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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame Women's Soccer: Notre Dame thrives in second half

At halftime of last Friday's contest against No. 6 West Virginia, No. 1 Notre Dame trailed 1-0 and had seen most of the game played in front of its own net.

As the team went to the locker room, however, coach Randy Waldrum knew what needed to be changed. He told sophomore forward Brittany Bock to look for the ball early in Irish counterattacks and distribute from the middle of the field.

The adjustment worked like a charm, allowing Notre Dame to outshoot the Mountaineers 19-3 and score three goals in the second half en route to a 3-1 victory.

The second half dominance was nothing new for the Irish (11-0, 4-0 Big East), who have outscored opponents 28-0 after the break this year.

The lopsided differential after halftime has been especially crucial because Notre Dame has only led four of its 11 games at the half.

"We always seem to have a slow start, but then we go into the locker room and come out better," forward Kerri Hanks said after Friday's win.

The Irish have recovered from halftime deficits in three of their wins - against West Virginia, No. 3 Santa Clara and Ole Miss. Those are also the only games in which Notre Dame has allowed a goal.

While major halftime adjustments have allowed the Irish to come back in games they've trailed, smaller changes have allowed them to pull away. During Sunday's 5-0 home win over Pittsburgh, Notre Dame found the back of the net four times in the second half.

"The only thing we addressed [at halftime] was being more efficient in the final third," Waldrum said Sunday. "I thought [in] the first half we created enough chances - we just missed some opportunities on net."

The coach said his players are committed to being able be on the field for the full 90 minutes, but also credits Notre Dame's depth for its success this season, including against the Panthers. Waldrum was able to rest starters who had played most of the game two days earlier against West Virginia without missing a beat.

"I think you probably saw [the conditioning] more Friday night," Waldrum said after Sunday's victory. "I think today we were able to run so many people in there. I didn't sub that much on Friday. We've always kind of prided ourselves on being the most fit team in the country. Whether we are or not, I don't know, but we work really hard at our fitness level and the kids are very committed to that.

"I think in big games you start to see some separation at the end with those guys."

Waldrum also said experienced Irish seniors like defender Kim Lorenzen and midfielder Jill Krivacek keep Notre Dame's younger players focused late in close games.

"Our senior group has played in a lot of close games, a lot of wars," Waldrum said. "They know what to do when things are tight."

While Notre Dame's conditioning, attitude and coaching adjustments have allowed it to pull games out in the second half, Waldrum said he would prefer the team to fire on all cylinders right out of the gate.

"It's not intentional to score all these goals in the second half," he said. "We'd be up 3-0 after the first five minutes if I had my way."

Notre Dame next plays Friday and Sunday at home against Seton Hall and Rutgers.