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What To Watch For: Virginia

Oct. 9, 2016

By Joanne Norell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The No. 20 University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team looks to keep it’s 10-match unbeaten streak alive Sunday when the Irish welcome No. 8 Virginia to Alumni Stadium for another matchup between top Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

WHAT: Match 14WHO: No. 20 Notre Dame (9-1-3, 4-0-1 ACC) vs. No. 8 Virginia (9-2-2, 2-1-2 ACC)WHERE: Alumni Stadium | Notre Dame, Ind.WHEN: 1 p.m. (ET) – Oct. 9, 2016TELEVISION: ACC Network ExtraSTATS:TWITTER: @NDSoccerGAME NOTES

Scouting Virginia

The Cavaliers are 9-2-2 entering Sunday’s match, and 2-1-2 in the ACC. They defeated Pittsburgh 6-0 on Thursday before continuing west for their tilt with the Irish. The Cavaliers opened the ACC slate with a 2-0 win over Virginia Tech before falling to Miami 2-1, and have tied in their last two contests with Florida State (1-1, OT, suspended) and North Carolina (1-1, 2OT).

Virginia is second in the league in shots (21.08 per game), goals (36), goals per game (2.77) and third in points (101). Virginia is led in points by Alexis Shaffer with 20 (8 goals, 4 assists) and Veronica Latsko with 17 points (7 goals, 3 assists). Shaffer scored three goals Thursday against the Panthers. Goalkeeper Morgan Stearns is tied for third in the league in shutouts (6) and shutouts per game (0.46), and is third in the ACC in goals against average (0.56).

The Cavaliers are second in the nation in total goals and fifth in total points. They also rank eighth in the country in shutout percentage (0.692).

Last Time Out

The Irish proved that a great defense is the best offense Thursday as the Irish shutout the nation’s best offense in a 1-0 win over Clemson. The Irish limited the Tigers to their only shutout of the season and outshot the visitors 14-10. A Notre Dame goal on a set piece proved to be the difference, as senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted headed in a rebounding shot off a corner kick in the 70th minute to give the Irish the lead. Junior defender Monica Flores picked up an assist on the service, while junior midfielder Taylor Klawunder got the first touch on it.

The Last Time They Met

The last meeting between Notre Dame and Virginia was a double-overtime affair last season in Charlottesville, with the Irish defeating the top-ranked Cavaliers 2-1 and snapping Virginia’s 38-game home winning streak.

The Irish took the early lead against the Cavaliers as senior Anna Maria Gilbertson scored at the 12-minute mark off an assist from Sabrina Flores. Notre Dame maintained that lead until the 85th minute when they allowed the equalizer. As the game reached extra sessions, the Irish applied more pressure, firing three shots in the first 10 minutes and keeping the ball in their offensive third. They broke through in the 104th minute as Gilbertson tallied her second score of the game with a curving shot from the top right of the box in the left post, assisted by Natalie Jacobs.

Stacking Up

At No. 20, the Irish are one of six Atlantic Coast Conference teams to appear in this week’s NSCAA Division I Women’s Soccer poll, along with No. 2 Florida State, No. 8 Virginia, No. 9 Duke, No. 12 Clemson and No. 15 North Carolina. All of those teams earned seeds in the 2015 NCAA Championship, while Boston College and Virginia Tech also earned bids to round out ACC representation. Virginia Tech, NC State and Boston College are all receiving votes.

The Irish currently sit atop the ACC standings, tied with Duke with a 4-0-1 conference record. The Irish are second in the conference in goals allowed (6), goals against average (0.43), saves (60) and are tied for the league lead with Florida State and Virginia with nine shutouts.

Nationally, the Irish rank in the top 10 in three defensive categories: shutouts (T-second, 9), save percentage (seventh, 0.900) and goals against average (10th, 0.468). Individually, freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf ranks among the top four in the ACC in shots (third, 53 shots) and shots per game (third, 4.08/gm). Senior goalkeeper Kaela Little tops the league in save percentage (.908) and solo shutouts (7) and is second in goals against average (0.45). saves (59), saves per game (4.54) and shutouts per game (0.54)

The Perfect SEGway

Sunday’s game against Virginia will serve as Notre Dame’s annual community service game, benefitting the SEGway Project. Standing for Soccer Empowing Girls Worldwide & You, the SEGway project was founded by Notre Dame women’s soccer alumna Lindsay Brown (’12), using soccer to empower girls in the developing world and helping them fulfill their potential on and off the field.

Brown founded the SEGway Project after a 2011 trip to Surkhet, Nepal, to visit the girls of the Kopila Valley School. After witnessing the transformative role of soccer in the lives of the girls, Brown set out to change the taboos surrounding girls playing sports in the region to show their power to teach girls to be competitive, to gain self-confidence and to acquire the life skills to be leaders.

— 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.