14, 2016

By Joanne Norell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team looks to get back into the win column Friday when the No. 20 Irish welcome No. 11 North Carolina to Alumni Stadium in a clash of the nation’s most storied Division I women’s soccer programs.

WHAT: Match 15
WHO: No. 20 Notre Dame (9-2-3, 4-1-1 ACC) vs. No. 11 North Carolina (8-2-3, 3-1-2 ACC)
WHERE: Alumni Stadium | Notre Dame, Ind.
WHEN: 7 p.m. (ET) – Oct. 14, 2016

Scouting North Carolina

North Carolina enters Friday’s match-up tied for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Virginia, Clemson and Florida State. At 8-2-3 overall and 3-1-2 in ACC play, the Tar Heels rank at No. 11 in the national coaches’ poll.

The Tar Heels dropped their conference opener to NC State 1-0 on September 16, but are 3-0-2 in games since, including wins over Miami (3-1) and Wake Forest (2-1) last weekend. North Carolina tied Duke earlier this season in a non-conference matchup in the Duke Nike Classic. UNC’s biggest win this season came on September 9 in a 2-1 victory over then-No. 9 and current No. 14 UCLA.

North Carolina is led in scoring by Bridgette Andrzejewski with 13 points (six goals, one assist) and Annie Kingman with 12 points (four goals, four assists). Goalkeeper Lindsay Harris has logged nearly 1,200 minutes in goal this season and boasts a 0.83 goals against average (sixth in ACC) and an .820 saves percentage (third in ACC). Harris also ranks fifth in the conference in saves per game (3.85).

North Carolina is missing five of last year’s starters due to graduation, plus another four likely starters are redshirting this season for national team duties and injury reasons.

Last Time Out

The Irish split a pair of weekend matchups last week, picking up a critical 1-0 victory over No. 12 Clemson on Thursday before falling by the same score to No. 8 Virginia on Sunday.

Notre Dame shut down the vaunted Clemson offense Thursday, limiting the nation’s second-most efficient offense to 10 shots, while goalkeeper Kaela Little stopped all six chances on goal. In playing possession soccer, the defense-minded Irish outshot the Tigers by four and capitalized on its set play opportunities. Notre Dame finally broke through in the 70th minute on a corner kick try as senior Kaleigh Olmsted headed home a rebound off a Taylor Klawunder header on Monica Flores’ service. The goal proved to be the game-winner.

On Sunday, the difference came on a Virginia penalty kick opportunity in the 60th minute, converted by Cavalier leading scorer Alexis Shaffer.

The Last Time They Met

The No. 15 Irish went into Chapel Hill last season looking for an upset, taking an early lead on the No. 9 Tar Heels, but North Carolina tallied two unanswered goals to avoid its first four-game losing streak.

Sabrina Flores scored just 97 seconds into the second half, darting behind the Tar Heel defense to poke in a cross at the six yard mark from Sandra Yu. Flores led all players with a career high six shots, including three shots on goal.

North Carolina evened things in the 71st minute on a penalty kick by Alexa Newfield. The Tar Heels took the lead less than four minutes later as Joanna Boyles headed in a goal off a free kick opportunity. UNC outshot Notre Dame 17-10, though the Irish owned a 6-5 advantage in shots on goal.

The Best There’s Been

North Carolina and Notre Dame represent two of the nation’s most successful women’s soccer programs. The Tar Heels’ 21 title and three runner-up appearances are a national best, while the Irish own the second-most titles with three NCAA championships, and are a five-time runner-up. North Carolina owns a 16-6-1 advantage in the head-to-head series, though the Irish defeated the Tar Heels in the College Cup semifinal en route to their last national title in 2010.

Stacking Up

At No. 20, the Irish are one of seven Atlantic Coast Conference teams to appear in this week’s NSCAA Division I Women’s Soccer poll, along with No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Virginia, No. 9 Florida State, No. 11 North Carolina, No. 18 Clemson and No. 24 Virginia Tech. All of those teams earned seeds in the 2015 NCAA Championship, while Boston College also earned a bid to round out ACC representation. NC State and Boston College are also receiving votes.

Nationally, the Irish rank in the top 10 in four defensive categories: shutouts (T-third, 9), save percentage (fourth, 0.899), shutout percentage (eighth, 0.643) and goals against average (ninth, 0.472).

Individually, freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf ranks among the top three in the ACC in shots (third, 56 shots) and shots per game (third, 4.00/gm). Senior goalkeeper Kaela Little tops the league and is sixth in the country in save percentage (0.897). Little is also tied for first in the conference in shutouts (7). She ranks second in goals against average (0.48) and is third in saves (61) and saves per game (4.36).

— ND —

Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, and earned her master’s degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.