Notre Dame bests Syracuse in top-three showdown
R.J. Stempak | Monday, September 26, 2016
No. 2 Syracuse visited No. 3 Notre Dame on Friday night in a rematch of the 2015 ACC championship game in front of a crowd of 2,468, and the Irish came out with a 2-1 victory behind a 90th-minute goal from junior forward Jon Gallagher.
The evenly-matched teams began the game as expected, with neither the Orange (8-1-0, 2-1-0 ACC) nor the Irish (7-1-0, 2-1-0) able to jump out to a quick score.
Starting around the 24th minute, Notre Dame had a couple of strong scoring opportunities. Irish senior defender Brandon Aubrey took a free kick from ten yards outside the box — where he has excelled all year — but was unable to strike it past the wall. Gallagher then drove into the box and earned a corner for the Irish. The cross bounced to junior midfielder Blake Townes at edge of the box and he shot it high and on target, but Orange sophomore goalie Hendrik Hilpert made the save to keep the game scoreless.
Notre Dame controlled most of the possession in the first half but were unable to translate their 10 shots into more than one goal goal, while Syracuse kept trying to air the ball out to senior forward Chris Nanco for a counter attack without much success.
In the 45th minute, Irish graduate student midfielder Evan Panken crossed the ball in from the left wing in the direction of slashing freshman midfielder Jack Casey near the far post, and Casey directed the ball skillfully into the back of the net. The first career goal for the true freshman gave the Irish a 1-0 lead at the half.
“Evan Panken crossed it in for me,” Casey said. “A couple minutes earlier, a similar play happened and the ball got to the back post and was pretty open, so I knew on the next play I should get there. It all happened so fast, and the ball went over everyone, so I don’t exactly know what happened, but I was really excited.”
The second half began much like the first, with both teams testing each other and unable to create many scoring chances. In the 52nd minute, Nanco got off a shot low left that was turned away by Irish senior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard. Hubbard than made a save off the resulting corner kick to keep the Irish lead at 1-0. In just the first 20 minutes of the second half, Syracuse trimmed Notre Dame’s shot advantage to 11-9.
“You try to lock them in their half,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said about defending Syracuse. “We were able to do that in the first half, but in the second half they knocked it up rather than playing it up. We just weren’t able to play the game enough in their half. We still outshot them overall, but in the second half they outshot us 8-4. It was definitely a game of two halves.”
In the 79th minute, Orange senior defender Oyvind Alseth’s corner kick found sophomore defender Miles Robinson, who knocked it into the back of the net, knotting up the game at 1-1.
But Gallagher and the Irish responded 11 minutes later.
With overtime looming and just 16 seconds left on the game clock, Gallagher dribbled to the top of the box and shot into the top left corner, scoring the game-clinching goal and sending his team home with a 2-1 victory.
“We were pushing in the first half, [and] I thought we dominated,” Gallagher said. “Then, they threw the kitchen sink at us in the second half, and unfortunately they got the goal. We kept plucking away, and Jack [Casey] gave me a great ball into the middle and I just knew what I was going to do from there. Thankfully, the work this summer has paid off, and I’m very happy I could help the team.”
The victory also marked the 200th career win at Notre Dame for Clark. He said he was very pleased with his team’s performance but was unaware of his milestone achievement until after the game.
“It was a surprise, and I had no idea,” Clark said about the milestone. “I should’ve known something would happen, it always does around my birthday. I remember my 100th overall win was at Stanford, and it was on my birthday. My 200th overall win was at Cincinnati, and it was also on my birthday. My birthday [this year] is on Monday so it is close but not quite. What a goal to win it. It was a fantastic goal. There are a lot of good things happening tonight.”
Syracuse proved to be a worthy opponent, putting pressure on the Irish throughout the second half en route to a tight match, Clark said.
“[Syracuse] was chasing the game,” Clark said. “We had a couple of good breaks, but they were a tough opponent. A tie would’ve been fair to everyone, but seeing as it was coming up on my birthday, it was fitting that it was a win for us. I thought we worked hard, and a lot of guys did a good job today. We needed that win — if we lost that one, it would’ve put us back and made it quite difficult.”
Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh for its next game Friday at 7 p.m.