ND opens ACC play with win
Kit Loughran | Sunday, September 14, 2014
The No. 4 Irish opened ACC play with a 1-0 victory over conference-rival No. 20 Syracuse on Saturday in Syracuse, New York.
Notre Dame (3-1-1, 1-0-0 ACC) beat an undefeated No. 20 Syracuse (4-1-0, 0-1-0), who had not given up a goal on the season. The Irish ended the streak in front of a crowd of 2,442 at SU Soccer Stadium.“We went in knowing that it was going to be a very hard game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Syracuse was an undefeated team, hadn’t let up any goals and we were playing in front of a packed stadium. The team handled a very confident Syracuse team very well. I thought that they showed a lot of character and composure in handling the game.”
Sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey’s first career goal put the Irish up 1-0 in the 75th minute and earned them the victory. The scoring play began after Syracuse senior defender Skylar Thomas was issued his second yellow card of the game and ejected. Junior midfielder Patrick Hodan sent the subsequent free kick into the penalty area and Aubrey headed in Hodan’s kick.
While Aubrey did not score until the 75th minute, Notre Dame’s first shot-on-goal came in the 21st minute from junior midfielder Connor Klekota, who ripped a shot from the lower right side of the penalty box. Klekota had another chance to score in the 42nd minute from the top of the penalty box, but Syracuse junior goalkeeper Alex Bono blocked his attempt. One minute later, Bono denied another Irish attempt at goal, a head-on shot from senior forward Vince Cicciarelli.
Cicciarelli opened the second half with another scoring opportunity, spinning around from seven yards out and firing his shot near post, but Bono made another save for the Orange. Following Aubrey’s goal, freshman forward Jon Gallagher almost doubled Notre Dame’s lead with a breakaway shot that Bono once again denied. Gallagher had a second attempt in the 79th minute.
“Offensively, I think we worked really hard off the ball to create space and opportunities for our midfield to play through,” Cicciarelli said. “[Graduate student forward] Leon [Brown] and I combined for some great runs which really tired out Syracuse’s physical, athletic defenders. This allowed the younger guys — Jon and [freshman forward] Jeff [Farina] — to come on and really put together a great performance at the end of the game.”
Clark said he was impressed as well with the offense’s performance and the plays they were able to create on the field.
“All of our strikers did very well,” Clark said. “We played the more experienced Leon and Vince for the majority of the game. They were very, very good and put in a lot of hard work, [and then] we put in the two young strikers — Jon and Jeff — and they were the most composed and dangerous they have ever looked. They are beginning to find their feet.”
The previously undefeated Orange, did not leave the field without putting up a fight. They led the Irish 13-12 in shots and kept continuous pressure on Irish graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall, who had three saves during the match. For the Irish, the biggest obstacle in containing the Orange was managing their counterstrike, Cicciarelli said.
“Our biggest challenge was dealing with Syracuse’s transition game,” Cicciarelli said. “They play a very direct style, which combined with their athleticism makes them dangerous on the counter attack. But our midfield and defenders were able to handle that very well, which really shut down Syracuse’s best chances at scoring.”
With their first ACC game under their belt, the Irish continue conference play Sunday against No. 15 Virginia. Notre Dame’s only regular season loss in 2013 was a 2-0 loss to Virginia, who also beat the Irish 4-3 in penalty kicks in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.“Virginia next week on the road will be a very difficult task, and we know it will not be an easy environment to play in,” Cicciarelli said. “But if we can band together like we did [Saturday] night, and combine that with a little vengeance [from last year] I think we can get a positive result. We are looking forward to it.”
The Irish take on ACC rival Virginia on Sunday at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia at noon. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.