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Men’s Soccer

Irish bounce back in win against Xavier

| Wednesday, September 26, 2018

On a night in which a lightning storm called for the game to finish at the 72nd minute, Notre Dame was able to pull out of a three-game losing skid with a 4-1 win over previously undefeated Xavier.

As reports of an incoming thunderstorm were rolling in, No. 20 Notre Dame (4-3-1) needed to get to the 70-minute mark in order to avoid having to play the second half again. With the inclement weather just moments away, officials called the game early at 71 minutes and 46 seconds, making the scoresheet final and giving the Irish their first win in 18 days.

The Musketeers (3-1-4) were ranked 22nd in the nation coming into the game due to an undefeated season that had included four shutouts. The Irish offense, however, was too much for the Musketeers.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish graduate student defender Patrick Berneski surveys the field during Notre Dame’s rain-shortened 4-1 win over Xavier on Tuesday at Alumni Stadium. The captain scored his fifth goal of the season against the Musketeers.

After a sluggish start, the Irish were able to get on the scoresheet — something they hadn’t been able to do since their 2-1 overtime loss to No. 2 Indiana on Sept. 11 — in the 27th minute. Senior Notre Dame defender Felicien Dumas hit a free kick that was then deflected by a Xavier defender. Irish sophomore midfielder Aiden McFadden picked up the loose ball in the box and kicked it into the net for his second goal of the season.

The first goal gave the Irish a lift, and less than four minutes later they were celebrating their second. Senior forward Thomas Ueland and graduate student midfielder Blake Townes played a two-man game that gave Ueland a look on goal. The Kentucky native buried a shot behind junior Xavier keeper Zachary Nelson for his second goal of the season to put the Irish up 2-0.

Notre Dame controlled the rest of the first half, and head coach Chad Riley noted that the team started the game off slow but took control soon after the first quarter-hour.

“We were a little sluggish for the first 10 or 15 [minutes], not bad, but just a little sluggish. After that, we got going,” Riley said. “I think the goal gave us another lift. Ueland and [senior forward Sean] MacLeod did a great job when they came on and gave a lift to the team. We had an important second goal before halftime, which I think was good. We played with good composure throughout the remainder of first half.”

At the start of the second half, the Irish quickly got back on the offensive. Freshman forward Jack Lynn gave a chest pass to junior midfielder Jack Casey and immediately ran past his defender and got the pass back from Casey. Lynn then proceeded to flick the ball over the help defense, getting past the backline and earning a one-on-one with Xavier’s Nelson. A shot to the left post gave Lynn his second goal of the season, and 51 minutes into the contest the Irish were up 3-0.

Xavier spoiled the collegiate debut by Irish junior goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull, scoring in the 59th minute off a cross by senior midfielder Simen Hestness that made it to a wide-open Matt Nance, a graduate student defender, who kicked it in for the Musketeer’s lone goal of the night and his first goal of the season.

While Notre Dame has still not conceded a goal in the first half of any game this season, Riley said it’s difficult to play a complete game against good teams.

“This game has been [our fourth] game [against] a top-25 in the RPI, and it’s Xavier’s first loss,” he said. “Xavier had good chances in the first half, but we stood up to them. Maybe in another night maybe the cross doesn’t go to [Nance]. Overall, our defensive performance was good, but sometimes when a team’s chasing they have that little extra freedom in the attack. I think it’s probably more just that we’re playing good teams and good teams are hard to shutout.”

The Irish had a swift response to Xavier’s goal. In the 65th minute, Dumas sent a corner into the box that was met by an open Patrick Berneski. The graduate student scored his fifth goal of the season with a powerful header to the right side of the goal, capping off an impressive Irish rebound game. Berneski — the captain of the team — is the leading scorer for Notre Dame despite being a defender, something Riley has noted.

“[Berneski] really has done a great job,” he said. “I think he’s now going to start chasing Brandon Aubrey from two or three years ago, who led the team in scoring as a central defender.”

Aubrey scored nine goals in 21 matches during the 2016 season. Berneski has netted five goals in eight matches, putting him on track to rack up 13 goals in 21 matches if he keeps scoring at this rate.

Next up for Notre Dame is a home match against rival Boston College at 7 p.m. Friday, which will mark the end of the five-game home-stand for the Irish.

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