Notre Dame suffers first loss of season, breaking shutout streak
Zach Klonsinski | Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Notre Dame suffered its first defeat of the season, falling to Xavier 1-0 on Tuesday night at Alumni Stadium.
With just seconds remaining in the game, a shot ricocheted into the upper body of a Xavier defender just outside the six-yard box and the Irish players screamed for a penalty shot, but referee Chico Grajeda ruled it was clean and the clock expired.
“There were claims for various things,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “I didn’t see it so I can’t comment on it.”
The Irish (4-1-1, 1-0-0 ACC) came out flat against the Musketeers (4-2-0, 0-0-0 Big East) just 72 hours after dominating last season’s ACC champion Clemson in a 1-0 victory on the very same field. Notre Dame coughed up the ball multiple times deep inside its defensive end, missed touches and sent passes to unoccupied areas of the field all night.
“We started very slowly,” Clark said. “The first half, I don’t know when we’ve been so lethargic. … The first 20 minutes they really outworked us.”
The Irish had played five and one half games in the regular season without allowing a goal, a 533 minute, 32 second stretch that set the program record for the longest shutout stretch to start a season.
But just 1:32 into the twelfth half of the season, the streak was over.
The Musketeers finally broke through when junior forward Jalen Brown found a loose ball in the six-yard box and slammed it into the Irish net off a corner kick.
“It seemed to bobble around and somebody stuck it in,” Clark said. “I wouldn’t have expected us to lose a goal to a set piece because we’ve got good height.
“It was a bit of a calamity, the set piece, and these things happen.”
Notre Dame tried to counter three minutes later when sophomore midfielder Blake Townes fed a pass to senior midfielder Evan Panken, but Panken’s shot sailed high and wide of the net. Panken threw another shot on net in the 55th minute to finish off a slick Irish passing combination, but Xavier redshirt senior goalkeeper Dallas Jaye came up with a diving stop.
The Irish found their legs in time to mount a late offensive flurry in the final five minutes.
Sophomore forward Jon Gallagher tried to contort himself to bend in a one-touch shot on net in the 84th minute, but Jaye just let it float into his stomach. Senior midfielder Patrick Hodan, Notre Dame’s leading scorer last season, has yet to find the net this season, and his stretch of futility continued when he sent a shot from 20 yards just over the crossbar in the 87th minute.
“The second half I was pleased with the display,” Clark said. “They fought very hard in the second half even though we conceded a goal because I thought [the Xavier goal] was their only serious attempt on goal in the second half. …
“That was positive, but obviously the result wasn’t.”
Xavier had the only real chances of the first half but failed to break Notre Dame’s scoreless streak in the period. Irish junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard made a sliding save when he came out to challenge a shot by Musketeer sophomore forward Matt Vasquenza in the eighth minute. Vasquenza also curled a shot just outside the far post from a sharp angle later in the half, but those represented the best scoring chances of the half.
“We didn’t look as though we were ready today,” Clark said. “I don’t know the reason. We’ll talk about it and see what we did differently.”
Notre Dame junior forward Mark Gormley registered the only real chance for the Irish in the first half, but he didn’t get everything behind his shot and it was easily smothered by Jaye.
“We’ve got to move on,” Clark said. “We don’t have a lot of time to nurse out wounds here. We’ve got a huge game on Friday, so we’ve got to put his one behind here.
“I think road bumps are to wake you up, so hopefully this was our road bump and nothing more.”
Notre Dame has a day of practice before jumping on a plane and flying down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face the third-ranked Tar Heels on Friday. The game is scheduled to kick from Fetzer Field at 5 p.m.