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Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame held without trophy for first time since 2011

| Friday, May 13, 2016

Notre Dame broke new ground in 2015 with a first-ever place in the ACC championship game. But after falling to Syracuse in that game and Maryland in the NCAA tournament, the Irish failed to win a title of any sort for the first time since 2011.

The Irish looked impenetrable defensively to start the season, winning four of their opening five games. From the end of August to the middle of September, the Irish did not allow a goal in eight straight games, including a 1-0 victory over ACC rival Clemson in a top-10 clash. But a single goal from Xavier was enough to hand Irish head coach Bobby Clark’s side, then ranked No. 2, its first defeat of the season, which was quickly followed by a second defeat to North Carolina, where the Irish defensive consistency came to an abrupt halt in a 4-2 defeat.

A 5-0 victory over Pittsburgh to close the regular season with a 9-3-5 record gave the Irish momentum heading into the ACC tournament, where they made a run to the championship game. A late goal by junior defender Brandon Aubrey ensured the Irish defeated Virginia again, before Notre Dame upset then-No. 1 Wake Forest on the road in front of over 5,000 spectators. But the Irish were unable to find a goal as Syracuse earned a 1-0 victory in the conference title match. Clark said he was impressed by his team’s run to the final and had praise for the Orange.

Irish junior defender Brandon Aubrey dribbles upfield during Notre Dame's exhibition match against the U20 Mexican National Team on April 22 at Alumni Stadium.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish junior defender Brandon Aubrey dribbles across the midfield stripe during Notre Dame’s exhibition match against the U20 Mexican National Team on April 22 at Alumni Stadium.

“I think the second half of that game went very well, but we started a little slowly,” Clark said. “I think they played very well, they got the ball into our half, pressured us and worked very hard. They were a great team really, they made the semi-finals of the national tournament so they were very strong at the end of the season. They were arguably the best team in the country by the season’s end; they got very unlucky in the semi-final.

“I think getting to the final of the ACCs for the first time really stands out as a highlight of the season though. To get there, coming into a game against Wake Forest, who were No. 1 in the country, at their stadium in front of a big crowd, that was a real achievement.”

In the first round of the NCAA tournament against Tulsa, senior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard was the hero for the Irish. With the sides tied 1-1 after overtime, Hubbard saved each of the three penalties he faced in the shootout to ensure Notre Dame advanced to the round of 16, but that was as far as the team would make it. The Irish fell 2-0 behind to Maryland in the first half, and although a goal just before halftime and a red card for the Terrapins gave the Irish hope, Clark’s team could not find the equalizer.

After a Big East championship victory in 2012, a national championship in 2013 and an ACC regular season title in 2014, the empty-handed season was a rare event for the Irish. Clark said he always hoped to win titles but was proud of how his team performed over the course of the season.

“Any year you don’t win the national title is always going to be a disappointment, but I felt like this team was close to getting something,” Clark said. “After winning something in each of the last three years it’s a shame but I think we were good enough to have taken something home.”

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel