Notre Dame women’s soccer seeks to extend unbeaten start to ACC play against North Carolina State // The Observer

Notre Dame women’s soccer seeks to extend unbeaten start to ACC play against North Carolina State // The Observer

Notre Dame women’s soccer will hit the road Friday night for their fourth conference clash of the season, as they travel to Raleigh to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack, though they enter with an uninspiring 4-5-2 (0-3-0 in ACC play) record, should be far from an easy match for an Irish team looking to extend their best start to a season since 2016. In fact, North Carolina State has arguably been the unluckiest team in women’s college soccer this season. They’ve played four ranked opponents, and have done 0-4-1. Incredibly, in all four of their losses, the winning goal was scored in the final 5 minutes. So, while at face value the Wolfpack have a sub-.500 record, it’s also true that they’ve come within 5 minutes of drawing No. 16 Clemson, and within a mere 60 seconds of drawing No. 11 Penn State, No. 10 South Carolina and No. 5 Virginia. And that’s not even mentioning the draw they actually did notch with No. 9 Georgetown. 

The Wolfpack have a talented roster that shouldn’t have much issue with keeping up with a strong Notre Dame team. Upfront, Jameese Joseph provides the firepower, leading the team in goals and points with four and nine, respectively. Third-year starting defender Lulu Guttenberger serves as an unconventional but steadfast source of the team’s creativity, with four assists on the year. She’s found the back of the net twice herself as well.

On the Irish side of things, the team rounds out as it has all season. Graduate student Sammi Fisher is the central focus up front, with 10 goals on the season already. Behind Fisher on the scoresheet, her forward partner senior Olivia Wingate and attacking midfielders junior Maddie Mercado and first-year Korbin Albert have all added four goals apiece. With three central defenders and two hardworking wingbacks, coach Nate Norman’s system offers more than enough defensive stability when Notre Dame’s opponents are on the frontfoot. Sophomore Eva Wirtz, junior Waniya Hudson and sophomore Eva Gaetino have all been excellent in central defense — a major reason why sophomore goalie Ashley Naylor, who was thrust into the starting job when incumbent senior Mattie Interian got hurt, has had such a light transition into ACC play.

Including their clash with the Wolfpack, Notre Dame have two games left before they embark on a brutal gauntlet to end the season, in which the Irish will take on as many as five straight ranked teams before beginning NCAA tournament play. After Louisville visits South Bend on Oct. 7, Notre Dame will have to welcome Clemson (76 votes in the latest coaches’ poll), followed by trips to No. 2 Virginia, No. 4 Duke and No. 5 North Carolina, and then a home closeout versus a Wake Forest team that is rapidly gaining momentum (their only loss has been to the aforementioned #2 Cavaliers). And while you always want to win every game possible, it’s of special importance that the Irish lock up every win so they can hit that final five-game stretch with as much momentum and as solid of a resume as possible. If the Irish can enter the home stretch at 5-0 in conference play, the perception of a series of ranked clashes will be far less intimidating than if they enter at 3-2. 

Notre Dame women’s soccer will take on North Carolina State Friday night in Raleigh at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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