ND comes home to face Tar Heels
Zach Klonsinski | Thursday, September 25, 2014
No. 3 Notre Dame will kick off the home portion of its ACC regular season schedule Friday, hosting No. 8 North Carolina after spending the last two weekends on the road against conference foes.
The Irish (3-1-2, 1-0-1 ACC) faced off against then-No. 20 Syracuse two weeks ago and No. 2 Virginia last weekend, earning a win and a tie, respectively. While some might consider four out of a possible six points a successful road trip, especially against strong competition, the Irish may have let two points slip away against the Cavaliers (4-2-1, 1-0-1 ACC). Leading 1-0 and up a man after a Virginia red card, the Irish were forced to settle for a tie, something that did not sit well with Irish coach Bobby Clark or his team.“We were disappointed,” Clark said. “I think before the two games you could have said we would have been happy with four points. Certainly I think we felt the opportunity to take three points last week and we let it slip. … But I thought there were a lot more positives than negatives that came out of last week’s game. I thought the team did a lot of things well.”
This weekend, Notre Dame will look to rebound against North Carolina (5-2-0, 1-1-0 ACC), who was ranked No. 1 last week before being shocked at unranked rival Duke, 2-1. The Irish played their inaugural ACC match against the Tar Heels last year, earning a 1-1 draw at Alumni Stadium. However, with the result of last week still in Clark’s mind, he said he is taking a ‘big picture’ approach to this year’s match.
“It’s important we play well,” Clark said. “The only thing we can really control is playing well. Getting three points [for a win], there are so many other things that can come in to that. … If you start worrying about that, then I think the thing we have to concern ourselves with is ‘Can we play well?’”
The No. 1 ranking for the Tar Heels, however short-lived, was no fluke, Clark said. The team is extremely talented, featuring two senior forwards, Tyler Engel and Andy Craven, who have scored seven goals between them this year.
“They’ve got very skillful players so we have to defend well in our own half,” Clark said. “Their back four [defenders don’t] come out too far, so you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to find ways through them. It’d be nice to not give them an early goal. … We came into that last year, and they are a hard team to break down when you give them a goal.”
In addition to the first conference home game, this weekend will also mark the registration deadline for Notre Dame’s sixth annual Grassroots Soccer Tournament. Founded by Clark’s oldest son, Dr. Tommy Clark, the organization’s primary goal is to help educate people in Africa and around the world about HIV. The organization is especially close to this year’s soccer team, who spent part of the summer in Zimbabwe, Clark said.
“I think that was special,” Clark said of the trip. “Our team joined in all the clinics. Our guys took part in at least nine clinics; the last week they were doing two-a-day. And I think they realized you make a big impression on kids who don’t have very much.”
All the proceeds of the tournament, which consists of three-player squads competing for the chance to play for the championship during halftime of a women’s soccer game, will benefit Grassroots Soccer.
Notre Dame hosts North Carolina at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Alumni Stadium followed by the Grassroots Soccer Tournament’s registration deadline Sunday, with play all next week.