Notre Dame drops three road contests in a row
R.J. Stempak | Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Notre Dame played through its least successful stretch of the season over fall break, dropping all three games on the road.
Each contest was competitive, as the No. 4 Irish (10-4-1, 3-3-1 ACC) lost 1-0 to No. 16 Virginia and lost in overtime at both Northwestern and Duke. Notre Dame looks to regain its winning form on Tuesday night at home against No. 20 Michigan State. Irish head coach Bobby Clark hopes his team keeps their confidence through the difficult weekend.
“We take something from every game and try to look at it,” Clark said. “The one thing I would take from it is that we have outworked our opponents and have played well. Now we just got to keep doing that and not lose faith in ourselves. You got to hold to who you are. This is a big week. We are playing two top-25 teams, and it is a good test to rebound and to see if we can get back on track.”
Despite outshooting Virginia (8-2-5, 2-2-3 ACC) 15-4, Notre Dame was unable to overcome the 1-0 deficit the team found itself in after the seventh minute. Cavalier junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell tallied seven saves for his team in the game, preventing the Irish from getting on the scoreboard. Clark said his team played well against Virginia, but sometimes the bounces just don’t go a team’s way.
“[Virginia] got the goal early and then they did a good job,” Clark said. “We seem to run up against hot goalkeepers. They defended well, but we also played well. We played well in all of the games over break, it was quite strange.”
Notre Dame then took on Northwestern (4-10-1, 2-4-1 Big Ten) on Tuesday where the Irish lost 2-1 in overtime. The Wildcats took the lead in the 25th minute with a deflected shot that found its way into the net from sophomore midfielder Shannon Seymour. The Irish immediately equalized behind a goal from senior midfielder Mark Gormley in the 26th minute.
Neither team was able to find another goal in regulation. However, Northwestern converted on a counterattack in the beginning of the overtime period, ending the game in the 94th minute. This loss marked the first time all season where Notre Dame was unable to earn a victory in consecutive matches.
The final destination of the fall break road trip was Durham, North Carolina, where the Irish lost to Duke (6-6-2, 2-4-1 ACC) by another 2-1 score. Graduate student goalkeeper Robert Moewes made seven saves for the Blue Devils, keeping his team in the contest through double overtime. This being the second game on the trip against a stalwart goalkeeper, Clark said his team had to stick to its game plan in order to win.
“It’s tough,” Clark said. “You just got to keep playing well and you got to hold your confidence. With the schedule we play, we are going to come up against this situation and I think we got to stay calm and keep doing what we are doing. Once we come through this I think we will be a much stronger team, and we will be in a good place come playoffs.”
Versus the Blue Devils, the Irish got on the board first with Gormley scoring his second goal of the road trip in the fifth minute. The Blue Devils responded in the 35th minute, knotting the game up at 1-1. The scoreboard remained unchanged until Duke freshman forward Brandon Williamson ended the game with his second goal of the contest in the 109th minute. The road trip was difficult for the team’s record, but Clark said he believes the Irish played with the proper mindset throughout the overtime periods.
“We are extremely fit, and that also is perhaps a bit frustrating, because in both occasions we were the team that was trying to win the game,” Clark said. “I felt both our opponents have settled for the tie, but obviously they both were able to break away and take something good out of it for them. We were the team that was pushing to win the game, but that’s soccer. If I was in the same position again I would still be pushing to win the game. That’s something we do at Notre Dame: We are always trying to win. We are never happy to settle for a tie. Sometimes the game stands on its head and we end up getting nothing. I still liked the team’s mentality in these games.”
The three game losing streak was uncharacteristic for the Irish, as they had only lost one game and tied one game the entire season before the road trip. Notre Dame will look to turn around its fortunes against Michigan State (11-3-1, 4-2-1 Big Ten) as the end of the season draws near.
The Spartans have won six of their last eight games, with a double-overtime loss and a tie in that span. The Spartan attack is spearheaded by sophomore forward Ryan Sierakowski, who has 18 points on the year. As a team Michigan State nearly doubles their opponents in goal output with 1.4 per game.
“[Michigan State] will challenge us, and each team challenges us in different ways,” Clark said. “They are coming in very confident and they are well-coached, and they have a lot of good players and players that we know because they are from the Midwest.
“We know we are in for a real battle.”
Notre Dame faces off against Michigan State on Tuesday at Alumni Stadium, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.