Irish set for ACC opener
Joe Everett | Friday, September 9, 2016
Fresh off its early season success, No. 1 Notre Dame will kick off ACC play this Friday night against No. 15 Virginia Tech.
The Irish (4-0-0) moved from fourth to first in the latest Coaches Poll on Tuesday, garnering their seventh No. 1 ranking in the past four years. The Irish are remarkably well-rounded statistically, ranking second in the country in total goals scored (12), eighth in the country in goals-against-average (0.24) and seventh in save percentage (.947). This dominance has led to a promising start for the Irish and the lighting of the No. 1 sign atop Grace Hall, but head coach Bobby Clark warned not to put too much stock in the squad’s hot start, quoting a text he received from former Notre Dame soccer star and current U.S. National Team defender Matt Besler.
“[Matt] texted me to tell the boys to remember that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish; it’s about finding that rhythm at the end of the year that will make the season truly special,” Clark said. “I think that’s very true … it’s just one game at a time. It’s great to get a great start and a nice ranking … but the only ranking that’s really important is the final one at the end of the season.
The Irish begin their march towards the postseason with their first ACC match against Virginia Tech. Notre Dame leads the overall series, 5-1-0, but the Hokies (4-0-0) are looking at a promising season themselves.
“We’ve got to handle the maturity of their team as well as their transition,” Clark said. “They’re strong in set pieces as well, but we’ve got to make sure we play our game. We’ve got to do what we do well, because we don’t want to get taken out of our game. We’re [undefeated], but so is Virginia Tech, so both teams are off to good starts, and we know both teams will be fairly confident. But also, both teams know there’s a long road ahead still.”
That “long road ahead” comes in the form of a grueling ACC schedule that the Irish will have to navigate. Nine of the 12 ACC teams are ranked in the latest top 25 poll, including five of the top six. Clark noted this year is the continuation of a pattern of dominance by the conference.
“The ACC is without question, or has been in recent years, the strongest conference in the country,” Clark said. “It’s off to a good start this year, and I think that’s one of the fun things of playing in this league is that it is very competitive. If you take one off day you could be in trouble, so you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every week, because the guys know they’re going to be challenged.”
The Irish and Hokies will get the ball rolling at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium on Friday.