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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Irish defeat Broncos on the road for third straight win to start season

The Irish continued their hot streak with a road win over Western Michigan on Thursday evening, defeating the Broncos 2-1 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This marks the third straight win for the Irish to start the season. 

First year head coach Nate Norman brought along his Irish team to his homecoming campaign this week. Despite being a Notre Dame graduate, Norman has close ties at Western Michigan, where he was head coach for four seasons and led the Broncos to MAC titles in 2013 and 2015. Additionally, in the 2015 season, Norman was named the MAC Coach of the Year and the NSCAA Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year.

Creighton Dolezal | The Observer
Irish sophomore defender Jade Gosar winds up to clear the ball during Notre Dame’s 2-1 victory over Cincinnati on Aug. 31, 2018, at Alumni Stadium.

The victory did not come as easily for the Irish as they would have preferred, as the Broncos shot off to an early lead in the 33rd minute of the game, with a goal coming from sophomore forward Morgan Otteson. The Irish kept Broncos junior goalkeeper Maggie Rogers busy throughout the game, tallying 17 shots in addition to their nine corner kicks, forcing her to make seven saves.

This season has treated the Irish well in terms of second-half performances. All five of Notre Dame’s goals this season have come during the second half, a fact the Broncos were likely privy to heading into this matchup. Despite the early deficit, the Irish were able to find a second wind in the locker room at halftime, and graduate student defender Autumn Smithers found the back of the net with an open shot from the top center of the box. The goal tied up the game just three minutes into the second half.

While Notre Dame had a clear advantage with the production of their possessions, they lacked the energy to finish their otherwise promising possessions. Most crosses would end up getting intercepted, and the Bronco defense was locked in during the nine corner kicks their opponents took. However, the Irish were able to find the net one more time in the second half. Smithers fired from the top of the box again, splitting a defender one way and inching the ball just past Rogers diving in the opposite direction. 

Smithers has played on the back line this whole season, but when Norman called her up to play on the front she proved herself a worthy player on both sides of the ball. After her two goals, Smithers moved back to the center back position and bound the Irish defense back together. With Smithers leading the way, the Irish were able to maintain possession for the majority of the rest of the game and keeping the Broncos out of the attacking third. The Irish did give up their first goal of the season in the matchup, having shut out their opponents for the previous 210 minutes. 

The Irish head back to South Bend, looking to maintain their flawless record as they prepare to take on St. John’s on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.