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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Gilbertson carries Irish into postseason play

After losing last year’s top two offensive weapons, the Irish were looking for someone to step up this season.

Enter Anna Maria Gilbertson.

The senior forward was coming off three straight seasons in which she saw moderate playing time. She made made the most of it though, scoring five goals in 2012 and four goals in both 2013 and 2014. But for the first time, she finds herself with a regular spot at the top of Notre Dame’s attack. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she couldn’t be happier with the results.

“She’s having a great year for us,” Romagnolo said. “It’s been fun for me to watch her develop. She’s really put the team on her back at times this year and been a great leader for our offense.”

Gilbertson has been a force for the No. 10 Irish (13-4-1, 6-4-0 ACC) this season, leading the team with 11 goals scored and 94 shots. Romagnolo said she’s the special type of player who can do it all on the offensive end.

“She has great speed and great skill,” Romagnolo said. “She’s a goal scorer. She’s had great passes to contribute to our offense as well.”

Irish senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson battles defenders for the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 27.
EMMET FARNAN | The Observer
Irish senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson battles defenders for the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 27.

Wreaking havoc on opposing defenses has always been well within Gilbertson's abilities. However, the difference this year for her and her production has simply been convincing herself to believe it, Gilbertson said.

“I would say it’s mostly been stepping up with my confidence, and, as a senior, feeling more leadership and carrying the team on my back a little bit,” Gilbertson said. “Having that confidence and knowing that I am good enough to be out there, that just carries forward as I continue to play.”

While she has played a leadership role for the Irish attack this year, Gilbertson does not take full credit for the offense’s success. Rather, it’s the offensive chemistry that has provided her the opportunity to produce at a high level, Gilbertson said.

“Our chemistry this year is great,” Gilbertson said. “We all are working together really well. Our midfield and our forwards are linking up very well, and we’re finding the right gaps. We make more efficient opportunities for ourselves and that’s helping us a lot.”

With the success that the Irish have found on that end, the leadership role Gilbertson has taken on is something she said she prides herself.

“It’s meant a lot to me,” Gilbertson said. “I want to help the team in any way that I can and make sure that we’re getting as far as possible in the NCAA tournament.”

And she firmly believes the possibility of a national championship is well within No. 3-seeded Notre Dame’s reach.

“I think that we can make the national championship and win a natty 100 percent,” Gilbertson said. “Our team is fantastic this year. We have incredible talent and incredible chemistry.”

Now in the postseason of her senior year, Gilbertson’s college career will soon be coming to a close. When all said and done, Gilbertson said she will never forget what her time with the program has meant to her.

“It’s meant the world to me,” Gilbertson said. “Playing soccer here at the University of Notre Dame has been a dream. I can’t even express how much it’s helped me just grow as a person.

“When I got here I was very shy and didn’t really have much confidence or belief in myself. As I started to play more and more and had coaches help me grow and teach me as a player and person, I’ve learned a lot about myself, like that I’m good at soccer and confident in myself. I’m more outgoing and express myself more. It’s done a lot for me.”

Gilbertson and the Irish take to the pitch Friday when they host Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Championships at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.