Irish shutout UC Irvine, New Mexico on way to Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament title
Manuel De Jesus | Monday, August 29, 2016
No. 9 Notre Dame started its season off with two wins after capturing its seventh Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament title, defeating California-Irvine on Friday night and New Mexico on Sunday night by scores of 4-0 and 1-0, respectively, at Alumni Stadium this weekend.
The Irish (2-0) started their 2016 campaign with a dominating 4-0 victory against the Anteaters (0-2), powered by junior forward Jon Gallagher’s two goals and an assist.
The opening score came from tri-captain senior midfielder Evan Panken, who received a cross from Gallagher, slid towards the left post and connected for the goal.
Gallagher gave the Irish their second goal, scoring from six yards out on the right side of the field with a powerful shot in the upper left corner of the net. Senior defender Brandon Aubrey scored on a penalty kick two minutes later to give the Irish the 3-0 advantage, and Gallagher scored his second goal of the match in the 78th minute to secure the win.
After the win, Irish head coach Bobby Clark emphasized the importance for his team to replicate the way it played Friday on a consistent basis.
“You got to [play consistently] if you’re going to make the [NCAA] tournament,” Clark said. “With the schedule we have, if we don’t play consistently, we won’t be in the tournament, but we enjoy and thrive in that.”
Panken also praised the performance of his team and harped on the confidence boost the match gave them after going through the preseason without a win.
“UC-Irvine is a strong team, and we knew they were going to come in here with a lot of energy and quality players,” Panken said. “To be able to implement what we wanted to do and get the result we wanted is a big boost of confidence, knowing that we can play like that against any team in the country.”
Notre Dame’s match against the Lobos (0-2) started four hours after the scheduled 2 p.m. kickoff time thanks to lightning in the area, but that didn’t stop 1,308 fans from coming back at 6 p.m. to watch the game.
The Irish, who had been at Alumni Stadium nearly the entire day, didn’t have the same offensive production they had against California-Irvine, but their defense stepped up to shutout an aggressive Lobos team that outshot them in the match, 18-6.
“New Mexico is an excellent team, and there’s no question about that,” Clark said. “I would say they’re a better team than the one we played in the semifinals [in the 2013 NCAA Tournament]. … They’re big and they’re physical, and they’ve got six guys over 6-foot-4, but I thought our central defenders were superb.”
The lone score of the game came from Aubrey, who notched his second penalty-kick goal of the season in the 41st minute. The Irish now have two penalty kick goals in the first two games of the season. They earned just one attempt all of last season.
“It’s just something I’ve done growing up — hitting PKs,” Aubrey said. “I put it in the corner with a lot of power, so even if the keeper knows where I’m going, he can’t get to it.”
That power was on display as both his penalty kick goals were scored despite the goalie correctly guessing which side Aubrey shot at.
Both Notre Dame and Indiana finished the tournament undefeated, but the Irish took home their second straight title based on goal differential. The Hoosiers (2-0) had a goal differential of plus-three, while the difference for the Irish was plus-five.
Clark said he hopes this tournament’s success will help carry momentum over to next week’s Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic, where they’ll compete against No. 1 Stanford, who won the NCAA tournament last season, and California.
“You want to win everything,” Clark said. “Next week we’re at Bloomington, and we want to win that one. Everything you go into, you want to win it, but the focus at the moment is ‘what can we take from that game that we can take into next week?’
“Next week we’ll be playing Stanford, who is very similar to [New Mexico] and to the way they play … so that was maybe a good rehearsal for playing the current national champions.”
Notre Dame will join Stanford, California and Indiana at the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic starting Friday at Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana.