Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2023 61 ND SPORTS the ACC will be loaded again this sea- son. Syracuse won the 2022 national championship, while Pittsburgh also made it to the College Cup last year. NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Col- lege Cup appearance. Coach's Expectations: After strug- gling at times to an 8-7-2 record in 2022, Notre Dame is loaded with returning players this season and is expected to show marked improvement and get back to where the program was in 2021. The Irish finished 14-5-5 that year, won the ACC championship and advanced to the College Cup for only the second time in program history. Notre Dame scored 31 goals in 2022, and its returning players in 2023 ac- counted for 30 of those. "We always have high expectations," head coach Chad Riley said. "But I think over the course of the first month of the season, and mainly in our perfor- mances, it will define how consistently we are playing at our top level. "And if we can do that, I think we can play for a long time this year." Top Player: Senior forward Daniel Russo returns after leading the Irish in goals (6), points (16) and shots on goal (16) last season. Athlete To Watch: Junior forward Matthew Roou is back after finishing second on the team last season with 12 points and 15 shots on goal. Don't Miss: The highly anticipated in-state matchup with perennial soc- cer power Indiana Aug. 24 is always the highlight of the nonconference season. WOMEN'S SOCCER Season Opener: Milwaukee Aug. 17 at Alumni Field in South Bend. ACC Predicted Finish: Top three; the ACC will again be deep and talented. North Carolina and Florida State both advanced to the College Cup last season. NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Na- tional champions. Coach's Expectations: Head coach Nate Norman lost his top two point scorers from last season with midfielder Korbin Albert (signed pro contract after sophomore season) and forward Olivia Wingate (graduated) moving on. But there is plenty of talent returning, and expectations for an ACC title and even an NCAA title remain in place. The Irish finished 17-3-3 in 2022 and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championship before falling to eventual national runners-up North Carolina in the quarterfinals. Norman said his fast and attacking approach won't change this year, nor will the lofty expectations. "We have a really simple goal this year, we want to win a national champi- onship," Norman said. "That's the goal and I think we have the team with the talent makeup that we can reach it." Top Player: Graduate student mid- fielder Maddie Mercado returns after finishing third on the team last year in goals (10), assists (4), points (24) and shots (87). Athlete To Watch: Graduate student forward Kiki Van Zanten is back after finishing fourth on the team last season in goals (7) and points (18). Don't Miss: Notre Dame gets its chance to exact some revenge when it plays at North Carolina Oct. 19 in Cha- pel Hill, N.C. The Tar Heels knocked the Irish out of the NCAA Championship last year with a Final Four spot on the line. VOLLEYBALL Season Opener: Wichita State Aug. 25 in the Under Armour Challenge at Lubbock, Texas. ACC Predicted Finish: Middle of the 15-team ACC pack. After finishing 12th in the league last year at 5-13, hopes are to climb into the six-to-eight range. NCAA Best-Case Scenario: Make the 64-team field. Coach's Expectations: With the abrupt coaching change before the 2022 season, the roster for first-year head coach Salima Rockwell was already gut- ted when she arrived. In fact, during spring workouts last year, Rockwell said she had only about five players, obvi- ously complicating the job of trying to prepare for the regular season. "Last year certainly was a whirlwind, but it was awesome," Rockwell said. "My biggest takeaway with the team was they were excited and they were hungry for a fresh start. That made it easy for me to do what I had to do." Rockwell explained that the differ- ence between workouts last spring and this spring were night and day, and her players are all in. "We made some huge strides in the spring," she said. "We are significantly better than we were." Top Player: Sophomore outside hit- ter Lucy Trump returns after leading the Irish in kills (252) and points scored (303.0) as a freshman last season. Athlete To Watch: Senior defensive specialist/libero Hattie Monson is back as a strong team leader who easily led the team last season with 453 digs. Don't Miss: Notre Dame will host volleyball powerhouse Pittsburgh for a match at Purcell Pavilion Oct. 15. Pitt advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Championship in 2022. ✦ Senior forward Daniel Russo paced the men's soccer team in both in goals (6) and points (16) last season. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Graduate student midfielder Maddie Mercado is the women's soccer squad's top returning scorer with 10 goals and 24 points a year ago. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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