ND throttles Cavs, moves to semis
Alex Carson | Monday, November 10, 2014
Graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall made eight saves and junior midfielder Patrick Hodan scored his eighth goal in nine games as No. 4 Notre Dame defeated No. 15 Virginia, 3-0, in an ACC tournament quarterfinal at Alumni Stadium on Sunday.
“It was a good performance,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “The whole team just worked phenomenally hard, and the effort to keep the game alive for us was terrific.”
After a largely uneventful opening to the game, the Irish (11-4-3, 6-1-1 ACC) went ahead in the 28th minute when graduate student forward Leon Brown tallied his sixth goal of the season — and third in two games — off an assist from junior midfielder Evan Panken.
“We’ve been kind of joking that one of the reasons [for scoring three goals in two games] was my cleat change,” Brown said. “I’m definitely just trying to come out and score as much as I can.”Senior defender Max Lachowecki played a ball for Panken to start the move, and Panken played in the ground cross for Brown to fire home from 14 yards out.
“Leon makes it easy for all of us,” Panken said. “He makes smart runs, and he’s a deadly finisher, so we know when he gets a chance that he’s going to put it away.”
The goal came just 12 hours after Brown returned from Jamaica, where he traveled to attend his grandmother’s funeral, and he said he wanted to get refocused for the team.
“I wanted to change my mindset away from the funeral mindset and everything and get refocused on the game, and I thought I was able to do that well,” Brown said. “I kind of had to sacrifice that for the team because I know that we’ve been working hard all year, and we don’t want to let it slip, especially now.”
Clark praised Panken’s work rate, saying he runs a significantly longer distance than his teammates during each match.
“Evan’s a worker; he just doesn’t stop,” Clark said. “They put these GPS things on them to track them, and he just blows everybody else away. The mileage that he covers of the period of a game is phenomenal.”
The Irish increased their lead to 2-0 with just over than 10 minutes to play in the half when sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey poked it home from close range. Hodan played in a cross that was not properly cleared by the Cavaliers defense, and after a couple touches, Aubrey put it past Virginia redshirt senior goalkeeper Calle Brown.The Cavaliers started to gain the upper hand early in the second half, but Hodan, Notre Dame’s leading goalscorer, put the game out of reach. Hodan beat Brown from the edge of the penalty area in the 59th minute.
“When Patrick hit the third goal, that made it a little bit easier coming down the final straight,” Clark said.
The Cavaliers pressed to get back in the game. They hit the post in addition to putting three shots on target in the seven minutes following Hodan’s goal but could not beat Wall. The game marked Wall’s second-highest saves total of the season and his highest when recording a shutout; however, Clark said he was just as impressed with how his goalkeeper controlled the box.
“I thought Wall handled the ball superbly throughout the whole game,” Clark said. “Just taking crosses and taking through balls, he was terrific.”
Wall’s defenders prevented Virginia from attacking close to the goal.
“Sometimes they keep you busy at the back, so you always have to be on your toes, and it was nice [to get eight saves] but it was more important to get the shutout,” Wall said. “The guys in front of me made sure that all of the shots came from distance, and that makes my job a lot easier. The stats don’t always show everything, but when the guys in front of you play well, everyone plays good.”
A strong south-to-north wind influenced play throughout the game. The Irish attacked with the wind during the first half but against it during the second half.
“The wind dictated how the game was going to be played,” Clark said. “The nice thing was that we got the two goals when we had the wind in the first half.”
The win was Notre Dame’s first victory in four tries as an ACC member against Virginia, including a 1-1 draw this season on Sept. 21 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We finally got to beat Virginia,” Clark said. “It’s taken a long while. They had our number for a while, and they’re a really good team. I think the boys will be very pleased with that win.”
The win keeps Notre Dame’s dreams of claiming the “treble” — the ACC regular-season championship, ACC tournament championship and national championship — alive.
“Final four next weekend, another championship to seize,” Clark said. “We’re going for the treble. We’ve got one in our back pocket, and we’ll see if we can get the next stage.”
The Irish will face fourth-seeded, No. 20 Clemson, which defeated Wake Forest on penalty kicks Sunday in the semifinals.
“[The ACC is] a great conference,” Clark said. “You’re looking at all of these teams, very, very strong teams. All eight teams in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament, I think, could win a national championship this season.”
Notre Dame aims to take another step towards the treble Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. First kick is scheduled for 8 p.m.