Irish suffer first loss to Hokies, prepare to face Hoosiers
Joe Everett | Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Although No. 1 Notre Dame controlled much of the game, as it had in its six consecutive victories leading up to Friday night, Virginia Tech found the back of the net when its chances occurred, upsetting the Irish 2-1 at Thompson Field.
Marcelo Acuna accounted for all the damage by the Hokies (4-4-0, 1-2-0 ACC), as the senior forward scored both of Virginia Tech’s goals — providing the Hokies with a signature win over the previously unbeaten Irish (6-1-0, 2-1-0 ACC). Acuna scored his first goal in the seventh minute on a header in front of the net, and the several Notre Dame chances in rest of the first half went begging, allowing the Hokies to head into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The second half saw Notre Dame keep the pressure on and eventually break through, as senior forward Jon Gallagher gathered a through ball from fellow senior forward Jeff Farina and flicked it home to draw the score level. The Irish continued to control the game offensively and create chances as they sought the go-ahead goal, but a well-executed transition by Virginia Tech eventually found Acuna just outside the 18-yard box, and the senior’s stinger found the back of the net, giving Virginia Tech a lead it would not relinquish in the final 20 minutes of play. Irish head coach Bobby Clark commented on his team’s first loss of the 2017 campaign.
“We played well in many parts of the game,” Clark said. “We outshot them quite handily, but we opened a little bit slowly and let in a goal in that opening period, so we fell in an early hole. We fought our way back — I was very pleased with the way our team fought back into the game — but even though we were controlling possession they were very, very dangerous on transition. That second goal was a classic example of excellent transition, and Acuna was outstanding. He had [both goals], and actually would’ve had a third if it weren’t for a great save by Chris Hubbard.”
“ … Even though we dominated, they still created chances. Disappointing, but it’s the ACC and a tough week, so we’ve just got to move on.”
The Irish will have to move on quickly, as they travel down to Bloomington to face No. 2 Indiana on Tuesday night. Coming off its first loss in the regular season to a team Clark believes his squad could have beaten, he believes playing the Hoosiers (6-0-2, 2-0-2 Big 10) will reveal a lot about his team’s resiliency and toughness.
“This is the test,” Clark said. “This is the test for every team — how do you rebound from a tough result? There’s no better opportunity to this than to play against a very good team. It won’t be easy, but I’m sure it’s a game our players are looking forward to.”
The Irish have plenty of reasons to be excited about the marquee matchup, and Clark commented that while a lot is on line, this game may be just what the Irish need to regain their momentum.
“Indiana is always a huge game, and this is no exception,” Clark said. “It’s a big game for both teams and there’s obviously bragging rights. We know them very well — they were at the [Mike Berticelli Memorial] Tournament, where we beat them on goal differential. They’re always a very well-coached team and always have very good players, so it’s a game to look forward to for us, as I’m sure it is for their players. Nothing better than challenging yourself against one of the best teams in the country.”
Notre Dame and Indiana will kick off at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana.