Irish hope for redemption over Indiana in NCAA Quarterfinals
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Friday, November 30, 2018
On Sept. 11, Indiana took the field at Alumni Stadium and stole a win in overtime against Notre Dame. This Friday, 80 days later, the Irish get the chance to flip the script and book their ticket to the College Cup.
No. 2 Indiana (19-2-1, 8-0-0 Big Ten) will host No. 6 Notre Dame (11-6-3, 4-3-1 ACC) in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Irish are coming off a 1-0 win against Virginia in overtime and a penalty-shootout win against Michigan. The Hoosiers defeated UConn 4-0, and Air Force 2-0, earning themselves a trip to the Elite Eight.
Irish head coach Chad Riley still remembers that fateful September matchup: A 71st-minute Irish goal followed by a poor defensive play by Notre Dame led to a Hoosier goal eight minutes later, and a game-winning goal by Indiana off a set-piece corner in the opening minutes of overtime. Riley noted that the Irish will need to defend well against the Hoosiers in transition and on set pieces, adding emphasis on the strong play of Indiana’s wings.
“I think we need to continue to be good defending set pieces, [Indiana] is pretty outstanding at [scoring from set pieces],” Riley said. “And then, [Indiana’s wing players] play really [well], they’re going to get involved a lot.”
Riley understands that this game will come down to controlling momentum and preventing big plays by the Hoosiers.
“And finally, I thought we did a good job during the regular season, but we’ll need to do it again, just defending them in transition. [Indiana] is a very good team in transition, they look to get to goal quickly,” he said.
The Irish held Virginia scoreless for the first 45 minutes of play, making it the 19th time in 20 games that Notre Dame shut out its opponent through the first half this season. Riley praised his defense for their good form, however he added that Indiana is a different challenge than the Cavaliers.
“Defensively, we’re in a good spot” Riley said. “We’re healthy and [the defense] knows one another. Indiana will pose different problems than Virginia, but I think the guys will be up for it.”
The Irish players are excited to play the Hoosiers again, and Riley is impressed by his team’s ability to maintain their day-to-day mentality despite the high stakes of this game.
“They’ve done a good job these last few weeks of just taking it a day at a time. I know they’ve been thinking about [the rematch against Indiana], but I think they’ll really start thinking about it when we get down [to Bloomington],” Riley said. “I know that right after the [Indiana] game earlier in the year, we were hoping to play them again. We’re certainly excited for the challenge.”
In his first year as head coach at Notre Dame, Riley has arguably met or exceeded expectations. Despite a second-round loss in the ACC championship, the Irish are now one win away from reaching the College Cup for the first time since 2013. However, Riley is not worried right now about that, focusing on the game against the Hoosiers instead.
“I think it’s hard to say [if I’ve met expectations]. I think anytime you’re playing at any time this year, you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished,” Riley said. “It’s really about the game that’s in front of you. There’s always going to be time to reflect after the season — whether you win a national championship or not. Clearly, right now we’re just focused on giving our best effort.”