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ND Men’s Soccer

Irish prepare for season finale against Pitt, postseason

| Thursday, October 31, 2019

Notre Dame will host Pittsburgh on Friday in their regular season finale. The Irish (8-6-1 overall, 2-5-0 ACC) come into the game three spots behind the Panthers (8-5-2 overall, 4-2-1 ACC) in the ACC Coastal.

Neither team finds itself in the Top 25 rankings, but both squads are coming off huge upset wins within the ACC. On Oct. 18, Pittsburgh defeated Virginia by a score of 2-0, handing the previously top-ranked team in the country their first loss of the season. The Panthers followed up the upset with a 4-3 victory over Duke on Oct. 25. Notre Dame, on the other hand, bounced back from consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Michigan with a 1-0 upset victory over Wake Forest, who had been the second-ranked team in the country at the time.

Irish head coach Chad Riley was pleased with his team’s commitment throughout the win.

“We needed a good response after a disappointment against Michigan, so I think we had a good, focused group,” Riley said. “We went down there, and I thought, for the most part, we played well and we executed and we created some good chances. I think it’s a difficult place to get a result, but the group really worked hard and smartly, and we got a good result against a good Wake team.”

It may have been just another game on the schedule, but the confidence that a big win over a big team brings cannot be overstated, Riley underscored.

“The team knows that we’re good, and now we know that we can go into difficult places and get the results we need,” Riley said. “Now we have one last regular season game against Pitt, and I think we’ll be a hungry and confident group going into this game.”

Pittsburgh presents yet another tough, in-conference fixture for the Irish, who will look to make a statement before the postseason gets underway. With the tight clustering of the ACC standings, a win could make a significant difference in postseason positioning for either team.

“There’s so many different outcomes because the leagues really jammed up with the exception of a couple of teams,” Riley said. “We just really have to walk in and focus on getting the best result we can against Pitt and then seeing where it shakes out that night.”

The current focus for the Irish is the Panthers, and they will have their hands full on the pitch Friday night. The Panthers are averaging over two goals and over 15 shots per game, almost six more shots than they are allowing their opponents.

“[Pitt] has some good attacking players, their two strikers up front are good players and they build out of the back well,” Riley said. “They’re not an old, old team, but they’ve got good maturity, and they’ve gotten some good results.”

Notre Dame will look to build on the victory against Wake Forest and carry their momentum into the postseason after they conclude the regular season against the Panthers. The Irish may not have lived up to their preseason expectations thus far, but there is still an opportunity for them to make some noise in the ACC and beyond.

Riley is optimistic about where his team is headed. He expressed satisfaction with how his team has grown over the course of the season.

“You want these games at the end of the regular season as you go into the postseason to mean something and I think they do,” Riley said. “I think the team has grown well which was one of the main goals and many of our other goals are right ahead of us.”

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