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Men’s Soccer: One is all it takes

Kit Loughran | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Irish did more than just beat the 25-degree weather Tuesday night – they beat the Blue Devils to make it through the first round of the ACC Championship. 

No. 1 and second-seeded Notre Dame (12-1-5, 7-1-3 ACC) opened up its postseason with a 1-0 win over seventh-seeded Duke (8-5-6, 3-3-5) in the ACC quarterfinals at Alumni Stadium. The temperature might have been below freezing, but the Irish were able to combat the cold after warming up in the first half. 

“Duke is a fairly physical team and they pressure very hard, and it was hard to connect our passes in the first half,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “I think as the game wore on, we found a little bit of space and took over the game. 

“The second half, we played very, very well.” 

Similar to the regular-season matchup between the two teams, the Irish controlled the second half, and sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan’s lone goal in the 58th minute proved that domination. 

“[Sophomore midfielder Connor] Klekota played it to [senior forward] Harry [Shipp], and then Harry played a fantastic ball over the top, and we were able to score off that,” Hodan said. 

Shipp was taken down by Duke junior midfield Nick Palodichuk to give the Irish a free kick outside the box. Klekota passed it to Shipp, who chipped it over the top to Hodan, who then volleyed the ball out of the air for a goal. 

“It’s one we’ve worked on in the practice ground with [junior midfielder] Robby [Gallegos], Connor, Harry and Patrick,” Clark said. “We spent a little bit of time on that and saved it for the playoffs. We have a few more up our sleeves, but that was a nice one tonight.” 

The first half was much slower-paced than the second for both teams, with Notre Dame tallying only three shots and Duke zero. Feeding off the energy from Hodan’s goal near the top of the second half, the Irish ended with a total of 13 shots in the half for a total of 16, while the Blue Devils only managed three on the whole game. 

The Irish owed a great deal of their momentum and ball movement in the second half to Klekota. Klekota racked up three shots, one shot on goal and one assist in the game. 

“One thing we make a point to do as midfielders is connect with the wide mids and forwards, and win the second ball and play it to them in the pockets,” Klekota said. “That was something we strived to do today – get the ball in the pockets because then Hodan, Harry and all those guys could turn, and I think that really began to work in the second half.” 

Duke senior midfielder Jonathan Aguirre tripped junior forward Vince Cicciarelli in the 62nd minute, and Klekota took a free kick straight to the goal, but Duke fifth-year senior goalkeeper Alex Long made the save. 

In the 71st minute, sophomore midfielder Evan Panken had two solid looks at goal from in 18 yards within 45 seconds of each other. Panken had Notre Dame’s last attempted shot of the game with four minutes to go, but the Irish could not place the ball into the back of the net for a late-insurance goal.  

The Irish now quickly move on from their victory over the Blue Devils to the ACC semifinals to play No. 12 Virginia (9-4-4, 4-3-4). Virginia defeated Wake Forest (9-4-5, 6-1-4) in penalty kicks in overtime Tuesday. Notre Dame lost to Virginia 2-0 on Oct. 26, which marks Notre Dame’s only loss on the season.

“It’s nice to get a go at the one team that has a blemish in our records, but it will be a hard game, because Virginia was the only game I feel undid us here and this whole season,” Clark said. “I felt we had the upper hand in every game we’ve played, with the exception of Virginia, so this will be a tough game but one we are looking forward to.” 

The Irish take on Virginia in the ACC semifinals Friday at Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md., at 8 p.m

Contact Kit Loughran at [email protected]