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Men’s Soccer

Irish aim to continue win streak against Marquette

| Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Following a stretch where it dropped consecutive matches for the first time since early October last season, No. 14 Notre Dame responded with a pair of dominant victories last week. Now the Irish look to build upon that success with a mid-week matchup against Marquette on Tuesday night at Alumni Stadium.

Notre Dame (6-2-1, 2-1-0 ACC) fell in its first mid-week home match against Xavier, 1-0, on Sept. 15 before dropping a 4-2 decision on the road at North Carolina three days later.

Monday, Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said after those two losses he was impressed with how his team’s leadership — spearheaded by tri-captains, senior midfielders Patrick Hodan and Connor Klekota and graduate student defender Max Lachowecki — handled the early adversity.

“We’ve got a lot of winners on our team,” Clark said. “I think there’s a lot of guys who are really competitive, even guys who aren’t captains. You come into our locker room after we’ve not won and they’re not a happy crew. … I think they’ve addressed that. I think they’ve had a couple quiet meetings themselves. There was even a practice there where Max just called them in and basically just told them, ‘It’s not good enough.’

“Obviously [the coaching staff] will tell them, but it’s a lot more effective when they’re their own judges.”

The challenge worked as the Irish wasted no time in shaking the slump with a 4-0 victory over Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, a week ago. Lachowecki himself led the Irish charge, scoring just 72 seconds into the game to give the Irish an early lead they never relinquished.

“They hold themselves accountable,” Clark said of his team. “I think they’ve done a good job of that.”

The Irish kept the roll going back on the Alumni Stadium pitch Friday night when they blitzed No. 4 Virginia, 3-1, outshooting the Cavaliers, 13-5. Again, Notre Dame relied on its veteran leadership as the captain Klekota and senior midfielder Evan Panken each tallied a goal in the victory.

It was the second of the year for Klekota, already doubling his goal total from last season, and the first of the campaign for Panken, third on the team with four goals a year ago.

“Evan [Panken] possibly works harder than any other player on the team,” Clark said. “Usually Panken gets the not-always-most-spectacular goals, but they’re always goals. … And he’s tough as nails.”

The Irish relied heavily on the offensive production from the midfield last season as Panken and Hodan combined for 13 of Notre Dame’s 35 goals last season.

Hodan, who led all Irish players with nine goals in 2014, has yet to score this season. Second on the team in shots with 25 — one behind sophomore forward Jon Gallagher, who leads the Irish with five goals — Hodan has still made an impact. Against Virginia on Friday, he fed a precise pass through traffic to junior forward Mark Gormley, who buried his second goal of the year to give the Irish the 1-0 lead.

Clark said Panken and Hodan work well together both on and off the field.

“[Panken] doesn’t have the glamour stats of Hodan, but they’re roommates and they’re a great complement for one another,” Clark said. “One’s the more skillful player and one’s the worker, and they both score goals. … Both are very competitive. You can’t coach that, that’s something that’s born in them.

“Possibly they both had a big brother that kept stealing their candy, I don’t know what it was, something down the line. Maybe it’s just their genes, I don’t know.”

When the Irish and Golden Eagles (3-2-2, 0-0-1 Big East) meet up on the Alumni Stadium pitch Tuesday night, however, Clark said there are a couple areas Notre Dame needs to improve upon, such as their focus after scoring a goal, Clark said.

Notre Dame also needs to handle the mid-week game, after a day full of classes for the players, better than it did in the loss to Xavier, Clark said.

“The first person you look at is yourself,” Clark said. “We’ve looked at ourselves and we’ve got to do a better job of making of making sure they realize the importance of this regional game. It’s got huge RPI implications, so they’ve got to be ready, and they’ve got to come out.

“I don’t think it will take much to get them ready for this game against Marquette because they know how the last Tuesday [home] game was, so I’m hoping that will be the script.”

The Irish look to keep the highlights rolling against the Golden Eagles on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A senior History major, Zach resides in Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he has covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus.

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