Irish open ACC play against Clemson
Kit Loughran | Friday, September 11, 2015
Looking to avenge a loss in penalty kicks in last year’s ACC tournament semifinals, Notre Dame opens its 2015 ACC regular season against reigning ACC champion Clemson on Saturday.
The second-seeded Irish (3-0-1) will play host to the No. 9 Tigers (3-0-1) on Saturday at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m. The Irish and Tigers have met five times in their history, with this matchup marking the fourth consecutive season the two squads will face off.
Last year, the two teams met for the first time as conference rivals in the ACC Semifinals on Nov 14. The double-overtime contest ended as a 1-1 draw, but the Tigers then won 5-4 in penalty kicks to advance to the ACC Championship. Clemson went on to beat Louisville, 2-1, in double overtime to win the ACC championship title.
“Clemson is a great team and off to a great start [this season],” senior tri-captain and midfielder Patrick Hodan said. “We are really going to have to play at a high level.
“We have to be ready for a battle.”
The Tigers boast an identical 3-0-1 record as the Irish, with three high-margin wins to their name. Clemson took down East Tennessee State, 3-1, Mercer, 4-1, and South Carolina, 3-0. Following the shut out, the Tigers tied Coastal Carolina, 1-1, in double overtime.
Averaging 2.75 goals and 20 shots per game, the Tigers will be one of the most offensively aggressive team the Irish will play this year. Only Maryland, which Notre Dame tied in its season opener, tops the Tigers in shots per game at 20.5.
Clemson sophomores midfielder Oliver Shannon and forward Diego Campos lead the Tigers offense with three goals and two assists, respectively.
“Clemson is a very good pressing team,” Hodan said. “We will have to figure out how to break their pressure and move the ball well.”
So far the Irish have not had much trouble moving the ball well either, though. The Irish stand slightly below the Tigers with 1.75 goals and 14.8 shots per game, but the Irish offense excelled this past weekend at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament. The Irish shut out South Florida, 2-0, to open the tournament Friday, and they continued to dominate the field with a 4-0 win over UAB on Sunday.
Notre Dame out-shot UAB 28-6, while dominating shots on goal 11-1. Sophomore forward Jon Gallagher posted three goals during the weekend, while recently named Top ACC Weekly Defender senior defender Michael Shipp scored his first career goal Sunday afternoon.
The Irish defense held its ground, too. With the support of Shipp and defenders graduate student Max Lachowecki and junior Brandon Aubrey, junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard earned a pair of clean sheets and managed three saves in the two games.
Saturday’s contest against Clemson will serve as another opportunity for the Irish to continue to grow their chemistry on the field, Hodan said.
“It’s early in the season, so there are a lot of things to work on both offensively and defensively,” Hodan said. “Our finishing definitely improved this past weekend and hopefully will continue to improve [against Clemson].”
With that determination to improve, Hodan and the Irish take on their first ACC opponent of the season when they welcome Clemson to Alumni Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.