Aug. 9, 2017
By Megan Golden
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The No. 18-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s soccer program enters its 30th season with a very talented 2017 roster looking to meet the program’s lofty standards and raise the bar even higher. The Irish and head coach Theresa Romagnolo begin their quest for the program’s 25th consecutive postseason berth as they kick off their preseason slate against Purdue on Wednesday.
The Irish return nine starters as well as two familiar faces in senior defender Sabrina Flores and sophomore forward Natalie Jacobs, both of whom missed the 2016 collegiate season due to international competition. Flores and Jacobs have combined to start 57 games and total seven goals, 14 assists and 28 points in their Irish careers.
Riding an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship and a run to the ACC Championship semifinals, Notre Dame will look to the core of its roster to build off its 2016 season.
“Every team is unique and takes on its own unique character especially with the addition of freshmen,” Romagnolo said. “Having that many returning players gives us a lot of good experience and a consistent expectation of what we want to achieve.”
One of Notre Dame’s key returnees to the 2017 roster is graduate student Sandra Yu, who received 2016 All-ACC Third Team and NSCAA Scholar All-America All-North/Central Region Second Team accolades.
Hailing from Strongsville, Ohio, Yu was one of two Irish student-athletes named to the preseason All-ACC Team. After missing her first two seasons due to injury, Yu has started all 41 of Notre Dame’s contests over the past two seasons.
The midfielder totaled 45 shots, including 21 shots on goal (.467) in 2016. Yu has recorded 12 points on five goals and two assists in her career.
Yu, along with seniors Monica Flores and Ginny McGowan, will serve as captains for the 2017 season. For Yu, this will be the second straight season she will captain the Irish.
Yu said she has high expectations for the upcoming season.
“We have an incredible shot at doing something special this year, and I'm just excited to get going and play against someone other than ourselves,” Yu said. “I love this team and this school, so getting another shot at this is something I am beyond grateful for. I am so happy with my decision to stay for a fifth year.”
On the Defensive
Notre Dame’s defense limited its opponents to just nine goals over the course of the entire 2016 season, matching Florida State for fewest goals allowed in the ACC. The Irish also finished the 2016 season ranked second in the ACC in goals against average with a .40 mark on the season.
Notre Dame shut out its opponents on 15 occasions in 2016 -- tied for most in the conference -- and allowed only two goals through its first seven contests.
The Irish back line returns juniors Shannon Hendricks and Natalie Ward as well as McGowan.
The graduation of four-year starter and goalkeeper Kaela Little means the Irish goalkeepers will be competing this preseason for the starting role on the team.
“Like every position on the field, the goalkeeper position will be talented and competitive,” Romagnolo said. “We are fortunate to have wonderful talent in this position, and this will push our goalkeepers to be their best over the course of the season.”
United Soccer Coaches Preseason Rankings
The United Soccer Coaches, previously known as the NSCAA, released its preseason rankings on Friday, projecting the Irish to finish at No. 18 in the country. Notre Dame was one of six ACC schools to be ranked in the preseason poll, coming in behind North Carolina (No. 6), Virginia (No. 11), Duke (No. 12), Clemson (No. 13) and Florida State (No. 15).
In addition to the ranked conference foes on the schedule, the Irish will face nationally-ranked No. 4 South Carolina and No. 24 Santa Clara in back-to-back games on Sept. 1 and Sept. 3, respectively, at Alumni Stadium.
Coming Up Next
Notre Dame hosts Purdue in its first exhibition match of the season at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday at Alumni Stadium. The Irish will travel to No. 23 Northwestern for their final preseason match of the season at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
Notre Dame opens its regular season against intrastate foe Butler at 7 p.m. ET Friday, August 18 at Alumni Stadium.
For behind-the-scenes coverage of the Irish women’s soccer program, follow @NDSoccer on Twitter and @NDWSoccer on Instagram. For tickets to a Notre Dame women’s soccer match, click here.
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's soccer and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary's College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.