Irish blank Tigers to remain undefeated
Brett O'Connell | Monday, September 14, 2015
The Irish extended their unbeaten streak as they completed their fifth straight shutout in front of a raucous home crowd of 1,379 en route to defeating visiting No. 9 Clemson 1-0 on Saturday night.
The No. 2 ranked Irish (4-0-1, 1-0-0 ACC) opened conference play with a convincing defensive performance, outshooting Clemson (3-1-1, 0-0-1) 9-5 and preventing the visiting squad from registering even a single shot on goal.
The Irish pressured early and often in the first half, with sophomore forwards Jeffrey Farina and Jon Gallagher launching a few balls on goal and forcing Clemson junior goaltender Andrew Tarbell to make saves early. The Clemson backfield ran into foul trouble while trying to clear the ball from their end of the pitch, but eventually managed to force a key early corner when Clemson sophomore forward Diego Campos’ shot was blocked and sent out of bounds. Clemson’s set piece did itself in as the play ensuing from the corner was called offside.
Clemson maintained pressure, though, with a series of fouls called on the Irish allowing Campos two more corner kicks and a dangerous shot from just outside the box that nevertheless sailed wide of the net. With four minutes remaining in the half, the Irish pressured once more, but graduate defensemen Max Lachowecki’s shot was blocked and the Irish failed to convert on the ensuing corner before the half expired.
The Irish broke the 0-0 tie just after the beginning of the second half. Notre Dame forced a series of four consecutive corner kicks in its favor with a strong possession game, finally breaking through the Clemson defense in the 51st minute with a header from just outside the box by junior defender Matt Habrowski.
The flurry of offensive pressure from the Irish to start the second frame was sparked by halftime substitutions from head coach Bobby Clark, one of which was sophomore midfielder Blake Townes. Townes explained Clark had also seen a weakness in Clemson’s defensive scheme during the first half the team managed to exploit for the only goal in the contest.
“Our coach told us to press high and come out strong,” Townes said, “He told us that their team can’t really handle the high pressure, so we came out of the gates in the first 20, put it on them and got our goal.”
From there, the Irish simply needed to maintain their lead — and they did so with an excellent midfield possession game that never let the visiting Tigers close enough to manage a good shot, Townes said.
“It’s really important,” Townes said. “We work on it at practice day in and day out — the defensive shape, ensuring that they can’t get any chances [in the box]. I feel like we did a really nice job in the last 15 minutes to keep the lead.”
Indeed, the only shots Clemson managed in the latter frame either sailed wide or were forced out by well-positioned defenders. Before long, the clock had wound down to zero, cementing the team’s fourth win and Irish goalkeeper Chris Hubbard’s fifth consecutive clean sheet. Hubbard has yet to relinquish a goal to start the regular season.
The Irish have the opportunity to complete the sweep of their four-game home stand on Tuesday as they host Xavier at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.