Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2022

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

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Page 48 of 55 SEPT. 17, 2022 49 BY TODD D. BURLAGE A lways known as a team-first player, Notre Dame senior Maddie Mercado was feeling a bit selfish about halfway through last soccer season when the tal- ented third-year starter was dropped to a reserve role. "In the beginning, it was very diffi- cult for me," Mercado explained. "I was upset and confused, all of those differ- ent kinds of emotions." Down but not out, Mercado found peace and a fresh focus through her frustration and has blossomed into a better player ever since. "As time went on, I kind of accepted that [substitute] role," Mercado shared. "Then, I embraced it. Every time I went in, I tried to change the game and push the team forward." And change and push she did. Even off the bench, Mercado still tied for second on the team last season with 3 game-winning goals. And now, back as a starting midfielder in 2022, Mer- cado was tied for the team lead in goals (5) and points (11) through six games. Mercado and Notre Dame graduate student forward Olivia Wingate — who also has 5 goals and 11 points — head- line a relentless Irish attack that rates among the best in the nation. Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman warned opponents in the preseason, "We can be a very high-scoring, just dangerous, prolific team on the attack." The fifth-year skipper wasn't kidding. Through its undefeated start as of Sept. 7, Notre Dame outscored its op- ponents 15-1 and went from unranked to No. 12 in country. "We have so many players that play so similarly, and it's a combination of speed and skill," Mercado said. "And when we're all working together, it's goals and goals and goals." Recent evidence comes from a 4-1 Irish win over No. 22 Wisconsin Sept. 1. Notre Dame outshot the Badgers 9-1 in the first half but managed only a score- less draw at the halftime break. Shots for the Irish became goals in the second half when Mercado scored once, and Wingate logged a rare hat trick in the blowout win. "The chemistry on and off the field this year is unmatched," Mercado said. "And then, there are so many skillful and tal- ented players. We have this common goal to win a national championship, and we're all committed every day toward that goal." AT HOME, FAR FROM HOME A San Diego native, Mercado ex- plained how Notre Dame came calling early in the recruiting process. Intrigued, she and her parents made a campus visit. "After that I was sold," said Mer- cado, who committed to Notre Dame as a high school sophomore. "It was a perfect combination of everything that I could've wanted in terms of balance." An Irish soccer star and an All-ACC Academic honoree, Mercado has al- ready built a bright future, on or off the pitch. Though, she stressed that return- ing to Notre Dame in 2023 as a graduate student for another soccer go-around is her preferred future course. "I would love to come back next year," she said. "I love this team, and the talent on this team is great. If the opportunity arises, I would love to come back." And given Mercado's value as a player, a leader and an exemplary student, it's safe to assume that reliable No. 3 will be back for year No. 5 in 2023. "The older I get, the more I appreciate the little moments with teammates here," she said. "I can't even think about leaving right now. I'll stay as long as possible." ✦ Maddie Mercado Is Turning Self Doubt Into Soccer Success Mercado, a senior midfielder, tallied 5 goals and 11 points during Notre Dame's 6-0 start this season. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS ND SPORTS Irish Roundup Through Sept. 8 CROSS COUNTRY Both the men's and women's teams notched first-place finishes at the Winrow-Valparaiso Open Sept. 2 … The Irish collected 19 top-15 finishes with first through 10th place being swept by the Notre Dame men's team … Freshman Izaiah Steury took first place in the men's race with a time of 17:52.3, while graduate student Katie Ryan took second in the women's meet with a time of 18:10.7 … Notre Dame will host the National Catholic Invite Sept. 16. MEN'S SOCCER (1-1-1 OVERALL, 0-0-0 ACC) The No. 22 Fighting Irish's match at Indiana Sept. 3 was postponed due to inclement weather … Notre Dame and DePaul played to a 1-1 draw Sept. 6 in South Bend … Next up for the Irish is their ACC opener Sept. 10 at Syracuse. WOMEN'S SOCCER (6-0-0 OVERALL, 0-0-0 ACC) No. 12 Notre Dame's contest at Indiana Sept. 4 was postponed due to inclement weather and poor field conditions … The Irish returned to action with a 3-1 victory at Purdue Sept. 8 … Notre Dame has a home match vs. Ohio Sept. 11 before traveling to Clemson for its ACC opener Sept. 15. VOLLEYBALL (1-2 OVERALL, 0-0 ACC) The Fighting Irish dropped a pair of contests at the Long Beach State Tournament, falling 3-1 to Boise State Sept. 2 and 3-0 to Long Beach State Sept. 3 … Notre Dame is slated to compete in the Quest For The Crown tournament Sept. 9-10 in Norfolk, Va., where they will face East Carolina, Old Dominion and Navy. — Steve Downey

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