Junior forward Kaleigh Olmsted provided the heroics for the Irish last season against Valparaiso in the first round of the NCAA Championship. Her goal in the 89th minute lifted the Irish to a 1-0 victory to advance to the second round.

What To Watch For: Valparaiso

Aug. 21, 2015

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team will kick off its season at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight against Valparaiso at Alumni Stadium. The No. 9/8 Fighting Irish return a truckload of talent and experience from last season’s NCAA Championship third-round squad, which head coach Theresa Romagnolo hopes translates into the program’s 13th NCAA College Cup berth in 2015.

WHAT: Match 1
WHO: No. 9/8 Notre Dame (0-0-0) vs. Valparaiso (0-0-0)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. ET, August 21, 2015
TV: Live Stream on WatchND.tv

With a new season comes a new set of challenges and expectations. Here are five things you need to know as the Irish kick off the season this evening:

FRESH IN THEIR MIND: For the first time in nine seasons, the Fighting Irish will not open the regular season with a Big Ten opponent. They will instead meet reigning Horizon League champion Valparaiso, which will return eight starters from a team that won a school record 14 matches in 2014. Last season, the Crusaders earned their second NCAA Tournament berth, where they fell to the Irish in their first-round contest after a goal from Kaleigh Olmsted in the 89th minute gave Notre Dame a 1-0 victory.

Senior midfielder Rita Craven became the first All-American in Valpo program history last season after registering 13 points on five goals and three assists. Four of Craven’s five goals were game-winners, and the talented mid was named Horizon League Player of the Year.

Junior forward April Cronin paced Valpo with nine goals and 20 points during her sophomore season season en route to earning first team all-league honors.

Junior goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley will return after a season in which she set single-season program records goals against average (0.43), shutouts (12) and wins (14). She also ranked fourth nationally in save percentage (.885) and GAA.

THE GOLDEN (DOME) STANDARD: Notre Dame enters its 28th season of varsity competition in 2015. The Fighting Irish have a 506-102-30 (.817) all-time record with 22 NCAA Championship appearances, including 12 trips to the Women’s College Cup, eight berths in the NCAA title match and three national championships (second-most in NCAA Division I history).

In their history, the Fighting Irish have developed four Hermann Trophy winners and 51 All-Americans, including 19 first-team selections.

BEST OF THE BEST: Senior midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro was named to the Missouri Athletic Club’s (MAC) Hermann Trophy Watch List for the third straight season earlier this month. Notre Dame has had four Hermann Trophy winners in the award’s 27-year history, the second-most among all NCAA Division I teams.

Both Roccaro and senior defender Katie Naughton have been selected for All-ACC consideration this preseason. Roccaro, a two-time All-ACC First Team designee was once again picked for the conference’s top squad, while Naughton got the nod for the second team after earning a second team honor last season. Both were also selected for TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI teams.

OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Notre Dame holds a 23-3-1 (.865) record in season openers, including a 14-1-1 (.906) record on the road. In addition, the Fighting Irish have carried a 13-2-1 (.833) mark in season openers since 1999, outscoring the opposition by a 69-11 margin in those 15 matches (29-3 in the past nine matches).

Notre Dame has only lost once in its last 14 season openers since dropping Randy Waldrum’s debut match with the Fighting Irish on Sept. 3, 1999 (a 3-2 double overtime setback to No. 1 North Carolina at old Alumni Field), when Wisconsin earned a 1-0 victory on Aug. 17, 2012 in Madison.

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Fighting Irish were selected to finish fourth in the ACC according to a preseason vote of the 14 conference head coaches that was released on August 13. Notre Dame finished fourth (7-2-1) in the ACC during its second season as a conference member in 2014.

Season and single game tickets for Notre Dame women’s soccer are on sale now. Visit und.com/tickets or call the Murnane Family Ticket Office at 574-631-7356.

For the latest Irish women’s soccer coverage, be sure log on to UND.com, follow @NDSoccer on Twitter and like Notre Dame Women’s Soccer on Facebook.

Joanne Norell, Athletics Communications Assistant