Gallagher scores winner to advance Notre Dame in NCAAs
Benjamin Padanilam | Monday, November 21, 2016
No. 13-seeded Notre Dame advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament Sunday night, defeating Loyola Chicago 1-0 at Alumni Stadium.
Recently named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, junior forward Jon Gallagher proved himself worthy of the award against the Ramblers, notching his 13th goal of the season in the 78th minute to break the deadlock and send the Irish into the Round of 16.
Continuing his penchant for late, dramatic goals, Gallagher’s fifth game-winning goal of the season was created off a pass by senior forward Mark Gormley, whose drop pass to the left post found the foot of Gallagher. After the game, Irish head coach Bobby Clark said he felt only relief when Gallagher’s shot found the back of the net.
“It was definitely relief, because the longer the game went on, I felt that the more excited they were going to get,” Clark said. “One opportunity was going to decide the game, and they were a dangerous enough team — they’re a good team. It was nice to see Jon getting another goal to put him up to 13 goals — that’s a great number — and it was a great assist by Mark Gormley. And it was great that the two strikers combined to get a goal.”
After Gallagher’s goal, Loyola constantly pushed people forward and pressured the ball, hastily seeking an equalizer. Four of the Ramblers’ six shots in the second half came in the final 10 minutes of the game, but the Irish defense held firm, highlighted by the play of senior defender Brandon Audrey, who had several key headers out of the box to thwart several chances by Loyola.
“If we just kept a little more composure in the last five minutes maybe we could have gotten a second goal,” Clark said. “It’s like when you pull the goalkeeper in hockey, they pushed extra players and were knocking the ball up. They had nothing to lose at that point in the game so it made sense to get up the field. We held firm, and I think Brandon Aubrey was superb in that time. They were knocking balls in the air and Brandon’s head was clearing things.”
Clark said afterwards he thought Loyola had an advantage entering the game having already played a tournament game, but that the Irish put forth a great opening performance.
“The first game is always a very difficult game in the [NCAA] tournament, and it may have been a little easier for Loyola because they’ve already had a game.” Clark said. “But I was very pleased with the way we played — our pressing, our passing, our speed of play and our enthusiasm to take the game to them was fantastic. The last 10 minutes were very nervous, but it was still a very good performance.”
Notre Dame now advances to play No. 4-seeded Louisville next Sunday, who advanced to the Round of 16 after staving off UCLA 2-1 in overtime. The Irish and Cardinals met once in the regular season back on Sept. 16 at Louisville’s Lynn Stadium, where Louisville won 1-0 to hand the Irish their first loss of the season. Clark said he and the team are excited for another chance to play their ACC rival.
“We were undefeated, 9-0 when we went to play Louisville, so this is a chance to set the record straight,” Clark said. “It’ll be a tough game because they’re a good team, but it’s a game that the boys are very excited for.”
Although the team will now have to stay on campus for practice over Thanksgiving break instead of going home, Clark said he sees the positive in the situation.
“If we have Thanksgiving here on campus, I know it’s been a pretty good season.”