Notre Dame ties North Carolina in regular season finale
Manuel De Jesus | Monday, October 31, 2016
No. 12 Notre Dame returned to dominant form in their regular season finale, but No. 3 North Carolina did enough defensively to bring the physical ACC matchup to a 0-0 stalemate to end the regular season Friday at Alumni Stadium.
The Irish (10-5-2, 3-3-2 ACC) started slowly in the first half getting off just four shots, but the second half showcased a completely different Notre Dame team. The Irish outshot the Tar Heels (11-2-3, 5-1-2) 11 to eight and created a myriad of scoring opportunities in the final minutes of the game off of free kicks and ricochets that, if timed correctly, could have led to the game-winning goal for Notre Dame.
But the Irish just weren’t in the right place at the right time.
With just under five minutes left in the game, junior forward Jon Gallagher crossed the ball from the upper right corner of the field to graduate student midfielder Evan Panken, who connected on a header that went off the right post. The ball bounced right off the post in senior forward Mark Gormley’s direction as he cut into the box, but his momentum carried him too far past where the ball ricocheted, which caused him to miss out on 1-on-1 opportunity against Tar Heel redshirt sophomore goalie James Pyle.
Three minutes later, Panken took a free kick from 35 yards out and connected perfectly with senior defender Matt Habrowski, but the team captain missed on the header and had the ball bounce away from him and towards senior defender Brandon Aubrey. Aubrey had a poor touch on the ball, which caused it to bounce off once again and land right in front of Gallagher. The team’s leading scorer fired the ball towards an open left side of the goal, but the attempt went slid wide left.
In the overtime periods, the Irish managed to hold the Tar Heels to zero shot attempts, but they failed to convert either of their three shots into a goal, resulting in the 0-0 tie.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “I think the thing that pleased me most was that we were the team that controlled most of the second half and all of the overtime. It was slow to start, but they were a very good team. They handled the ball really well, and they pressed us well, so it took us a little while to get out of our own half for a period.”
The Tar Heels threatened early in the first half as they were led by junior forward Zach Wright and sophomore forward Nils Bruening, who have scored five and seven goals on the season, respectively. Despite the offensive pressures from North Carolina, the Irish were able to clear any potential scoring attempts and clog the box to block any long shot attempts by the Tar Heels.
It’s not the result Notre Dame wanted, but heading into the ACC tournament, Clark said he is confident that the challenge against the co-ACC regular season champions will set them up for a good outing in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday.
“It’s a great advert for ACC soccer,” Clark said. “It’s two very talented teams, and two teams that play well. Although there was no goals — they hit the post as well — I felt either team could win at any time. It’s not the result we wanted, but it’s the first step to getting back on the road, and, as I said, this team has the potential to win the national championship, but so does North Carolina, so does Virginia and nearly every team in the ACC, so we’re not alone and we’ve got to keep working on it.”
Last season, Notre Dame lost to Syracuse in the conference final at Alumni Stadium. Clark said he believes despite not being a top seed in the tournament, Notre Dame can make a strong run towards the final of this year’s competition.
“We’ve lost in the final, we’ve lost in penalty kicks twice in the ACC semifinals, but we’ve never won the ACC tournament, so it would be quite nice to do so,” Clark said. “It’s one of the tournaments we haven’t won, so it would be nice to get a run in that, but we’ll see. We’ll put this one to bed first, and then we’ll start looking at who we play and how we tackle that one.”
Notre Dame will kick off the first round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday against Duke at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.