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What To Watch For: Virginia Tech

Oct. 20, 2016

By Joanne Norell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team will take a rare mid-week afternoon first touch Thursday when the 14th-ranked Irish meet No. 25 Virginia Tech at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Virginia.

WHAT: Match 16
WHO: No. 14 Notre Dame (10-2-3, 5-1-1 ACC) vs. No. 25 Virginia Tech (10-4-2, 2-3-2 ACC)
WHERE: Thompson Field | Blacksburg, Va.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. (ET) – Oct. 20, 2016
STATS: Live Scoring

Scouting Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech enters Thursday’s game having gone 2-0-2 over its last four matches after opening the ACC slate with three straight losses. After falling to then-No. 4 Virginia, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 7 Duke, the Hokies drew against No. 13 Clemson, defeated Syracuse and Boston College and tied Louisville. The Hokies are 10-4-2 overall on the season.

The Hokies have outscored their opponents 28-20 this season and are outshooting them 18-11 per game. They are led in scoring by Murielle Tiernan with 16 points on eight goals, while Alani Johnson comes in second with 12 points on six goals. Goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn has started 15 of the team’s 16 games, with a 1.25 goals against average to go with a .750 save percentage and four shutouts.

Last Time Out

The were once again impressive defensively en route to their 10th shutout of the season Friday, upending No. 11 North Carolina 1-0 at Alumni Stadium. In its typical fashion, Notre Dame used its disciplined style to keep possession and create its own opportunities on the offensive end. After halftime adjustments, the Irish were dominant in the second half, outshooting Carolina 12-6 in the half and netting the game-winner.

It came off the foot of freshman leading scorer Jennifer Westendorf, who created her opportunity with her physical play on her scoring chance. While looking to fly past the Tar Heels defense, Westendorf met a defender at the top of the box and was pulled down, drawing the foul just outside of the penalty area. Her free kick chance bent around the North Carolina defense and past goalkeeper Lindsay Harris, finding its home in the top right corner of the goal.

It was the first win for the Irish over North Carolina at home in series history.

The Last Time They Met

The No. 15 Irish blanked the No. 5 Hokies to close out the regular season, shutting down a high-powered Virginia Tech offense in a 3-0 win. The scoring didn’t start until late in the game, however, with the Irish netting two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the 73rd minute to take a 2-0 lead. Then-sophomore Ginny McGowan tagged her first career goal for the eventual game-winner at 72:21, while senior Anna Maria Gilbertson slotted a free kick chance over the Hokie goalkeeper following a Virginia Tech yellow card at 72:40. Gilbertson added her second goal of the night in the final minute to cap the Irish win on Senior Night.

Stacking Up

At No. 14, 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. 8 Virginia, No. 9 Florida State, No. 17 Clemson, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 25 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 is also receiving votes.

Nationally, the Irish rank in the top 10 in four defensive categories: shutouts (T-fourth, 10), save percentage (third, 0.905), shutout percentage (sixth, 0.667) and goals against average (eighth, 0.442).

Individually, freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf ranks among the top three in the ACC in shots (third, 62 shots) and shots per game (third, 4.13/gm). Senior goalkeeper Kaela Little tops the league in save percentage (0.904) and ranks fourth nationally in that category. Little is tied for first in the conference in shutouts (8) and ranks second in goals against average (0.45) and is third in saves (66) and saves per game (4.40).

— 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.