ND downs Tar Heels in ACC home opener
Kit Loughran | Sunday, September 28, 2014
The Irish gave their coach quite the birthday present Friday night — a 2-0 win over No. 8 North Carolina.No. 2 Notre Dame (4-1-2, 2-0-1 ACC) beat the Tar Heels (5-3-0, 1-2-0) 2-0 in its first ACC home match of the season. Irish coach Bobby Clark celebrated his 69th birthday with the team’s second ACC victory this season in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,007 at Alumni Stadium.
Though the Irish had only two shots on goal in 90 minutes of play, they capitalized on the opportunities and scored on both.
Freshman forward Jeffery Farina posted his first collegiate goal to put the Irish on the scoreboard in the 37th minute. Junior midfielder Connor Klekota sent a through pass to freshman Jon Gallagher, who crossed
the ball from the left side of the field to Farina for the assist.
“It was a great through pass by Connor to Jon, and Jon is so quick he put it over to Jeffrey … they both can finish well, [and] this time it was Jon to Jeffrey, and maybe next week it will be Jeffrey to Jon,” Clark said. “They’re the best of buddies, and they’re always out practicing here a little bit extra, so it paid off nicely today.
“It was a nice birthday present for the old man here. I was very happy for them and obviously happy for the team.”
The next Irish scoring opportunity came in the 71st minute. Graduate student forward Leon Brown scored his third goal of the season to put the Irish up 2-0. Klekota set up the second goal similar to the first with a through pass to senior defender Luke Mishu. Mishu crossed the ball into the box to Brown, and Brown put it home in the top left corner of the net from 10 yards out.
“Connor is the kind of player that hits those through passes, and he got it to Luke, who got it to Leon,” Clark said. “He hit it into the ground, and [his shot] was difficult for the goalkeeper to save.
“I was happy to see a second goal. It gave us a nice cushion.”
Even though the Irish shut out the Tar Heels, North Carolina dominated the possession and pace of the first half. The Tar Heels had five corner kicks and six shots in the half, compared to Notre Dame’s one corner kick and one shot in the same frame. In the 23rd minute, sophomore midfielder Omar Holness had the first shot on goal for the Tar Heels, a low shot to graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall. Right after Farina’s goal, freshman forward Zach Wright managed a shot of his own, and junior midfielder Alex Olofson tried again in the 44th minute, but Wall saved both shots.
“North Carolina is a very good team,” Clark said. “They pressure you very, very hard, and they come at you and make you play the game faster than you want to play the game. It was faster than we really wanted to play the game in the first half, and I thought we struggled a lot in the first half.”
Notre Dame came out stronger in the second stanza, increasing its presence on North Carolina’s side of the field. Besides Brown’s goal, junior midfielder Evan Panken had a solid chance to score in the 58th minute, but his shot went wide of the post. Senior forward Vince Cicciarelli also had a breakaway to score, but North Carolina senior goalkeeper Brendan Moore came out from between the posts and thwarted the opportunity.
The Tar Heels outshot the Irish, 12-7, and led 9-2 in corner kicks, but Wall tallied a season-high six saves for Notre Dame’s third shutout of the season.“In the second half, we changed things a little bit, and I think we handled the game very nicely,” Clark said.
“We got the game into their half, and we kept it there for periods of time. We knew they were going to push it to the goal and that they were going to take chances. It was a very good game, two very good teams and a lot of talent on the field.”
With two ACC matches under their belts, the Irish prepare to host Virginia Commonwealth in a non-conference match Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.