Nov. 11, 2016
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The 2016 University of Notre Dame women's soccer team was one that had defied expectations all season. Picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Irish were a team that used a methodical defensive strategy to fuel their attack, to the detriment of nearly all of their opponents en route to the regular-season ACC title.
Even Friday, in the first round of the NCAA Championship against SIU Edwardsville, the Irish did not surrender a goal in 110 minutes of play. But in their inability to find the back of the net themselves, the Irish found themselves on the wrong end of a penalty kick decision, with the Cougars (10-7-5) advancing after stunning the Irish 5-4 in the shootout.
It wasn't for lack of trying. Notre Dame (13-3-5) was dominant by every indicator, owning a 21-3 edge in shots and an 8-2 advantage on shots on goal. The Irish also snared an 11-1 margin in corner kicks.
They found a formidable opponent in Cougar goalkeeper Juli Rossi, who made eight saves -- most of which were of the impressive variety.
The Irish got their first scoring opportunity in the 17th minute as Jennifer Westendorf, Meghan Doyle and Karin Muya all got off shots from within the goal box, two of which were saved while Doyle's found a blocker.
The next biggest opportunity for the Irish came in the second overtime, when the Irish fired five shots. In the 103rd minute, Doyle streaked down the left flank and sent a cross into the box for Kaitlin Klawunder, whose header found Rossi. The rebound bounced to Taylor Klawunder right in front of the net, but her header attempt went high.
Two minutes later, Sandra Yu sent a bender on frame, but Rossi laid out for the save and to keep the game scoreless.
In the shootout, the Irish converted their first two attempts, made by Taylor Klawunder and Kaleigh Olmsted, but were matched by SIUE's Cory Levels and Peyton Roehnelt. Notre Dame's next attempt by Katie Uhler was saved by Rossi, while the Cougars took a lead on Becca Jostes' shot, which got by Irish netminder Kaela Little. Emily Geyer evened things for the Irish while Little saved the next SIUE attempt, and Ginny McGowan also converted for Notre Dame. SIUE's Avery Anderson made her shot next to make it 4-4 in PKs after five shooters apiece.
Cindy Pineda nearly slotted her shot on Notre Dame's next attempt, but it pinged off the post and trickled along the goal line and ultimately out of bounds. Cougar Mariah Vollmer made the next attempt, sending SIU into the second round.
It was the first shootout for Notre Dame since November 11, 2007, when the Irish faced West Virginia in the BIG EAST Championship final.
Doyle and Westendorf led all players with four shots, while Westendorf, Yu and Kaitlin Klawunder each put two shots on frame.
The Irish finish the season as the first in program history to win an ACC regular-season title. They placed five on All-ACC teams, including first-teamer Olmsted.
-- ND --
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, and earned her master's degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.