If you look at Chris Ducar’s legacy in developing goalkeepers is fantastic, and honestly it’s his player that’s sort of kept us alive early when we were getting shelled.
And then Bill Palladino’s been coaching our defense from the beginning. And our center back is a lacrosse star. And our left back has all kinds of knee challenges. Our right back is only a sophomore. And yet, we’ve put together the third or fourth best defense in the ACC.
DTH: Your team is third in the ACC in goals per game in conference play. Did you think you’d see that type of production after the team’s midseason struggles?
AD: Hell no.
Just a lot of good things are going on, and a lot of our improvement I lay at the feet of Damon Nahas ... He’s really contributed a lot to my kids and to the program. He has the same work ethic and passion for player development that I do ... I think what puts us in a fantastic position honestly is our staff.
If you look at the resumes of all the coaches we have working here, it’s a who’s who of elite coaches in the country, and that puts us in a unique position so that, this team of kids that no one expected to be in this position if you looked back to August, certainly when the US U20 National Team takes our two stars, and yet here we are.
DTH: Notre Dame has the best defense in the ACC. What’s your plan of attack against the Fighting Irish back line?
AD: It’s very hard because I don’t think we created that many scoring chances the first time we played them. Now they didn’t create many against us either, but trust me, we’re going to be working on our penalty kicks all week.
DTH: Which of your players do you think has made the most improvement from the beginning of the season?
AD: I’d be hard pressed to say who’s improved the most, but I would say unquestionably since August these players have to be a part of the conversation: Bridgette (Andrzejewski), who, if she doesn’t win the freshman of the year, the coaches out there have torpedoed her, because she’s the leading scorer in the ACC. She’s tied, in theory, the best player in the conference, the attacking midfielder from Virginia, they both have seven goals in conference. And it’d be a crime if she didn’t get rookie of the year. So Bridgette has improved dramatically in all aspects of her game.
Megan Buckingham has been our best field player. I think our best player going back to the beginning would probably be Lindsey Harris, but our best field player and our most consistent every game is Megan Buckingham, and she continues to improve.
I think since last year, those three certainly — Harris, Buckingham and then, from August, Andrzejewski.
Julia Ashley is playing out of her mind, and her improvement since August and last year has also been absolutely remarkable.
I’ve seen a steady improvement from our kids coming back from injury like Cameron Castleberry, Dorian Bailey and Darcy McFarlane, all coming off last year’s ACL tears, you’re seeing a steady improvement from all three of them each week. So I’ve enjoyed watching them improve from the beginning of August.
I’d say Annie Kingman, who wrestled a starting position in the USC game, basically in our worst performance she was one of our best players. I think her improvement has been dramatic, and she also scored some very important early goals for us.
So I think that group.