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Men’s Soccer: Irish move on to Elite Eight

Isaac Lorton | Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The No. 3 Irish were not the first to strike, but they struck more often in a 4-2 victory over No. 14 Wake Forest in the NCAA Championship round-of-16 matchup Sunday night at Alumni Stadium. 

The Demon Deacons (10-6-5) brought the pressure early and often in their first time playing at Notre Dame (14-1-6). 

“This really was like a Final Four game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It was two really good teams and a quality game. It was like a professional game with the speed and the pace. It takes two teams to do that. It was one of the best college games I’ve seen. It was a very clean game and very well played. Obviously, we came out on the right side of it, but it could have gone either way.”

Wake Forest took advantage of a break in the 12th minute of play. A Notre Dame player slipped on the icy surface while defending Wake Forest junior forward Sean Okoli. Okoli used the space to send in a low cross to sophomore forward Michael Gamble, who one-timed the ball past sprawling Irish senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall to give the Demon Deacons a 1-0 lead. 

Notre Dame was quick to respond and knotted the game at 1-1 two minutes later. Irish sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan dribbled the ball in along the touchline and elected to take a chance near post rather than to cross it in. The choice paid off, as the ball snuck by Wake Forest sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Harris. The goal was Hodan’s eighth goal on the season and his fourth goal in as many games. 

The game then went back and forth until the Irish caught a break of their own with four minutes left in the first half. The ball was bouncing around Wake Forest’s box and came to Irish sophomore Evan Panken, who whipped in a cross. The ball deflected off of Wake Forest senior defender Tolani Ibikunle into the back of the net for an own goal and a 2-1 Irish lead heading into half. 

“That [goal] comes from Evan Panken pressuring,” Clark said. “He gets in, pressures and gets it back again. That’s how goals go. So I would give him that goal just for the work he did to get in there. [The Demon Deacons] first goal was pressure from them. Somebody slipped, but it came from a pass. Pressure. Boom. Boom. And it was [them] taking advantage of us making a bad decision fielding on a difficult surface.”  

Ibikunle redeemed his own goal in the 62nd minute, when he headed the ball in off of a corner taken by Gamble to tie the game at 2-2. 

But Notre Dame was not finished. With 20:15 remaining on the clock, Irish senior defender and captain Andrew O’Malley collected a partially cleared ball in the midfield and chipped it to a streaking Panken, who found himself unmanned on the left side of the pitch behind the Wake Forest defense. Panken settled the pass and placed it low past Harris into the right corner for the 3-2 lead and the game-winner. 

“[The Demon Deacons pressured very hard and very high,” Clark said. “That pressure makes it difficult for us to play. But at the same time, when they press, they leave space behind, and we can penetrate. When we handle the pressure, we can get behind them, and I felt we were able to do that.” 

For insurance purposes, senior forward and captain Harrison Shipp netted his 12th goal on the season less than four minutes later off a cross from Lachowecki to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

The Demon Deacons led the game in shots with 14, compared to nine for Notre Dame. They also led in corners, with seven to Notre Dame’s three. 

“I thought we looked very, very dangerous every time we got into their half,” Clark said. “In a funny way, I think we looked more dangerous than [Wake Forest] did.” 

The Irish then locked down on defense and held on to advance to the Elite Eight, where they will face No. 11 Michigan State. Notre Dame beat the Spartans (14-5-3) by a score of 2-0 in East Lansing, Mich., on Nov. 5.

The Irish look to continue their championship run against Michigan State on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.       

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu