After falling 1-0 to No. 3 UCLA in their first loss of the season, the No. 8 Irish will return to action Sunday to face off in a night contest against Detroit.
The week of practices between the two Sunday matches allowed the team to fine-tune fundamentals that were not as sharp as they need to be, Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. He also said the upcoming one-game weekend came at just the right moment, as Notre Dame (3-1-0) looks to regroup from its loss.
"You've got an extra day of training, you know, not having two games in the weekend," Waldrum said. "So the extra days will help - certainly came at a good time."
The Irish struggled offensively against the Bruins on Sunday, recording only one shot in the entire 90 minutes. Waldrum said in response to those shortcomings his squad worked on rebuilding the chemistry between the midfielders, anchored by starters Mandy Laddish, a senior, sophomore CariRoccaro and freshman Morgan Andrews.
It also worked to rebuild chemistry between that group and the rest of the players on the pitch.
"I think everything revolves still around our midfield, and I thought we just didn't have enough of a connection in there Sunday with those three ... [who] have to be very good in pulling the other players into the game," he said. "So we really spent a lot of time with that [Wednesday] and we'll spend some time on it this week."
The midfield will need to be strong against the Titans (1-2-1), who come to Alumni Stadium backed by the play of goalkeeper Martha Dunbar. After a strong, eight-save performance against San Francisco this weekend, the sophomore was named Horizon League Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week.
The match against Detroit represents the final chance for Notre Dame to face a nonconference opponent this season, as the conference season begins against North Carolina State on Sept. 12 in Raleigh, N.C. Waldrum said taking the match against the Titans will be crucial for his team's confidence heading into a tough ACC schedule and for its chances of making it to postseason play.
"[The match is] really important for a couple reasons," he said. "One is continuing to keep the kids confident. ... Anytime you play a good team [like UCLA], there's a risk of losing the game, so it's important to get another win to keep the confidence that we've built in these first four games already. And the other part is the RPI. You need to keep winning the games you're supposed to win and then win some of those big games you have in front of you."
Before the Irish set their sights on those big game opponents, they must focus on their latest challenge against Detroit, which begins Sunday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.
Contact Mary Green at firstname.lastname@example.org