Notre Dame outlasts VCU in double overtime, 1-0
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, September 30, 2014
There was a definite chill in the air Tuesday night as the recently re-crowned No. 1 Irish claimed a 1-0, double overtime victory in their first ever match-up with non-conference opponent Virginia Commonwealth (VCU).Senior captain and midfielder Nick Besler headed in the overtime winner with 3:22 remaining in the extra period off a corner kick to clinch the game for the Irish (5-1-2, 2-0-1 ACC).
“We’d been getting really good service all night from [junior midfielder Connor Klekota] and [junior midfielder Patrick] Hodan,” Besler said. “I think it was [freshman forward Jeffrey] Farina this time who got the initial header and put it right across the box. I was basically standing right on the goal line. The job was really easy for me.”
“We played very well the second half,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “We had some excellent chances and we should have taken care of it. Their goalkeeper was fantastic tonight, had several great saves.
“Even the goal seemed to racket around, it wasn’t one that went straight in.”
While the game began at a slow pace, Notre Dame came alive in the last 10 minutes of the second half and in the overtime periods.
The first real chance of the game came in the 16th minute when Notre Dame graduate student forward Vince Cicciarelli headed a long corner from Klekota back into the box where sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey headed the ball on net but was denied by redshirt junior goalkeeper Garrett Cyprus.
“The first half, there wasn’t actually a lot in it,” Clark said. “I thought it was a fairly even game. They’re a very talented team, but I think they ran out legs a little bit after that. … We were still running. We were the team that wanted to win the game.”
VCU (3-6-1) had a few loose-ball chances in the Notre Dame penalty box about midway through the second half, but the Rams’ attempts either missed the net or were blocked by defenders. The Irish’s first offensive opportunity of the second half came when Cicciarelli had his shot from 10 yards out blocked and junior midfielder Evan Panken’s follow-up from 18 yards slid wide of the right post.
In the 84th minute, the Irish began to increase their offensive pressure. Freshman forward Jon Gallagher was able to gain a step on the man marking him, forcing the defender to foul him hard just outside the penalty box and setting the Irish up with a high-quality scoring chance. Klekota’s free kick attempt was blocked, though, and the game remained scoreless. Minutes later, Aubrey headed a shot on goal that was blocked on the goal line by a VCU defender, and then Hodan had a long shot turned away by Cyprus with two minutes remaining in regulation.
Even with all the missed chances, Clark said he thought his team managed its frustration well and kept its composure.
“I think this is a very positive team,” Clark said. “They’ve been through these things before, but I think the hard thing was even the second half, you’re dominating.”Clark also pointed out the resemblance of this game to the Kentucky heart-breaker the Irish lost a few weeks ago after controlling much of the game.
“[VCU] had a scramble there in the last minute,” Clark said. “I said, ‘Oh, no. Not again.’”
Just over two minutes into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods, Notre Dame was awarded a penalty kick for a handball in the penalty box. Hodan had a hard shot, but Cyprus made a diving save to his right to keep the Rams alive.
“Poor Patrick,” Clark said. “Well he got the corner over there [on the goal] so I think he gets some reward at the end of the day.”
Notre Dame continued to put pressure on the VCU defense, though. Graduate student defender Luke Mishu sent a cross into the box where freshman forward Jeffrey Farina’s shot hit the post before deflecting back to the foot of graduate student senior Leon Brown. Brown got the shot off, but again Cyprus had an answer, deflecting the shot inches over the top bar, preserving the clean sheet through the first overtime period.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Hodan sent a corner towards the front of the net. Farina was the first player to get a touch on it before the ball found Besler standing nearly on the goal line. His goal sent the Irish team into a jubilant celebration.
“Tonight we had some good chances,” Besler said. “I know [in] the first overtime [Farina] hit the post [and] Aubrey had a good header, so we kinda had a really strong belief that eventually we were going to get one.”
The Irish waste no time in returning to the pitch, returning Friday to pick up ACC play again against rival Boston College. With such a short turnaround time, Clark was asked how he planned to prepare his players.
“A lot of rest,” Clark said. “They put a fair shift in there. We worked very hard. … It’ll be a tough game because I don’t think [Boston College] had a midweek game.”
The Irish host the Eagles on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.