Irish eliminated from tournament with third-round loss to Louisville
Manuel De Jesus | Tuesday, November 29, 2016
For the third season in a row, No. 20 Notre Dame’s College Cup run came to a halt in the third round of the NCAA Championships, as the Irish lost 3-1 to No. 9 Louisville on Sunday.
The two teams had previously faced off Sept. 16, and it didn’t take long for the Cardinals (14-5-2, ACC 5-2-1) to prove that their first win over the Irish (12-7-2, ACC 3-3-2) wasn’t a fluke. In the 15th minute of Sunday’s match, Louisville junior forward Mohamed Thiaw, who led the Cardinals this season with 12 goals, followed a shot that rebounded off the crossbar and fired the ball through the inside of the right post for a goal.
Junior forward and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Jon Gallagher gave the Irish their lone opportunity of the first half in the 19th minute, but his shot from 18 yards out was saved by the Louisville goalkeeper. Even with the missed opportunity, the Irish were confident that their first-half offense was bound to convert a shot into a score.
Just nine minutes into the second half, Gallagher and the offense found the critical equalizer after junior forward Jeffrey Farina led Gallagher with a pass that allowed him to speed past the defense and connect with the back of the net for his 14th score of the season. Unfortunately for the Irish, the offense wasn’t able to follow up with the momentum of the goal.
“I thought the equalizer was destined to happen because we were dominant mostly for the first 50 minutes of play,” junior midfielder Blake Townes said. “After the goal, we lost our mojo a little bit. We struggled to connect our passes and transition out. I’m not exactly sure why, but this let them come back into the game and eventually score off a corner.”
In the 70th minute, Louisville sophomore defender Danny Reynolds perfectly placed a corner kick towards a cutting sophomore forward Tate Schmitt, who headed in the Cardinals’ second goal. Outshot 6-3 in the second half, Notre Dame’s offense lacked the firepower to get back into the game. Louisville secured the win in the final minute of the contest with a goal from freshman midfielder Cherif Dieye that came off an assist from Thiaw.
While the Irish were stopped short of their season goal of winning the national title, there is no doubt that there was an overall team improvement from when the season began three months ago to Sunday, players said.
“Looking around at all my teammates after the game, I was extremely proud to have been a part of this team,” senior forward Mark Gormley said. “Every one of them worked his tail off day in and day out, sacrificing for the betterment of the team. Although we didn’t make it as far as we would have liked, we improved so much over the course of the year and I am proud to have been a part of this talented, humble, hard-working group of guys.”
Looking ahead to next season, some players are already thinking about stepping into the leadership roles that will be left behind by senior defender Brandon Aubrey and graduate midfielder Evan Panken. Townes, who was third on the team with five assists, believes that he is ready to take that role and help lead the Irish to a deeper run in the NCAA tournament next year knowing how much talent the team will return.
“As a team, we fell short of our goals this year,” Townes said. “I still think that on our best day we are the best team in the country. I felt we were a bit unlucky to not win anything this year since this team has a lot of talent. Also, I am going to miss some of the senior guys that will be leaving after this year. People like Brandon Aubrey and Evan Panken are two people I looked up to when I was a freshman here.
“I hope I can lead by example like they did in the rest of my time here at Notre Dame. I think the great thing about this team is that we are a family, and I have created friendships that will last my whole life.”