Notre Dame challenges Pittsburgh on the road
Joe Everett | Friday, September 30, 2016
Fresh off last Friday’s last-second win over ACC powerhouse No. 3 Syracuse, No. 2 Notre Dame hits the road to take on another ACC foe, Pittsburgh, this Friday.
The Irish (7-1-0, 2-1-0 ACC) enter as the favorites as the Panthers (2-5-2, 0-2-1) have gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark, who won the 200th game of his Irish tenure against Syracuse last week, warned that the new-look Pittsburgh team is still a dangerous opponent.
“I think it’s a very different Pitt team from previous years,” Clark said. “They went to Duke and took a tie there and then they won again [against Longwood] … so they’re undefeated in their last two games. I think Pittsburgh’s going to be a very good team in a very short time – I think this year’s really the start of that – so this is not an easy game.”
Although their record doesn’t indicate it, the Panthers have played well against highly-ranked opponents this year, losing narrowly to both Louisville and North Carolina. Clark stressed that the Irish can’t overlook this game, and will likely need a fast start to negate the possibility of an upset.
“I think [Pittsburgh] will be excited until [we] score some goals, but if you keep them hanging around, this will be a very tough game,” Clark said. “If we for one second think this is going to be an easy game, we could well rue that.”
This game will serve as the midway point of the regular season for the No. 2 Irish, as the team will play another eight games after facing Pittsburgh. Clark, although pleased with his team’s start, says the team cannot afford to rest on its laurels.
“I would say it’s certainly been a good start … but I always say it’s really how you finish,” Clark said. “Our first goal is to make sure we get into the tournament, and if you just look at our schedule we’ve got a lot of really, really tough games coming up.”
Next week is a prime example of the difficult slate coming up for Notre Dame, as it will host two signature matchups against No. 6 Indiana and No. 11 Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium. Following that duo, the Irish will then play four straight road games, and then return home to face two more ranked teams in No. 25 Michigan State and No. 4 North Carolina.
However, Clark believes the gauntlet truly starts this Friday against Pittsburgh.
“It starts at Pittsburgh – it’s a tough play to go to … never has been an easy place to play,” Clark said. “This’ll be a good test for our team, our mentality – I think the players will certainly be mentally ready for this game.”
Notre Dame holds a 14-3-3 advantage in the series, and the 21st meeting between the Irish and Panthers will kick off Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field in Pittsburgh.