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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Eno Nto emerging at the right time for Irish

Irish junior forward Eno Nto (left) jockeys for positioning during Notre Dame's match against Boston College at Alumni Stadium on Sep. 30, 2022.

Through his first two years at Notre Dame, junior forward Eno Nto has climbed the ranks of a talented Irish squad. As a freshman, he earned 12 starts and played in 19 matches as both a midfielder and a forward for a team that won the ACC tournament and was a penalty shootout away from the College Cup final. He finished that season with five goals, ranking fourth on the team, which included one in his starting debut against NIU and three for his first career hat trick against Trine. In his sophomore season, Nto played in all 17 matches, notching two goals and three assists. 

In his junior season, his best in an Irish shirt, Nto has played in all 16 matches and scored ten goals, which is tied for a team-high. He has been especially prolific of late, scoring eight goals in his last eight matches. These included pivotal goals in massive ACC victories over Virginia and NC State, with the highlight performance coming against No. 20 Pittsburgh. Nto scored four times in a breathtaking 6-0 victory for the Irish, helping to seal the one seed in the ACC Tournament. His contributions have him tied for the second-leading goal scorer in the ACC and have led Notre Dame to its first undefeated ACC season.

The road to this point has come with ups and downs, but Nto is hitting his stride after years of hard work and improvement through adversity. Hailing from Derby, England, Nto showcased his talents at Derby County FC Academy. There he helped lead his club to a U18 Premier League Championship and was a 2019 Academy Player of the Year Nominee. Despite this success, Nto decided to search for a new opportunity in the U.S., one that would provide a stronger balance between academics and athletics.

“In the U.K. and Europe in general, you kind of have to choose between sport and education at a young age,” Nto said. “I wanted to look for other pathways that would allow me to extend my experience on an academic level.”

Nto learned about Notre Dame and its culture after the Irish played Derby County in the final match of their U.K. tour. With this opportunity to make the transition to America, Nto decided to apply and has not looked back. Upon joining the Notre Dame community, he had to adapt to college life in a new country, which came with its challenges both on and off the field. But the team and Notre Dame community were prepared to welcome him with open arms. 

“Moving to America is a huge, huge difference," Nto said. "I really feel like the team, having a family around me really helped me settle in early. Definitely, I feel like this is my home right now." 

He notes the mentorship he received from fellow international student and captain of the 2021 team Mohamed Omar. Nto described him as an older brother who shared valuable advice with him, particularly about making the transition to college life in the U.S. Nto remains in contact with him to this day and aspires to follow in his footsteps. Now as a junior himself, Nto steps into a similar leadership position.

“I feel like it’s just taking the experiences that I’ve been given and passing them on to the younger guys on the team just so they can feel more welcome and feel like this is their home as well," Nto said. "I’ve shared a lot of tough moments as well as good moments, so I feel like I’ve definitely got some experiences to share with the young guys. I take that as a challenge for myself to lead the young guys through their tough spells too.” 

Nto has grown into a more consistent starting role this season. He attributes much of this growth on the field to the support he received from his teammates and the coaching staff, particularly learning during his freshman year on the immensely successful 2021 team. After his brilliant performance against Pittsburgh, he mentioned the work that he put in alongside this group. 

“I feel like, for me, it was just a matter of time — just having that belief that the goals will come as long as I put the work into other areas of my game," Nto said. “In my first year, we had a very successful year and had some amazing players. I was able to take notes off of them and apply them to my own game.”

Nto’s improvement has come at a perfect time for an Irish team that has put together an outstanding season, one that far outweighed expectations entering the year. He sees great potential in this team and several similarities to the 2021 team that achieved so much when he was a freshman. In particular, he highlights the strong unity he sees in both teams and how everyone connects on and off the field, always celebrating and lifting each other up. He hopes to use his experience with the 2021 team, now as an upperclassman, to lead the Irish to similar success both in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Nto and the team look more ready than ever to do it. 

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