Notre Dame women’s soccer downs North Carolina State 2-1, prepares for test against Louisville // The Observer

Notre Dame women’s soccer downs North Carolina State 2-1, prepares for test against Louisville // The Observer

On Friday night, Notre Dame women’s soccer notched a fourth consecutive ACC win to extend their unbeaten conference run, downing North Carolina State 2-1 in Raleigh.

Freshman midfielder Korbin Albert started the Irish off early, collecting a loose ball after the Wolfpack failed to fully clear a corner kick and bending a shot past the near post and into the back of the net just three minutes in. Another freshman would then double the lead for Notre Dame. Defender Katie Coyle ran onto a loose, deflected ball and fired it across the face of the goal with her left foot to make it 2-0.

North Carolina State would ruin goalkeeper Ashley Naylor’s clean sheet bid in the final minute, pulling one back by way of a Jenna Butler strike, but the Irish ensured the final thirty seconds after the Wolfpack goal went without incident to leave Raleigh with a victory. 

The win puts Notre Dame at 4-0 in conference play heading into a visit from Louisville on Thursday, and it’s hard to imagine Nate Norman could have drawn up a better first half of the season for his team, especially given the circumstances faced early on. A season-ending injury to goalie Mattie Interian just four games into the season against Marquette was cause for some serious fear about Notre Dame’s long-term viability as an ACC contender, especially after the Irish conceded three goals to Missouri just two games later, but the squad has rebounded with aplomb since the defeat to the Tigers. The Irish have now ripped off six straight victories, and have only conceded three goals total in those six games.

Of course, bigger tests still loom. Notre Dame’s four ACC wins have come against each of the bottom four teams in the conference, and their remaining matches include a test this week against Louisville (fourth in ACC standings) and Virginia (third in ACC standings) as well as other highly-talented College Cup contenders in North Carolina and Duke. While these games will likely determine the ceiling of this Irish team, opening with four relatively comfortable wins against lower-ranked conference foes, at minimum, establishes a solid floor. The snag that prior Irish teams have consistently hit has been against the Dukes and UNCs of the conference. Since Nate Norman was appointed head coach in South Bend, Notre Dame has held just a 1-2-9 record against ranked conference opponents. Should this year’s team prove capable of boosting that record, they’ll by default be perhaps the best Irish team in years, and also will be legitimate national tournament contenders.

Notre Dame’s next opponent, Louisville, is no lightweights themselves. The Cardinals knocked off Wake Forest last week, looking impressive on the attack against a usually stout Demon Deacon defense. Nina Nicosia has been the most balanced source of points for Louisville this season, with three goals and three assists, while Emma Hiscock has provided firepower. Despite only starting one game, Hiscock has already found the back of the net four times for the Cardinals. With other options like Julia Simon (2 goals, 3 assists) and Brooke Dardano adding to the attack (1 goal, 4 assists), the Cardinals should present a tough challenge to an Irish defense that has enjoyed clean sheets in two of their first four conference matches.

Notre Dame women’s soccer will return to action on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at Alumni Stadium, as they’ll take on the Louisville Cardinals.

Tags: Ashley Naylor, Brooke Dardano, Emma Hiscock, Katie Coyle, korbin albert, Nate Norman, Notre Dame Women’s Soccer

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