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Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame ready to host Syracuse in rematch of ACC championship

| Friday, September 23, 2016

One minute into the second half of the 2015 ACC tournament final, Syracuse sophomore midfielder Julian Buescher powered a pass with his left foot that slipped underneath senior defender Brandon Aubrey’s attempt to block it. That pass met a cutting Ben Polk, who then fired the ball towards the net’s bottom left corner.

That play was the reason No. 2 Syracuse (8-0-0, 2-0-0 ACC) hoisted the conference tournament championship last year and not No. 3 Notre Dame (6-1-0, 1-1-0).

This season, the Irish will host the Orange at Alumni Stadium again with hopes of not only redeeming themselves from last season’s loss, but bouncing back from their first loss of the season against No. 13 Louisville last Friday.

“It’s always a test coming off any loss against any team,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s about how you handle it, and I think this will be a nice little hurdle for us to handle. At this moment, I’m confident and I think the guys are ready. We have a lot of respect for Syracuse and we know that they’re well coached. They won the ACC championship last year, and they did superbly well in the NCAA [tournament] as well. So there’s no question they’re a top team, but that’s our test.”

Irish senior defender Matt Habrowski receives a pass during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Connecticut on Sept. 13 at Alumni Stadium. Habrowski, a team captain, has started in all seven matches for the Irish this season.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish senior defender Matt Habrowski receives a pass during Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Connecticut on Sept. 13 at Alumni Stadium. Habrowski, a team captain, has started in all seven matches for the Irish this season.

Syracuse’s most recent win came against Cornell, who it ousted 3-1. The 8-0-0 start is the best start in program history, and it has won 16 games in each of the last two seasons under head coach Ian McIntyre. Last season, the reigning ACC champions lost to Clemson in penalty kicks in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

The top-three showdown Friday will feature two teams that have had similar success this season on both sides of the ball. The Irish have scored 17 goals and have conceded just three goals through seven games. The Orange have recorded 19 total goals while allowing just four goals. Syracuse attempts 15.3 shots per game and Notre Dame averages 14.7 per game. The Orange convert 15.6 percent of their shots into goals while the Irish convert 16.5 percent of their opportunities into scores.

Despite the similarities on paper, Clark believes that the Orange are a very different team that present a variety of challenges.

“They play with two forwards just like us,” Clark said. “But they play a 3-5-2, and they do it very well and have done it well for some time now. We play a 4-4-2, and we’ve played it well for a long time, so we both stick with our systems, and we both know and have confidence in our systems. We play our systems well, but it won’t be the systems, it’ll be the players that win the game. They’re good in a lot of areas, so it’ll be a nice challenge for us, but we’re good too. Slightly different assets than they have, but it’ll be a great game.”

Clark said that rebounding from a tough loss to face a top-three team will be challenging, and given Notre Dame’s record following a loss, there’s no telling how the Irish will fare this time around. Following a loss last season, the Irish went 2-1-2. Win or lose, Clark does not believe that much weight should be carried from one result to the next game, and that belief can be attributed to poet Rudyard Kipling’s “If.“

“It talks about the two imposters,” Clark said. “You’ve got to treat them both the same. I know you feel differently when you win, you definitely feel better, but you can’t get carried onto that. You have to stay even keel, and if we win, we have to sit and look at ourselves and ask what we can do better. If we lose, we have to stay even keel and ask what we can do better. That’s what we’ve done this week, and hopefully we do a few things better this week than we did last week.”

Clark also encouraged fans and alumni to get out to Alumni Stadium to support not just the Irish, but to support what should be a great match between two of the top teams in the country.

“I think anybody who likes soccer or even just likes a good contest, this is a game that they should pick out,” Clark said. “You can say that about almost any ACC game, but I think this one especially with them being undefeated with the 8-0, and us just losing last week. We were the No. 1 in some polls, and they’re the No. 1 now, so it’s one of these top-two in the country games.”

The Irish will host the Orange in a rematch of last season’s ACC tournament final Friday at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m..

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

Contact Manuel