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Men’s Soccer: Irish topple ranked teams over weekend

Isaac Lorton | Monday, September 10, 2012

No. 13 Notre Dame beat all comers to win the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament this weekend, topping Oregon State 1-0 on Friday despite wild weather, and winning a chippy and aggressive game on Sunday over No. 4 Akron, 3-1.

Sunday’s game was a colorful one, as both sides were issued two yellow cards and one straight red was issued to Akron junior midfielder Aodhan Quinn. Coming into the matchup, both the Irish (5-0-0) and the Zips (3-1-1) were undefeated.

The Irish went down early when Zips senior midfielder Scott Caldwell received a pass at the top of the 18-yard-box and put it by Irish junior keeper Patrick Wall in the fourth minute. In the 30th minute of the game, Quinn took down Irish sophomore midfielder Nick Besler with an elbow to Belser’s head away from the play. The referee issued a straight red card with no hesitation to Quinn. With a man advantage, Notre Dame immediately took control of the game.

“Once they lost the player, that tilted the field in our favor,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It was a statement win, but we will keep it in perspective. We were 1-0 down and then they get the red card. With a man up, I would be disappointed if we didn’t win. I would have been happier if we had won on a level playing field.

“Having said that, [Akron] definitely brought that on themselves. [Akron] is a very good team and they move the ball as well as any team in the country. So it was a good test for us.”

The Irish seemed passive in the first ,half, Clark said, but they came out strong in the second and struck quickly. In the 49th minute, Irish junior forward Leon Brown connected with a hard-driven cross from freshman midfielder Patrick Hodan and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

“It was a great goal by Leon Brown,” Clark said. “That was the key goal for us to win the game.”

Fouls flowed in the second half, which led to Notre Dame’s two other goals. With 23 minutes left in the second half, Irish junior forward Harrison Shipp was tripped up right outside of the box. Senior captain forward Dillon Powers took the kick and bent the ball over the wall, out of the reach of Zips junior keeper David Meves and into the side of the net. The insurance goal came on a penalty after senior forward Ryan Finley was tripped up chasing down a through ball from Powers. A scuffle broke out between both sides and shoving ensued. Finley took the penalty kick and placed it low in the corner.

“It was a growing up game for us,” Clark said. “These were the games we would have ended up tying last year.”

Friday’s game against Oregon State was also one that tested Notre Dame’s resiliency. The Irish dominated the game, but were unable to finish until late in the second half.

“I thought we handled [Oregon State’s] athleticism very, very well,” Clark said. “I thought the whole game we bossed the game, we controlled the game, there’s no question. But we didn’t put the ball in the net. It seemed an eternity to me waiting, but it was a great goal when it did come.”

Like in Sunday’s contest, Brown was a catalyst in Friday’s game when in the 81st minute he dished a through ball to streaking sophomore defender Max Lachowecki, who put the ball just inside the post for the game-winning goal.

“Leon played me a great ball, and that’s really my bread-and-butter; the left-footed shot and trying to hit it as hard as I can far post and put it on goal,” Lachowecki said. “I think it’s a big goal at that time of the game. It says a lot about our team this year, the fact that we can get down in the game with 10 minutes left in the game and still just keep playing and keep working and keep pushing for that goal, and we finally got it. And I think that’s the big difference between our team this year is that we’ve got that mindset, we’re gritty.”

Notre Dame was able to capitalize on opportunities this weekend. Oregon State’s leading scorer, sophomore forward Khiry Shelton, went down in the 10th minute and did not play for the remainder of the game.

“That’s a big loss,” Clark said. “He’s a big-time player for them. For him not to be out there, that blunted their offense. I was sorry to see that happen. We were going to control the game, but I think that would have made their transition that more potent if he had been on, because he is definitely a top-class player.”

The Irish look to remain undefeated against Michigan State at home this Friday with a 7 p.m. start.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu