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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame women's soccer downs Clemson 2-0, earns ACC Tournament bye

The Notre Dame women's soccer team celebrates a goal during a 3-1 defeat of Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium on Sep. 15, 2023.

Notre Dame women’s soccer picked up an important win Thursday night, downing Clemson 2-0 at Alumni Stadium in their regular season finale. The victory pushed the Irish to second in the final ACC standings, earning them a bye in the upcoming conference tournament.

It didn’t take long for Notre Dame to get going in the primetime matchup on ACC Network. The Irish pressed aggressively from kickoff, and succeeded in the game's opening stages at pinning Clemson back in their own half. And just over 10 minutes after kickoff, Notre Dame found a breakthrough.

Sophomore wingback Leah Klenke found a pocket of space on the edge of the box and floated a cross into the box. The searching ball found the head of graduate student forward Maddie Mercado, who redirected it into the back of the net.

The Irish took further control of the match in the second half. Junior midfielder Sophia Fisher rose to meet freshman wingback Morgan Roy’s corner kick, powering home Notre Dame’s second goal of the game. The two-goal lead didn’t put the game out of reach for good, but it calmed any remaining nerves at Alumni Stadium as the Irish closed out the contest.

Notre Dame’s defense put forth a stalwart performance on the night, limiting Clemson’s attack to just two shots on target. It was the first time since opening night the Tigers' offense couldn't find the back of the net in a match.

After the game, Irish head coach Nate Norman was full of praise for his team’s effort.

“I think this was our best performance of the season,” said Norman. “I think it’s a buildup over the course of the season. We learn lessons about ourselves and about who we can be … I was just really proud that we were able to work as hard as we did to be that effective.”

Norman gave credit to the cohesiveness his squad has developed over the course of the season, particularly its development in responding to negative results.

“I just think we’re more together. We know what we are,” Norman said. “We have a better identity. I think some of the pieces from a personnel standpoint are fitting a little bit better with us being a pressing team … We always say going into the season, adversity is going to hit, conflict is going to hit, you’re going to have a tough loss. I feel like we’ve grown from every single hiccup or bump that we’ve had and I feel like we’ve gotten better for it.”

Notre Dame will now enjoy a critical day off over the weekend before packing their bags for Cary, North Carolina, to play in the ACC Tournament semifinals next Thursday. The Irish will face the winner of Sunday’s Wake Forest-Clemson game for a chance to play for what would be the program’s first-ever ACC Tournament title.

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