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Men’s Soccer: Irish seek ACC regular season title

By Kit Loughran | Friday, November 8, 2013

The Irish aren’t playing for just any conference win today – they’re playing for the ACC title. 

No. 1 Notre Dame will conclude its regular season play for the 2013 season and play for at least a share of the ACC regular-season title when it faces Pittsburgh tonight at Alumni Stadium. 

The matchup between the Irish (10-1-5, 6-1-3 ACC) and the Panthers (1-10-4, 0-8-2) marks the 18th meeting between the programs. The Irish lead the series 11-3-3, which includes a 7-1 victory over Pittsburgh last season. 

The Irish are currently tied for first place in the ACC with No. 5 Maryland, who tied the Irish, 1-1, on Oct. 8, and are looking to lock up the ACC-regular season title with a win over Pittsburgh. If Maryland falls to Virginia Tech tonight, Notre Dame could call the title its own.    

“Every ACC game puts pressure on the team to perform,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “This is a very special game, though, because it’s the final game [of the regular season], the senior farewell game, and the championship is on the line, so it is important we come and play a big game.”

As this was Notre Dame’s debut season in the ACC, winning the championship title has even greater implications for the Irish. 

“We had a great season last year, but we didn’t win the Big East Championship, so this was one of our goals being in the ACC this year,” senior forward Harrison Shipp said. “It is important to prove to ourselves and everyone else in the ACC that we can do this.” 

The Irish proved themselves Tuesday when they beat No.18 Michigan State, 2-0, on the road. 

In addition to the road victory over the Spartans, the Irish also beat No.13 Wake Forest, 3-1, on the road last Friday. Coming off these two back-to-back road wins has shaped Notre Dame’s preparation and focus, Clark said. 

“I think it was important to get our legs back with three games in basically one week,” Clark said. “We should be pretty automatic preparing at this point in the season, so the most important thing is to get our physical condition ready.” 

The Irish need to consider another factor besides their physical condition in preparing for this game – their mindset. 

“I think one thing that could be a challenge in this game is our mindset,” Shipp said. “We don’t want to overlook Pittsburgh because even though its record may not be as good as the other teams we’ve played, all its games have been really close in the ACC. Especially with us being at home, we don’t want to overlook the possible threat that Pittsburgh poses.” 

Even though Pittsburgh just secured its first win of the season with a 9-0 victory over Howard on Tuesday, the threat that Pittsburgh could possibly upset the Irish is the last thing Shipp and his nine fellow seniors want to experience the final time they walk onto the Alumni Stadium field during their regular-season careers. 

“The fact that we’re playing our last regular-season home game is kind of weird for me and everyone else,” Shipp said. “Time goes so fast, and I feel like I just got on campus yesterday, but now suddenly we are playing our last home game.

“It helps for us knowing that we will have a bunch more home games for the ACC quarterfinals and NCAA Championships, so that makes Friday a little less emotional.” 

The Irish close out their regular season in a matchup with Pittsburgh tonight at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.

Contact Kit Loughran at kloughr1@nd.edu