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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame Women’s Soccer close out of conference slate with 2-1 defeat of Brown

On Sunday, the Notre Dame women’s soccer team finished their out-of-conference schedule with a 2-1 win over Brown, officially ending their first stage of the season with a 6-1-1 record.

Both goals came, in some form, via a combination of junior Kati Druzina and graduate student Sammi Fisher. In the 67th minute, Druzina fired in a cross from the wing, which Fisher cleverly allowed by her with a dummy, allowing senior midfielder Brooke VanDyck to get her foot on Druzina’s delivery and fire past Brown goalkeeper Kayla Thompson. Just ten minutes later, another Druzina cross would put the Irish ahead for good, as the forward out of Kirtland, Ohio beat a defender, raced to the endline, and put in a pinpoint ball across goal that midfielder Fisher hammered home.

“She’s a tireless worker defensively, but you can also get her out wide in the attacking half — she’s a great 1v1 player,” said head coach Nate Norman on Druzina, who became the first Notre Dame player to record multiple assists in a game this season. “She’s got a great sense about her, knowing how to weight a pass when she hits those crosses, she picks people out, she knows when to cut balls back. She was fantastic today.”

Brown did everything in its power to make sure that Druzina and Notre Dame wouldn’t head home victorious, though. The Bears opened the scoring in just the 14th minute by way of an Evelyn Calhoon header, who beat Irish sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Naylor to a flicked-on long throw-in and lofted the ball into an empty net. The Bears would have several more chances to extend their lead in the first half and a couple more to equalize in the final minutes; but in the end, the final touch didn’t materialize and the away side left disappointed.

Norman was impressed by the Bears’ play and remarked on how they might help his side prepare for some of the ACC’s best.

“That was a tough, tough team,” Norman said. “I was proud of us that we went down a goal early and were able to roll up our sleeves and get back into it … Brown replicates a lot of what the Dukes, the UNCs, bring — they play with physicality, they’re looking to press and create on set pieces, and I think we’ll learn some lessons from today, which is great. You always want to learn some lessons when you win. But I think we can be pretty proud that we beat a really good team today, and I think they’ll go on to have a really good season.”

The win wasn’t without tribulation for Notre Dame, however. The team lost two starters in senior fullback Brianna Martinez and centerback Eva Wirtz to injuries during the match. While Norman mentioned he didn’t expect the two setbacks to be long term, it did speak to the team’s depth that a pair of rotational players in freshman defenders Kaylie Ronan and Katie Coyle were able to play the bulk of the match and look fully comfortable among the team’s traditional starting core.

Earning the start today, Naylor was given a big opportunity to prove herself as the team’s No. 1 goalie by Norman, who now has given both his sophomore keepers (Naylor and Kaylin Slattery) chances to stake a claim as now-injured starter Mattie Interian’s replacement. Though at times her inexperience showed, the Manhattan Beach, California native Naylor made multiple pivotal saves to close out the game, most notably standing tall and parrying away a one-on-one when Brown came forward immediately after Notre Dame took the lead.

The Irish will look to extend their winning streak to three games on Saturday night when their first ACC opponent of the season, Syracuse, comes to town. The game can be found on the ACC Network or can be watched live at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m. ET.