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Men’s Soccer

Irish prepare for grudge match

| Thursday, September 18, 2014

It is said that there are few things better than sweet, sweet revenge. No. 5 Notre Dame will have its chance to get some Sunday, when it travels to face No. 7 Virginia in a marquee ACC matchup.

The Irish (3-1-1, 1-0-0 ACC) were shutout by the Cavaliers (4-1-0, 1-0-0) at Alumni Stadium last year, 2-0. It was the only game the eventual national champions lost in regulation all season. Virginia also ousted Notre Dame in the ACC Championship semifinals on penalty kicks, 4-3.

“That was a team that had our number last year,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said of Virginia. “I think they are a better team [this year], watching them on tape. … Every ACC game, you have to take it on its own merit. This is certainly one of the hardest games in the ACC.”

Coming off a 1-0 road victory against then-No. 20 Syracuse in its ACC opener last weekend, Notre Dame’s second conference tilt will pit the Irish against their second top-10 opponent of the year.

“That was a really hard win,” Clark said of the Syracuse victory. “That’s a really hard place to go. We had to beat a very good Syracuse team that was 4-0. … Very happy with that one.

“I think every game is extremely important, you don’t put one above the other … From that game, you move on to another very, very tough at Virginia.”

Last weekend in New York, the Irish played the Orange (5-1-0, 0-1-0) in front of a school-record crowd of 2,442. Virginia’s Klockner Stadium can hold roughly 7,000; the Cavaliers defeated rival Virginia Tech last weekend in front of 5,430 spectators. Clark said one of the keys to the Syracuse win was taking the crowd out of the game,  and it will need to be one this week. The afternoon game will also be televised on ESPNU, the first of four slated national television appearances for Notre Dame this season. Asked what his team needed to do Sunday, Clark focused on two goals.

“We’ve got to play with a lot of belief,” Clark said. “You’ve got to go in there and believe. And then you’ve got to play smart … Not give anything away. But I think the big thing is having the confidence. Confidence is so important, and being a team, a tight team because it’s going to be tough.

“There are going to be parts of the game where you know it’s going to be tough, know you’re going to be under pressure, and you can’t panic. When you’re in these difficult situations, you’ve just got to stick together, tough it out and come back into your game.”

Clark said that it would be imperative for the Irish to keep their cool when they get the opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, something the squad has struggled with this season. Last weekend’s game was the first time all year the Irish had been out-shot all season (13-12), although they did hold an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal.

Although five different players have scored for Notre Dame this year, the list does not include a couple of the important names from last year, most notably junior midfielder Patrick Hodan, whose 11 goals trailed only former Irish midfielder Harrison Shipp for the team lead last season. However, Clark said he is very confident in his team’s ability to score goals.

“I think we have a lot of people who can score goals.” Clark said. “We’ve got a lot of people capable. It is nice if you can have someone who can get into a nice little vein of scoring goals like [Shipp] did for us last year. … Hodan has been a little slow to start this year, so hopefully he can, but there’s also people who can score goals.”

Notre Dame received its lone goal last weekend courtesy of sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey. His first career collegiate tally came in the 75th minute of the contest, breaking Notre Dame’s scoreless drought of over 215 minutes. Clark said Aubrey’s goal was a huge one for Notre Dame, but the team is still very talented and ready to score. He also emphasized that every match in the ACC is a “slugfest” because of the quality of the conference’s teams.

“I think any one of the top six teams in the ACC could win a national championship,” Clark said. “I often joke that when we won the league last year, I said that was a bigger achievement than actually winning the national championship.”

This year’s march toward a title carries on for Notre Dame as it travels to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Sunday matinee match with the Cavaliers. The game will be broadcast live starting at noon on ESPNU.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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