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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Irish prepare for key matchup with Blue Devils

The Notre Dame women’s soccer team takes on Duke this Thursday in their final regular season game. There is a lot on the line for both teams. Currently ranked fourth in the country and sitting in a three-way tie atop the ACC standings, the Irish are looking for their seventh consecutive win and a number-one seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Blue Devils, who are fourth in the ACC standings and eleventh in the country, are seeking an outside chance at the one-seed as well.

The game against Duke comes after an impressive series of wins for the Irish. After going 1-2 at the beginning of conference play, the Irish finally hit their stride and won their next six conference games. Notre Dame’s offense has relied on a balanced scoring effort in their recent wins: at least two players scored in five of Notre Dame’s past six wins.

Forwards Olivia Wingate and Kiki Van Zanten and midfielders Korbin Albert and Maddie Mercado in particular have led Notre Dame’s offensive efforts recently. Wingate is currently leading the Irish with 11 goals and 5 assists. Perhaps more even important to Notre Dame’s
recent success is the team's defense: the Irish have not given up a goal since their 3-1 loss to Pitt over a month ago. In fact, they
have only given up eight goals the entire season. This places the Irish ninth in the country in goals-against. This elite defense
combined with a balanced offense makes the Irish prepared to defeat almost any opponent.

By comparison, Duke is only 3-2-1 in their past six games. Most notably, the Blue Devils recently lost 1-5 to then-No. 4 Florida
State, whom Notre Dame beat 4-0. Duke also has a far less effective defense than Notre Dame. Duke has allowed sixteen goals this
season to Notre Dame’s eight.

However, Duke is no easy opponent. A nationally ranked team themselves, the Blue Devils have proven that they too
can compete against the very best. Though they’re coming off a difficult stretch, the Blue Devils have maintained an 11-4-1
record against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Additionally, Duke has won two of its past three matchups against Notre Dame. They most recently beat Notre Dame 1-0 in overtime last year.

Duke’s team also includes three of last year’s All-ACC Women’s Soccer Team awardees, including former ACC Freshman of the Year Michelle Cooper. This matchup will pit the two top scores in the ACC against each other: Wingate and Cooper have each scored eleven goals this season. Notre Dame’s more well-rounded scoring crew may give the Irish an advantage in this matchup.

This key final regular-season game kicks off at 8:00 p.m. at Alumni Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.