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Sports

ND ready for rematch in ACC Championship semifinal

| Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Irish face No. 1-seeded Wake Forest in the ACC tournament semifinal tonight.

No. 9 Notre Dame (10-3-5, 4-2-2 ACC) heads once again to Spry Stadium to take on the Demon Deacons (15-1-2, 6-0-2) for the second time on the road since Oct. 23. The Irish fell, 2-1, to Wake Forest, after holding a 1-0 advantage at halftime.

Now, the Irish have a postseason-chance to redeem themselves.

“We just have to play our game,” senior midfielder and tri-captain Patrick Hodan said. “Last time we played Wake, we lost our way a little bit. It was disappointing that we didn’t play very well, but thankfully, we get another chance.

“It’s obviously exciting to play the No. 1 team, but we will prepare just like we do for every other game. It should be a fun one.”

And prepared they have, recording two shutouts since falling to Wake Forest. Notre Dame closed its regular season with a 5-0 victory over Pitt at home. The Irish then beat the reigning national champion, No. 19 Virginia, 1-0, in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Sunday to kick off their postseason. The matchup marked the second consecutive time the Irish and Cavaliers have met in the ACC quarterfinals, with the Irish winning both.

Irish senior midfielder Connor Klekota pushes past a defender during Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Virginia on Sept. 25 at Alumni Stadium. Klekota has scored two goals for the Irish this season.AMY ACKERMANN | The Observer

Irish senior midfielder Connor Klekota pushes past a defender during Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Virginia on Sept. 25 at Alumni Stadium. Klekota has scored two goals for the Irish this season.

“The game against Virginia was a good win for us,” Hodan said. “It was always going to be a difficult game, and we showed resilience.

“It’s a game that we can hopefully learn from and build on going forward [this postseason].”

The Irish tread into Demon Deacon territory having posted 15 shots against the Cavaliers, pushing their shots per game tally to 15.3 for a shot percentage of .124 on the season. Wake Forest falls just behind the Irish at 14.9 shots per game, though it has outscored the Irish 2.50 to 1.89 goals.

“Wake Forest is a very strong opponent, so we will face many challenges playing them at their home,” Panken said. “Specifically, they have a very strong attack, so we will have to deal with their movement off the ball in attack and their speed in transition.”

Hodan and Panken will help the Irish control the midfield and add to the Irish attack’s momentum, to outplay Wake Forest’s dangerous movement and speed as they did against Virginia.

“I think that the midfield has grown a lot through this season,” senior midfielder Evan Panken said. “We always focus on getting better after each game, win or lose. I think that we have gotten a lot better at reading each other and playing to each other’s strengths.

“Our shape as a midfield four was something that we have gotten better at and something we did very well in the Virginia game. We also picked up second balls really well in the UVa game.”

But as usual, whether against Virginia, Wake Forest or potentially a next opponent, it’s one game at a time for the postseason Irish, who continue in their search for the program’s second national title.

“The team gets really excited for the postseason because everyone knows the importance of each game,” Panken said. “In these win-or-go-home games, we all know the importance of staying focused and playing our best. There is always a buzz around the postseason, and the way we manage this excitement becomes crucial for our success as a team.”

Notre Dame travels to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to take on No. 1 Wake Forest the ACC tournament semifinals tonight at 7 p.m.

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About Kit Loughran

My name is Kit Loughran, and I am a senior at the University of Notre Dame. I am a Marketing major and Journalism minor. I write for the Sports Department of The Observer and cover Men's Soccer, Lacrosse, and Golf.

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