Irish start road trip with win over rival Wolverines
R.J. Stempak | Wednesday, October 12, 2016
After traveling up to Ann Arbor for a mid-week rivalry game, No. 2 Notre Dame came away with a convincing 2-0 victory over Michigan on Tuesday night.
The Wolverines (2-7-4, 1-4-1 Big Ten) opened the game aggressively, keeping Irish senior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard busy early. Hubbard recorded two saves in the first 15 minutes of the game, while the Wolverine offense fired four more shots that were off target.
The Irish (10-1-1, 3-1-1 ACC) were without a shot on goal for the first 25 minutes of the game. But that changed just five minutes later, as Irish junior forward Jon Gallagher rocketed a shot that found the top right post and bounced down in front of the goal. The ricochet was met by senior forward Mark Gormley, who headed the ball into the back of the net, putting the Irish up 1-0. Irish junior midfielder Blake Townes said the team’s quick change in form was the result of its regaining confidence as the game went on.
“I think we started a bit slow tonight,” Townes said. “We couldn’t find a grip on the ball and keep possession. We couldn’t handle their pressure at first. After we found our confidence on the ball, we could play around them, and they couldn’t handle our ball movement, which lead to our goal. So it was just a confidence thing, I think.”
Gormley said he knew his team would find a way to score once it gained control, and he was just the benefactor of Notre Dame’s team play in this case.
“Once we got control of the ball, we began getting some chances of our own,” Gormley said. “[Gallagher’s] great shot from distance knocked off the crossbar and both posts, and I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot to put it away.”
The Irish kept up the pressure, pulling the shot count even by the end of the half. Although both teams took seven shots in the period, Gormley’s goal stood as the only score heading into the break.
The second half started slowly — the two teams combined for just three shots in the period’s first 15 minutes — but Notre Dame maintained its 1-0 lead. Townes said he thought the slow start for Michigan was a result of Notre Dame’s emphasis on defensive pressure coming out of the half.
“Coming out in the second half, we just wanted to keep going forward while keeping balanced shape in the back,” Townes said. “We did not want to sit back and let them control the game. We wanted to come out strong and try to score on them.”
Gormley echoed Townes’ belief and added he was pleased to see the execution of their game plan lead to control throughout the half.
“Because they have some dangerous players, we knew we needed to come out flying in the second half,” Gormley said. “We talked about getting pressure on the ball early and playing in there half, and I think we did a pretty good job of controlling the game for most of the second half.”
Notre Dame added to its lead in the 82nd minute behind a low powerful shot from Gallagher, which came off an assist by freshman midfielder Jack Casey. Gallagher’s 11th goal of the season pushed the score of the game to 2-0 in favor of the Irish. Townes said he was confident Notre Dame was going to secure the win following that second goal.
“The second goal was just incredible,” Townes said. “It was good build-up play, where [graduate student midfielder Evan Panken] got it on top of the box, then played a great ball in behind to a great run of Jack Casey. I thought Jack had great patience in not shooting but found the better shot to an incoming Jon Gallagher, who buried it past the keeper.”
The score remained 2-0 until the final whistle blew, marking Notre Dame’s fourth win in its last five games.
Over fall break, Notre Dame will continue its current stretch of play on the road when it plays two ACC matches in addition to its final nonconference matchup of the regular season. The Irish will first square off with No. 21 Virginia on Friday before traveling to Northwestern on Tuesday and finishing its stretch at Duke on Oct. 21.
Notre Dame will look to continue its successful ACC season against the Cavaliers (6-2-4, 1-2-2 ACC), who are coming off an upset victory over then-No. 4 North Carolina on the road.
Virginia is led by sophomore forward Edward Opoku, who, in 10 starts on the season, is tied for the lead on his team with 10 points. Junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell has also performed well this season in the net for the Cavaliers with a .762 save percentage.
The second of opponent of the break for the Irish is the Wildcats (2-9-1, 1-3-1 Big Ten). The Wildcats have lost three of their past four games, but will have a chance to get on track with a conference game against Rutgers before they host Notre Dame.
Leading the Northwestern offense is senior midfielder Brandon Medina, who has five points on the season, including two goals on just three shots. However, the Wildcats have largely struggled as a team offensively and have been outscored 21-8 on the season.
Finally Notre Dame will square off with the Blue Devils (4-5-3, 1-3-1 ACC) before returning home at the end of its action over break. The Blue Devils as a team have outshot their opponents by 27 shots on the season, but they have still been outscored by one goal on the year. Duke has only earned three wins in its last nine appearances.
The Blue Devils find most of their production from a formidable duo of midfielders, junior Brian White and freshman Suniel Veerakone, who have contributed 11 and 10 points to the team on the season, respectively.
Notre Dame plays against Virginia at Klockner Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. In the second game of break, the Irish play at Northwestern at Toyota Park on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The team finishes up its break travels at Duke at Koskinen Stadium on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.