Irish blitz Panthers 5-0 in first round of ACC tournament
Joe Everett | Thursday, November 2, 2017
Playing through the rain Wednesday night at home in Alumni Stadium, No. 21 and seventh-seeded Notre Dame defeated tenth-seeded Pittsburgh 5-0 in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
With much of the game played in steady rain and a downpour at points, the Irish (10-5-2, 4-3-2 ACC) weathered the slippery conditions to earn some revenge against the Panthers (8-10-0), who upset then-No. 7 Notre Dame 1-0 on Oct. 13 in Alumni Stadium, starting Notre Dame’s late season slide, as the Irish failed to win any of their final four regular season games.
However, Notre Dame made sure no such result repeated itself Wednesday night, as the Irish played perhaps their most complete game of the season and finally broke out of their recent offensive slump. Scoreless since a 3-1 win over Michigan on Oct. 10, the Irish quickly changed that narrative, as senior forward and tri-captain Jon Gallagher scored just two minutes in, calmly heading home after Pittsburgh goalkeeper Mikal Outcalt missed on an attempted clearance.
Never taking their lead for granted, the Irish kept the pressure on and the offensive floodgates open for the rest of the night. In the 11th minute, junior defender Sean Dedrick took a pass from senior forward Jeff Farina and looped a cross from the right flank towards goal, where senior defender Blake Townes waited at the far post and sent the ball into the back of net, expanding the early lead.
The Irish would go on to add yet another goal in the opening half in the 38th minute, as junior defender Felicien Dumas sent a spinning, curving free kick from 23 yards out beat Outcalt — giving the Irish a 3-0 lead heading into halftime.
As the rain increased in the early part of the second half, so did Notre Dame’s lead. Farina was primarily responsible, as the senior forward scored both second-half goals in the 49th and 62nd minutes to put the game out of reach. Irish head coach Bobby Clark called the victory a total team performance.
“They had a few injuries from the last time we played them with a couple of key guys missing, but we obviously dominated that game,” Clark said. “I think the nice thing was that we were able to get all our bench on the field today — that was a nice reward for the guys. It was a good performance. I think we started the game well, and there were some really strong performances. I thought Jeff Farina, goals apart … was tremendous. Blake Townes was very, very good. It was a team performance, and even [Hubbard] saves a penalty, so [the performance] was from the goalkeeper all the way through, right through the subs.”
No. 7 seed Notre Dame advances to play No. 2 seed North Carolina in the ACC Quarterfinals this Sunday at 1 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park.
“The nice thing is that it sets us up for going back to North Carolina,” Clark said. “That’s a real test for us because they’re arguably one of the best, if not the best, teams in the country. [The question is] can we go in there and immediately take something out of that one. So that’s our challenge now, but it’s exciting that we’ve set ourselves up for that tonight, and another season with 10 wins is always nice as well.”