Irish to host Northwestern in top-20 showdown
Alex Carson | Monday, October 13, 2014
Fresh off a 3-2 overtime win over No. 16 Louisville on Friday, No. 6 Notre Dame will play host to another top-25 opponent — No. 20 Northwestern — tonight at Alumni Stadium.
The Irish (6-3-2, 3-1-1 ACC) posted goals from senior forward Vince Cicciarelli, graduate student defender Andrew O’Malley and junior midfielder Patrick Hodan in the Louisville win, and Irish coach Bobby Clark said he was happy overall with the team’s performance.
“I thought we showed good patience to win the ball in the middle third area, and I thought we were able to do that and create some pretty good chances,” Clark said. “I rate Louisville very highly … so I was fairly pleased.”
The match, however, marked the second consecutive one in which Notre Dame conceded multiple goals — Clark’s team had not done so all year before last Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Michigan.
“You don’t like losing two goals at home,” Clark said. “But as long as we get one more than the opposition, I suppose I should be content.”
The Wildcats (6-1-4, 1-1-2 Big Ten) come into Tuesday’s match winners of two straight and unbeaten in six, thanks in part to a stout defensive unit. In 11 games this season, the Northwestern defense has allowed just six goals, including two in their sole loss to Ohio State.
Going up against a stout defensive unit like the one Northwestern possesses, Clark said his team needs to be patient in trying to break down its opponent and needs to keep from getting beat on a counterattack.
“We’ve got to be patient,” Clark said. “It’ll be a hard game — they don’t concede a lot of goals and they’re very well-organized so we’ve got to be careful that we don’t get caught in transition. We just have to be patient all around.”
It will be the seventh consecutive season in which the Wildcats and Irish have met — a series that as of recently, has been Northwestern’s to relish. Since the resumption of the series in 2008, the Wildcats have not lost, recording three victories over the Irish as well as three draws.
Despite its strong defensive record, Northwestern has only tallied 14 goals in this season’s 11 games, with a majority of production coming from two players. Junior forward Joey Calistri and junior midfielder Cole Missimo both have four goals to their name. Senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller has seven clean sheets to his name on the year. He has played every minute of the Wildcat season to date and has made 41 saves.
Even though the match is a non-conference one, Clark and the Irish approach it just like they do an ACC match.
“We treat them exactly the same because this is a huge game as long as your RPI is concerned, this is a huge game as far as getting into the [NCAA] tournament is concerned,” Clark said. “While it’s nice to win your conference and win your tournament, at the end of the day, all of your games are going to be taken into consideration to get into the NCAA tournament.”
After a week that saw a loss at Michigan and a home win over Louisville, the Irish dropped from third to sixth in the RPI rankings — a win over Northwestern, who is 16th in the index — would help Notre Dame climb back up the ladder.
Both the Irish and the Wildcats will take to the pitch at Alumni Stadium tonight at 7 p.m., looking to bolster their NCAA tournament credentials.