After a dominating home stand against admittedly weak opponents, the Baylor Bears take to the road to face off against a much better side. The first opponent in a two-game series in Illinois, Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 19, despite a worse record than Baylor (3-2-1). However, both of their losses were 2-1 home defeats against No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 14 USC with a nil-nil draw against No. 4 Stanford and a win against No. 21. This Notre Dame side is no slouch and is fully deserving of their Top 25 ranking.
Much like Baylor, the 2010 National Champion Irish are a top defensive side. Notre Dame has only allowed five goals across six games (seven across eight if you include exhibition matches). Baylor has allowed only three (five with exhibition) across the same span, albeit against lighter competition. Expect this game to be a war of attrition; neither side will be able to easily beat the other's defense.
Standout sophomore keeper Kaela Little is riding a 244:40 minute long shutout streak for the Irish. Baylor's duo of senior Michelle Kloss and sophomore Sara Martinson have kept a clean sheet for the last two games (it would have been three straight had BYU not nicked a late goal two weekends ago).
As good as Baylor's defense has been, I think this game comes down to the players in the final third. Big 12 Newcomer of the Week Precious Akanyirige will look to continue her three-game streak of goal scoring from the center forward position. Akanyirige and Bri Campos will have to have excellent games in order to unlock the stellar central defense of the Irish. Junior tri-captain Katie Naughton and senior tri-captain Sammy Scofield have been lights-out in the middle of the back line. Do not underestimate the importance of senior wingers Natalie Huggins and Justine Hovden. One or both of the pair of seniors was involved in nearly every goal scored at the weekend.
I am predicting that Baylor comes out aggressively as it did against BYU and will look to get an early goal to put the pressure on the Irish to score, something they have not done much of this year.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>VIDEO: Team talks about weekend road trip to No. 19 Notre Dame & Illinois State: <a href="http://t.co/bHuaa4leGt">http://t.co/bHuaa4leGt</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SicEm?src=hash">#SicEm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DefenseU?src=hash">#DefenseU</a></p>— Baylor Soccer (@BaylorFutbol) <a href="https://twitter.com/BaylorFutbol/status/510091522562211841">September 11, 2014</a></blockquote>
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How to Watch:
The game begins at 18:00 Central and you can watch it at WatchND.tv.
ND Preview - Props to whomever wrote this. It's very informative!
Baylor 1-0 Notre Dame. The Bears come roaring out of the gates and nick an early goal then #DefenseU does what it does.