Aug. 10, 2014#16 Irish Host Illinois State On Monday To Open Exhibition Schedule
2014 ND Women's Soccer -- Exhibition 1
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The wait is nearly over for the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team. A new era for the program is officially set to begin for the No. 16 Fighting Irish when the team travels to Illinois on Aug. 22 for the regular season opener, but fans can catch a first glimpse of the 2014 Notre Dame squad on Monday at 3 p.m. (ET) during an exhibition match against Illinois State at Alumni Stadium.
Admission for Monday’s exhibition game is free, and fans can purchase tickets for the 2014 Fighting Irish regular season schedule by calling (574) 631-7356 or going online to und.com/tickets.
Monday’s contest is the first of two exhibition games on this season’s Notre Dame schedule, and will be the first fall exhibition that the women’s soccer team has ever hosted inside of Alumni Stadium in the six-year history of the facility.
“Overall I am really happy with where we’re at, and we’ve been pushing them really hard,” Notre Dame head coach Theresa Romagnolo said. “The scrimmage gives us a chance to get out there and play against someone other than ourselves early on, and someone (in Illinois State) that we don’t know that much about being that it’s the first game of the year. For us it’s going to be getting a look at different people, unique combinations on the field, to see where people will go.”
Notre Dame (13-8-1 in 2013) opened its 2014 fall camp last Wednesday, and have participated in seven training sessions on the ND Practice Field to kick-start the preseason. With less than seven days to prepare before the first scheduled fall exhibition the match with Illinois State will be a collective learning experience for the Fighting Irish, providing an opportunity to gauge early progress against fresh opposition.
“Monday’s game is a lot more about what we’re going to do, trying some different people on the field, to get ready for our season opener at Illinois,” Romagnolo said. “We will try to see what is and isn’t working, and also let the players learn on the fly.”
Romagnolo said that the exhibition games being on the schedule so early in fall camp are a positive in terms of getting a variety of players practical game experience. A detriment is that the early organized games shorten the amount of time a team has to evaluate its lineup and other personnel in fall camp, both points of interest that the Notre Dame coaching staff will analyze against Illinois State and at Northwestern on Aug. 16 in the preseason exhibition finale in Evanston, Ill.
“In a normal game you have your starting 11 that is pretty set going in, along with several substitutions planned over the course of the game,” Romagnolo said. “This is more of a situation where we are going to look at a lot of people in different positions. We want to see what everyone can do.
“It is really so early in the preseason that we want to give everyone an opportunity, they have all been working hard,” she added. “We want to put them in a game environment and see how they compete, with officials and being inside the stadium, everything that goes along with that.”
Romagnolo, who was named the fourth head coach in the 27-year history of Notre Dame women’s soccer in March, guided the Fighting Irish to four victories during the spring season to unofficially begin her tenure at the helm of the program. The anticipation of the start to the new season, now less than two weeks away, has the attention of both the team and its new mentor.
“It’s really exciting, we wait the whole year for the fall and we’re finally here,” Romagnolo said. “I am excited to see, since I didn’t recruit the freshman class, what they can do when thrown into that game environment. We also want our returners to continue doing the things that we have talked about them doing.”
Early Notre Dame training sessions thus far in fall camp have featured a number of positive traits, high intensity, crisp execution and continued improvement in all phases of the game. The intensity level has been so high that Romagnolo said she and assistant coaches Dawn Siergiej and Diego Bocanegra have adjusted practice plans to fall in line with the team’s output on the field.
“In some ways, maybe we haven’t played as much 11-on-11 in practice as I would have liked because they have exuded so much energy,” Romagnolo said. “I think we’ve had to actually pull back a little bit in terms of how much playing we are doing in our actual practices. For me (on Monday), it’s nice to have the chance to put the team out in a game setting and let them go.”
Illinois State, making its first appearance at Alumni Stadium, will meet Notre Dame for the first time in exhibition or regular season play. The Redbirds posted a 14-7-1 record in 2013 under head coach Drew Roff, including a perfect 6-0 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play, on their way to a third straight conference tournament championship triumph. Illinois State returns 17 players from last season’s roster that ultimately reached the second round of the 2013 NCAA Championship before falling to then No. 11 Michigan 3-0 on Nov. 22 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“We are looking for our attacking mentality to be very aggressive,” Romagnolo said. “We want to see the players go 1-V-1 when they have isolation, and we want to see the midfield continue to get involved when they have the ball. The back four also needs to be very strong in terms of denying shots and denying crosses, organizing the field for us. As a team we really want a great defensive effort, pressing the ball, forcing turnovers and looking to counter and go to goal.”
News And Notes
Notre Dame Returns Bulk Of Offense From 2013
Andrews led all Notre Dame players with 19 total points (seven goals, five assists) in 22 starts as a freshman last season. Junior defender Brittany Von Rueden (Mequon, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) paced all returners with six assists in 2013.
Familiar Goalkeepers Contending To Play In Net
Sophomore Kaela Little (Tulsa, Okla./Bishop Kelley) is the incumbent in net after logging a 13-8-1 mark in 22 starts as a freshman last season. Little added a 0.89 goals against average and eight total shutouts in more than 2,000 minutes of playing time during her rookie campaign.