Nov. 11, 2016
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The University of Notre Dame women's soccer team will make its 24th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance Friday when they host SIU Edwardsville in the first round at Alumni Stadium.
The Irish claimed a No. 2 seed after an impressive regular season in which they claimed a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and advanced to the semifinal of the ACC Championship.
WHAT: NCAA Women's Soccer Championship First Round
WHO: No. 11 Notre Dame (13-3-4) vs. SIU Edwardsville (10-7-4)
WHERE: Alumni Stadium | Notre Dame, Ind.
WHEN: 7 p.m. (ET) - Nov. 11, 2016
TELEVISION: WatchND & Facebook Live
The Irish are one of seven ACC teams to earn an NCAA bid, with six earning seeds. Notre Dame and North Carolina each earned No. 2 seeds, while Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Virginia are No. 3 seeds. NC State earned an unseeded berth. The Irish will have home-field advantage through the second weekend of the NCAA Championship. Also in Notre Dame's quadrant is Kent State, Northwestern, Michigan, Illinois State, Charlotte and Duke.
The Irish have advanced past the first round in 21 of their previous 23 NCAA appearances. In 12 of those appearances, they advanced to the College Cup, which this year will be held at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. The Irish are eight-time NCAA finalists and three-time NCAA Champions, second-most in Division I women's soccer history.
The Cougars earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Championship after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. They enter the postseason with a 10-7-4 record as winners in three of their last four matches, and advanced on PKs in their first-round OVC tournament match against Austin Peay. SIUE defeated Eastern Kentucky 1-0 in the championship match on Sunday.
SIUE is led in scoring by Caroline Hoefert with 16 points (five goals, six assists), while Avery Anderson (13 points) and Peyton Roehnelt (11 points) also have five goals. Emily Grahl has 12 points on three goals and six assists. Goalkeeper Juli Rossi has the majority of the minutes for the Cougars, appearing in 15 games. She has a 1.36 goals against average with a .730 save percentage and four shutouts. Natalie Freeman has appeared in five matches with four starts and has a 0.75 goals against average with a .800 save percentage.
Last Time Out
The Irish advanced to the ACC semifinal match for the third time in four years in the conference, but fell 2-1 on a late goal to North Carolina last Friday.
The Tar Heels took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute, capitalizing on a rebound off a free kick, but the Irish evened things in the 72nd minute when senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted intercepted a Tar Heels pass in the backfield, juked goalkeeper Lindsay Harris and walked in her fourth goal of the year for the equalizer. The Irish couldn't hold on, however, as North Carolina scored with less than five minutes left on a cross in front of the net.
The Irish had five members make the All-ACC teams, announced Thursday. Senior forward Kaleigh Olmsted was named to the first time, with freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf selected for the second team and senior goalkeeper Kaela Little, senior midfielder Sandra Yu and junior midfielder Taylor Klawunder chosen for the third team. Westendorf was also named to the All-Freshman Team.
The five picks for Notre Dame were the most for the all-conference teams since the Irish joined the ACC, and the most since the Irish had six All-BIG EAST picks in 2006.
Following the ACC Championship, Olmsted was named to the All-Tournament team after scoring her fourth goal of the season against North Carolina in the semifinal.
For the first time, the Irish are the regular season ACC Champions, sharing the title with Clemson (23 points). Because the Irish defeated Clemson earlier this season, they won the top seed into this year's ACC Championship.
At No. 11, the Irish are one of of six Atlantic Coast Conference teams to appear in this week's NSCAA Division I Women's Soccer poll. No. 6 North Carolina, No. 10 Florida State, No. 12 Clemson, No. 13 Duke and No. 15 Virginia round out the ACC representation. Virginia Tech is also receiving notes.
Nationally, the Irish rank in the top 6 in four defensive categories: shutouts (second, 14), save percentage (fourth, 0.909), shutout percentage (third, 0.700) and goals against average (sixth, 0.428).
Individually, freshman forward Jennifer Westendorf ranks among the top five in the ACC in shots (third, 71 shots) and shots per game (fifth, 3.55/gm). Senior goalkeeper Kaela Little tops the league in save percentage (0.908), shutouts (12) and shutouts per game (0.60). She ranks second in goals against average (0.436) and also ranks third in the conference in saves (89) and saves per game (4.45). Little ranks fourth in the nation in save percentage (.908) and sixth in goals against average (0.436).
-- 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.