Irish, Blue Devils ready to face off in ACC clash
Manuel De Jesus | Friday, October 9, 2015
After tying against visiting Michigan on Wednesday night, No. 7 Notre Dame will face a quick turnaround as it prepares to host Duke on Saturday.
The Irish (7-2-3, ACC 2-1-1) are in the middle of one of the toughest stretches of games as they will play in their third match in five days when the Blue Devils (5-4-2, ACC 0-3-1) visit Alumni Stadium. Despite having to quickly change their focus from one opponent to the next, Irish head coach Bobby Clark said the players are excited for the challenges they face every game.
“I know our guys will be ready for it,” Clark said. “Duke is in a situation where they played on Monday, so they’ve had time to recover, but our guys are fit and sometimes you’re better off playing games than not. I’m comfortable that we’ll be ready for it.”
The Blue Devils are coming off a 3-2 double-overtime victory against No. 23 Hofstra. Led by senior midfielder Zach Mathers, Duke was able to rally from a 2-0 deficit to take down the Pride. Mathers was the catalyst to the offense as he drilled a free kick for Duke’s first goal of the game to eventually push the team to overtime and rally to a victory. He also had a couple of assists, including the pass that went for the game-winning goal by sophomore midfielder Brian White.
Despite being winless in conference play, Clark said he understands Duke is a talented team that should not be taken lightly.
“They started the season very well,” Clark said. “It’s easy to start losing a couple of games in a row when you start playing a tough schedule. Once you get into conference games, it’s not easy. They’re very talented and have very good players. I know that.”
The Irish had a couple of weeks where they’ve had to make a quick turnaround and play in games in a three-day span, so they understand what they need to do to get around that challenge, Clark said. Their two losses of the season against Xavier and North Carolina came on both ends of one such turnaround. The team was forced to turn their focus quickly from a game played in the middle of the week to traveling to a hostile environment just two days later.
“At the time, Xavier was the first mid-week game where classes were in session,” Clark said. “I think that traveling to North Carolina after was tough, but I think the guys are right into beat of the season. We’re into the rhythm of the season, so I think we’ll be ready for whatever comes. We knew this was possibly the hardest week of the season, and we know what the load and volume should be work the week. We’re pretty well aware of what we have to do for Saturday’s game.”
Against Michigan, Notre Dame struggled with turning the ball over in the first half before it was able to pick things up in the second half and overtime. The Irish controlled the time of possession while outshooting the Wolverines, 10-6, after the first half. Against Duke, Clark believes the Irish will have to minimize turnovers to walk away with the victory.
“We have to do a better job of not turning the ball over because we caused our problems [against Michigan],” Clark said. “We eventually lost a goal, and we could have lost more goals. We played very well, but that was the one area that caused us a big bit of trouble.”
Not only will this game be important in terms of seeding in the ACC tournament played next month, but Saturday will be the second-to-last home game for the seniors who hope to extend their post-seasons all the way through the December in the National Championship game.
“If we want to go where we’d like to go, this is about half way through the season,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of work to do before we can make that happen, but that’ll be the aim. There’s a lot of games to play, so we want to keep things one game at a time. … The seniors have done a really good job. They’re an outstanding group of young men academically and athletically. They’ve done it well all the way through, and this year is no exception.”
The Irish will look to finish their two-game home stand with a victory before heading off for their next three games on the road. Notre Dame will host Duke Saturday at Alumni Stadium at 12 p.m.