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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Irish set to face Omaha, begin College Cup run

This Saturday Notre Dame women’s soccer will look to start their run to the College Cup when they welcome Omaha to Alumni Stadium.

The Mavericks present an interesting opening foe for the Irish in their quest for a title. Hailing from the Summit League, their championship performance (a 0-0 draw against Oral Roberts decided by penalties) certainly doesn’t pop off the page as a team that would stun one of the four #1 overall seeds in the tournament. But what does catch the eye on their resume is their willingness to test themselves against power five opposition in non-conference matchups.

Over the course of nine non-conference matchups to start the season, Omaha faced off against five power five opponents. And while the results weren’t stellar (posting a 0-4-1 mark), the Mavericks did show some solid signs. In their season opener, Omaha actually took an early lead against Oklahoma State, but a second-half comeback brought the Cowgirls to victory. The Mavericks also drew Missouri, before ending their power five swing on a three-game losing streak to Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa State.

Notable in those five games was Omaha’s solid defense. According to InStat, against Oklahoma State and Missouri, Omaha held their opposition to less than one xG (expected goals) for the match.  Against Iowa State, despite the gaudy 4-1 scoreline, the Mavericks held the Cyclones to just 1.56 xG.

Quality defense has been a theme for this Omaha team in the postseason. During their three-game run in the Summit League conference tournament, the Mavericks didn’t concede a single goal. The run included an upset over second-seeded South Dakota State. The win was notable due to the fact that the regular season contest between Omaha and South Dakota State ended in a 3-0 rout for the Jackrabbits.

Against the Irish, expect Marissa Gohr to be pulling the strings in the Maverick attack. According to InStat, the redshirt sophomore leads the team in both chances created as well as key passes. She’s also one of five different Omaha players tied for second on the team with goals scored with two.

Emilie Erland leads the Mavericks in goals. Her third goal of the season helped her squad claim victory over North Dakota in the Summit League quarterfinals. The midfielder can progress the ball as well, as she’s one of the best dribblers on the team in terms of both volume and efficiency. 

For Notre Dame, the gameplan remains simple- play through sophomore standout midfielder Korbin Albert. Albert has been unconscious over the course of the back half of the season so far, exploding for 11 goals in the squad’s final eight games. The most impressive of her performances was the most recent —a hattrick against Florida State in the ACC semi-final — in which Albert produced all three Irish goals in a 3-3 draw with long-distance strikes.

How Omaha is able to contain Albert, both as a goal scorer and a chance creator will likely dictate the competitiveness of the game. If they’re able to key in on the sophomore and force Notre Dame to run their offense through other means, the Mavericks stand a chance of eking out another close win or their second straight penalty shootout. If Albert is able to break free and pull the strings for the Irish attack, it figures to be a long day for the Summit League champs.

Notre Dame will take on Omaha at 2 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Stadium in South Bend. The match will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.