Irish fall to Syracuse in ACC title game, 1-0
Kit Loughran | Monday, November 16, 2015
Syracuse beat the Irish in the race for the ACC championship title on Sunday at Alumni Stadium.
In a battle of two teams contending for their respective first ACC tournament crown, the No. 13 Orange (12-5-3, 3-4-1 ACC) managed to squeak past the No. 9 Irish (11-4-5, 4-2-2), 1-0, on the road.
The ACC title marks seventh-seeded Syracuse’s first conference title since 1985 and makes it the lowest seed to win the championship in the tournament’s history. The Orange advanced to the final by knocking off No. 5 North Carolina, 4-3, in penalty kicks Nov. 8 and then No. 2 Clemson, 2-0, on Wednesday.
Barely a minute into the second half, Syracuse sophomore midfielder Julian Buescher sent a pass through to junior forward Ben Polk, who then slid the ball past junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard for the game’s only tally.
“Full congratulations to Syracuse,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “They had to go to North Carolina and pull out a result, they had to go to Clemson to get a result, and then they had to come here and pull out a result.
“Any team that can do that are certainly worthy winners.”
The fourth-seeded Irish and the Orange recorded a low tally of shots on goal throughout the 90 minutes, managing nine and 12, respectively.
The two teams closed the first period in a 0-0 stalemate. Notre Dame’s best chance to score came in the 27th minute, when senior tri-captain and midfielder Patrick Hodan fired a left-footed shot in the box off a pass from senior defender Michael Shipp. Hodan’s shot beat the goalkeeper but stroke the left post.
“It was going to be a game of two halves,” Clark said. “There was a strong wind [east to west inside the stadium] and a low sun, so I was very happy going into halftime 0-0. I felt although they had played the game in our half they didn’t have any chances. That was the funny thing, in the second half, the one really good chance their boy took, it went very well.”
Syracuse had three corner kicks in the first seven minutes of play, leading the Irish 9-3 in that category for the match. Soon after, in the 12th minute, the Orange saw a solid scoring attempt when senior midfielder Juuso Pasanen diverted a Notre Dame clearance pass that he sent flying over the net.
“Any errors were really forced errors, and I think a lot of that came from the pressure,” Clark said. “They pressed us very hard in the first half. … We found it hard to handle the pressure, and between the wind and the sun, it wasn’t easy.”
The second period opened much more quickly than the first. Barely a minute into play, Buescher found Polk, who beat Hubbard with a touch off the outside of his left foot for his 10th goal of the season to give the Orange the lead.
Following the Syracuse goal, the Irish upped their pressure, tallying six shots on goal over the rest of the half.
Freshman forward Thomas Ueland sent a through pass to set senior tri-captain and midfielder Connor Klekota in the 59th minute, but Syracuse freshman goalkeeper Hendrik Hilpert made the stop.
Sophomore forward Jon Gallagher raced up the right wing 10 minutes later, but his shot sailed past the left post. Then in the 88th minute, Ueland had a touch to graduate student tri-captain and defender Max Lachowecki, but his shot, like Gallagher’s, flew wide.
“I felt we had four very good chances, obviously the one in the first half when [Hodan] hit the post,” Clark said. “We had several good looks in the second half.”
Now, the Irish await their berth in the NCAA tournament by the tournament’s selection committee. Despite the loss, Clark said Syracuse provided a valuable game for the Irish as they move further into the postseason.
“It was a good game because it was a different type of team than we’ve played of late,” Clark said. “They were a much more direct team; they’re big and a little bit older. It was a good lesson for us, and I think we can learn a few things from the game, take it into the NCAA tournament.”
Notre Dame now anticipates its at-large seed in the 2015 NCAA championship when selection show is scheduled to air at 1 p.m. Monday on NCAA.com.
“For us, it makes us hungry for the NCAA tournament,” Clark said. “It’s very hard to win this and go all the way. Now we have three games to win again to get to the final four, and that’s the way we look at it, so we’ll wait and see what the draw does to us.”