No. 7 Irish begin three-game road trip
Manuel De Jesus | Thursday, October 15, 2015
No. 7 Notre Dame will travel on a crucial road trip in the next week as the second half of the season gets into full swing. The Irish (8-2-3, ACC 3-1-1) will travel to Virginia Tech on Friday, Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, on Tuesday to take on Northwestern and to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Oct. 23 to take on No. 5 Wake Forest.
Despite getting set to take on the one of the toughest stretches on the schedule, Irish head coach Bobby Clark is confident in the team’s ability to evade the pressure and play their game.
“You just take them one at a time,” Clark said. “I think that’s the most important thing. They’re all very talented teams, so each one will be a challenge. A slightly different challenge in each case, but the big thing is taking it one at a time.”
Notre Dame will first take on the Hokies (5-5-2, ACC 0-3-2), who have struggled to play with consistency this season. Virginia Tech took out then-No. 10 Xavier in its third game of the season, but went on to lose or tie in six of its next nine games. Clark said the record doesn’t really tell the story behind Virginia Tech’s team.
“They’re very athletic,” Clark said. “They have a lot of Germans, and they’re usually a little bit older. I watched their game against Clemson, and they played well against a Clemson team who’s having a terrific season. All the teams in the ACC are good, so you never have an easy team.”
One of those mentioned German-born players is Merlin Baus, a sophomore midfielder who leads the team in scoring. Baus, who came through the youth system of FC Schalke 04, has netted five goals and given out five assists on the year — three of his five goals are from the penalty spot.
The last time Notre Dame won a game on the road against an ACC opponent was against Pittsburgh last season to close out the regular season. Clark said regardless of record, winning on the road in the ACC is difficult to accomplish, but it’s something Notre Dame needs to get done.
“It’s on the road, which always makes things a little bit more difficult,” Clark said. “But I think our guys are good with handling the trip. We need to get a win on the road in the ACC. Our previous games on the road, you know obviously the loss against UNC, which we weren’t happy about. We tied it at NC State, so it’s time we start to win on the road in the ACC.”
In their last matchup against Duke, Notre Dame sat comfortably on a 2-0 lead before the Blue Devils stormed back and forced the game into overtime, where the Irish pulled out the win on a golden goal by sophomore forward Jeffery Farina. On the road, the Clark doesn’t want to see the team become complacent with the lead.
“We take every game this year, and we take pieces of every game to see how we can improve out of it,” Clark said. “We look at both of the goals [against Duke], and there were a lot of things we did well in that game. We defended a little better in that game. We made better decisions coming out of the back that we didn’t make against Michigan. There are definitely improvements, but other things like defending the cross ball maybe we could have done a little bit better on Duke’s first goal. We look at a couple of things, and we try to get better every game.”
In addition to ensuring the defense can prevent the opposition from mounting an unexpected comeback, Clark said he would like to see more of his players get involved on offense. Sophomore forward Jon Gallagher is the ACC’s leading scorer with seven goals, and the next closest scorers are freshman forward Thomas Euland and senior midfielder Patrick Hodan, who are both tied at three. Two of Hodan’s goals came during Notre Dame’s victory over Duke Saturday.
“Part of the forward’s job is getting into goal scoring position, so we can look to all four forwards to score, but we can look to a lot of people in our team that can score goals. So I’m hoping a few more guys can put their names on the scoring sheet,” Clark said.
Notre Dame will start its three-game road trip Friday as it travels to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the Hokies at 5:30 p.m.