Irish prepare to close regular season at Pittsburgh
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, October 26, 2018
The Notre Dame men’s soccer team will take on the University of Pittsburgh this Saturday in the closing match of the 2018 regular season.
The Irish (8-5-2) are coming off a double-overtime scoreless draw against the No. 6 University of Virginia in Charlottesville, sit at No. 23 in the United Soccer Coaches poll. Notre Dame is currently tied with Virginia Tech for fourth place in the ACC Coastal division with a 3-3-1 mark in conference play, but the Hokies hold the tie breaker after carving up the Irish by a final score of 5-2 last Friday. Pittsburgh (7-9) dwells in the cellar of the ACC Coastal division with a meager 2-5 record in conference play.
After a four-game winning streak that spanned from September 25 to October 6, the Irish sat at 7-3-1, with all three losses coming against top-10 foes. Since the victory over Louisville to cap the winning streak, the Irish have only won one of their last four matches.
After defeating Temple on October 15, the Panthers have lost their last two games, falling 3-1 at Duke and 2-1 at West Virginia. Pittsburgh owns only two wins in conference, but one of those victories came over then-No. 11 North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have since dropped out of the national rankings, but are clinging to the third-place slot in the ACC Atlantic division.
In their last match against Virginia, the Irish started junior Duncan Turnbull in net, and he rewarded the team with the second shutout of his career. Turnbull, a native of Geneva, Illinois, now owns a 3-0-1 record as the starting goalkeeper this season. In terms of switching up the starting lineup, junior full back Spencer Farina made the first start of his career against the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
Heading into the final game of the season, the Irish have maintained a stout defense against top competition. Notre Dame has allowed one or no goals in 11 of 15 matches this season, highlighted by holding opponents scoreless in five of those games. The Irish have also managed to shut out the opposition in the first half in 14 of 15 matches this season.
Pittsburgh has been shut out in four matches this season, and the Panthers have struggled to score efficiently. Pittsburgh owns a 0.140 shot percentage while surrendering a 0.152 shot percentage to opponents.
The final match in ACC regular season play will set the Irish up for the postseason. The ACC Men’s Soccer Championship first round kicks off Halloween night, and the top eight seeds will have the opportunity to host at least one match. The Irish currently hold the seventh-best conference record and are slated to host a match in the first round of the conference tournament. The Pittsburgh matchup on Saturday can dictate where the Irish will fall in the final ACC standings before postseason play.
The Irish and the Panthers kick off this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field in Pittsburgh. The match can be streamed on ACC Network Extra through ESPN.