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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame women’s soccer downs Clemson 2-1 with overtime winner, look ahead to key road stretch

Notre Dame women’s soccer took home a thriller Sunday, defeating Clemson 2-1 on the back of a last-gasp winner from sophomore Eva Gaetino.

The performance was a tale of two halves for the Irish, who opened the scoring in just the 12th minute by way of a Clemson own goal. Graduate student Sammi Fisher sent in a speculative cross across the face of the goal, but before her pass could find the foot of an Irish attacker, it struck the leg of a Clemson defender and careened into the net. With the lead in hand, Notre Dame continued to press their advantage for the rest of the half. On several occasions, it looked like the Irish would expand their lead, most notably when junior Kiki Van Zanten lined up a shot from the edge of the box in the 35th minute, but her effort struck the crossbar and Notre Dame settled for a 1-0 halftime lead.

And after the break, the momentum would swing. Clemson opened the second half on the front foot, and were rewarded when Hal Hershfelt powered home a header off of a corner kick in the 52nd minute. After the equalizer, the match proved a relatively even affair. Both teams had their fair share of chances (Notre Dame’s best coming when junior Maddie Mercado managed to unleash a shot of her own off the post in the 79th minute), but come 90 minutes both teams had labored to extra time without pushing ahead. 

Come extra time, Notre Dame found their second wind. Van Zanten got a flurry of Irish attacks started with another shot that bounced off the woodwork, before Gaetino fired home the golden goal with just 3 minutes remaining with a perfectly timed diving header. Gaetino said the walk-off winner, which was her first goal of the season, left her speechless.

“I honestly don’t even know what happened — I’m pretty sure I blacked out during it,” she said. “I’m just super, super happy with how the team did.”

Coach Nate Norman said he was impressed by both the goal and the win that it sealed.

“[Clemson is] a really good team, a physical, athletic team that we’ve had trouble with in the past,” he said. “So, I think for us overcoming that was really big and the resilience that we showed to keep going. We hit the post a few times, but to keep that belief that we would get it was really good to see.”

Notre Dame will now prepare to hit the road for what’s set to be a massive next two weeks of road games against Virginia and Duke. The Irish sit atop conference standings with a perfect 6-0-0 record, but the next three games (they’ll face North Carolina after Duke) will force them to test their undefeated standing against three College Cup contenders. Norman’s side will likely be the underdog in all three matches, but if the Irish can find results in any of them it would go a long way to proving Notre Dame’s legitimacy among the upper echelons of the conference. 

Virginia and Duke will both welcome the Irish to their respective stadiums with talent aplenty. The Hoosiers boast Diana Ordonez up front, whose 10 goals put her right beside Irish forward Sammi Fisher near the top of the national leaderboard, as well as Lia Godfrey, widely considered to be one of the best sophomores in the country. The Blue Devils will have more than a few weapons for Ashley Naylor and the Irish defense to contend with as well. First-year Michelle Cooper, 2020 NWSL draftee Tess Boade and senior Mackenzie Pluck have combined for a whopping 44 points, and without a doubt will be looking to add to that total Oct. 21.

Notre Dame women’s soccer resumes play in Charlottesville against Virginia Sunday. The match will kick off at 3 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.