Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 SEPT. 11, 2021 49 ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE O ne common way for a veteran college athlete to make an improvement push late in their career is by having a coach provide a "friendly" reminder that their time with the program is running out. B u t fo r No t re Da m e women's soccer coach Nate Norman and star senior de- fender Brianna Martinez, the roles became reversed this offseason. Norman complimentarily described his fourth-year starter as "a really steady contributor" and "a good leader," but … "She had some higher as- pirations for herself," Nor- man said. "And honestly, she came to us and said, 'I want you to hold me to a higher standard. I don't want you to let me get away with maybe not coming out and giving everything I have in every practice and influencing my teammates. Hold me to a higher level of account- ability in everything I do.' "Brianna took that upon herself and through these first few weeks, I've seen her play her best soccer. I think she's poised to have a great year." Martinez came to Notre Dame in 2018 from the uniquely named Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque, N.M., where she recorded 92 points for her career and became a top-10 student in her graduating class. She was also a member of the United States Under-18 Women's National Team as a prep player, and traveled to China, Australia and Europe for inter- national matches. Martinez admits now that making the 1,400-mile relocation from the heat of the Southwest to the seasonal chill of the Midwest wasn't easy at first. But after overcoming the culture shock, she real- ized Notre Dame was where she belonged. "I came in as a freshman really home- sick and just really unsure of how my college experience was going to go," she said. "But I think the people that I've met within the athletic program, as well as through all of my classes, those are all definitely lifelong friends that I'm going to keep forever." With a systematic and significant roster upgrade during Norman's four seasons on the job, the coach and player agree this is the most talented and deepest team either has been a part of at Notre Dame, lifting prospects for a suc- cessful run through the rigorous ACC this season. ACC teams hold down five spots in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25 re- leased Aug. 24. "With our roster size and the talent that we have," Martinez said, "we're go- ing to be able to go far and hopefully compete at the top level of the NCAA Tournament and the ACC." To emphasize her point, Martinez shared a story from her initial season in 2018 about how the Irish roster was so thin the starting goaltender was moved out of necessity to play forward. "Definitely this is a switch up this year from my freshman year," she said. A n d wh e n a s ke d wh a t e l se h a s changed in this four-year span, Marti- nez said just about everything, and all for the better because of what Notre Dame has provided her beyond soccer. "The values that I learned here are go- ing to help me with what- ever I choose to do in life, whether that's related to soccer or my career after soccer," she said. "Those values are going to stick with me for the rest of my life." With an extra year of eligibility available in 2022 b e c a u s e o f C OV I D -1 9, Martinez is considering a return to Notre Dame for a fifth season. If not, professional soccer is another option, as is con- tinuing her post-graduate studies to someday become a physical therapist. "Notre Dame has been such a special place for me that I'm looking to take my fifth year here," she said. "But I'm definitely keeping my options open. I haven't made any definite deci- sions yet." ✦ Soccer's Brianna Martinez Chasing Higher Aspirations In '21 Martinez, a senior defender from New Mexico, started 49 of the first 52 games she played in for Notre Dame. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS IRISH ROUNDUP CROSS COUNTRY Begins the season at the Winrow-Valparaiso Open Sept. 3 in Valparaiso, Ind. MEN'S SOCCER (1-1-0) Suffered a 3-2 loss to No. 2-ranked Indiana in overtime in the season opener Aug. 27 … Rebounded to notch 2-0 home victory versus Northern Illinois Aug. 30 … Slated to play at Kentucky Sept. 3. WOMEN'S SOCCER (4-0-1) Started the 2021 campaign by defeating Bowling Green 3-1 in South Bend … After play- ing to a 0-0 draw in two overtimes against Indiana at home Aug. 22, the Irish took to the road and topped Wisconsin 2-1 in overtime … Registered a 1-0 win at Milwaukee Aug. 29 … Returned home and edged Purdue 1-0 Sept. 2. VOLLEYBALL (2-1) Tipped off the 2021 season with a 3-0 loss to No. 16 Western Kentucky in the Golden Dome Invitational Aug. 27 … Bounced back to notch a pair of victories Oakland (3-2) and Loyola Chicago (3-0) on the second day of the tournament Aug. 28 … Hosting Bowling Green, Cincinnati and Milwaukee in the Shamrock Invitational Sept. 3-5. — Steve Downey

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