CLEMSON, S.C. – The University of Notre Dame women's soccer team opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with an impressive 4-2 upset victory at No. 11 Clemson (6-2, 0-1) on Saturday.
Two weeks after Notre Dame suffered a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to then-No. 11 South Carolina, the defending ACC regular-season champions rebounded with their first victory against a ranked opponent in 2017.
For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame (5-2-2, 1-0) defeated Clemson, this time in rather dominant fashion. The Irish equaled a season-high four goals, including a season-high-tying two goals in the first half, against a team that had previously allowed just two goals this season.
How It Happened
On a 90-degree, September day at historic Riggs Field, the Irish wasted little time attacking the highly-touted Tigers. Sophomore Natalie Jacobs fed the ball from the right side of the field through the middle to sophomore Jennifer Westendorf, who spun away from the defender and scored her fifth goal of the season (7:01) to put the Irish up 1-0. The goal was Notre Dame's fastest goal scored in a match so far this season.
The Irish continued their aggressive attack on goal, tallying four shots to Clemson's one within the first 15 minutes of play.
Clemson had several opportunities, executing with abundant space on a 120-yard field, and rattling off several crosses from yards outside the box.
In the 25th minute, freshman Sammi Fisher took the team's first corner kick of the game, sending the ball deep to junior Sabrina Flores. Flores' shot was blocked, but the Irish maintained possession.
IRISH WIN! pic.twitter.com/SnaiIsaHn5— ND Women's Soccer (@NDSoccer) September 16, 2017
Just seconds later, senior Monica Flores crossed the ball to the left side of the attacking third, and Fisher was there to head the ball in for her first career goal (25:15).
The Tigers responded 57 seconds later as they drove the ball down the field and scored an unassisted goal from 35 yards out at the 26:12 mark. The shot was just their second of the game and their first shot on goal.
Notre Dame controlled the ball for much of the ensuing 25 minutes, outshooting the Tigers seven to two and possessing a 2-1 lead at the half. Clemson took just one shot on goal in the half.
The Tigers opened the second half with back-to-back corner kicks, both of which were cleared away by Notre Dame. Jacobs and junior Rachel Heard each saw touches on the ball as Notre Dame worked to regain possession in the 55th minute.
A few critical turnovers by the Irish quickly gave the ball back to the Tigers, which netted their second goal of the day at the 56:25 mark on a cross from the left side.
The Irish answered rather quickly as Jacobs got the ball from Westendorf to the right of the goal and scored her team-high sixth goal (58:48) of the season off the left post.
Notre Dame never backed down as graduate student Sandra Yu joined the action minutes later. Yu scored on a pass from Jacobs at the 67:50 mark, giving Notre Dame a 4-2 lead midway through the second half.
Sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Littman's play in goal was critical to Notre Dame's victory. In her first career ACC start, Littman did not gather a save but made aggressive plays to stop several Clemson crosses. The Irish defense limited the Tigers to two shots on goal in the match.
Notre Dame's second-half play, particularly its ability to push the action up the sidelines, sealed its 4-2 victory and sent the Irish home undefeated in ACC play.
Note of the Match
Entering the contest, Notre Dame had scored just three goals in the first half in 2017. The Irish connected for two goals in the first period, their most since scoring two at Iowa on Aug. 27. The match marks the third time this season the Irish have scored in the first half.
Notre Dame has totaled 15 second-half goals and have limited their opponents to just three goals in the period.