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ND Men’s Soccer

Men’s soccer faces Kentucky after shortened offseason

| Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Without the benefit of a traditional offseason, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team had to fit an entire summer’s worth of training into just a few weeks. The team returned to campus at the same time as the rest of the student body, and slowly worked their way back to full intensity after not training as a team since March. The team looked sharp in a scrimmage against Louisville last week, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

“For not playing a game for six months we look okay,” head coach Chad Riley said. 

They’ll face a tough first test, when their regular season kicks off against the Kentucky Wildcats visit Alumni Stadium.

“I know their coach really well and they’re a very good team,” Riley said. “They’re very purposeful. They look to attack very quickly to get the ball in the box quickly. They’ve got some good attacking players that we know we’ll have to be to be sharp in how we defend around our box. But at the end of the day we’re not really focusing on them much at all because we won’t know who they have on the roster until they come up here.”

The Wildcats finished 13-5-3 last season, and they return nearly all of their production, graduating just one senior. 

Notre Dame’s season came to an end last season when they were defeated 3-2 by Wright State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“The guys used it very well,” Riley said. “They had a high level of motivation.”

However, Notre Dame must replace a substantial amount of production from that team, including starting goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull and star defenders Felecien Dumas and Senan Farrelly. Riley says his team will need everyone on the roster to contribute this year.

“We need everybody to bond,” Riley said. “We’ve got 29 guys and we’re going to need them all at some point.” 

Junior forward Jack Lynn, who was recently named to the ACC’s preseason watch list, will be one of the key contributing players for the Irish this year. Lynn led the team with ten goals last season, five of which were game-winners. However, other players will need to shoulder more of the scoring load this year, as Lynn scored more than a third of the team’s goals, which at times led defenders to focus most of their attention on him.

This season will look different in many ways. The ACC announced earlier this month that the conference would be split into two regions, with the top four teams from each conference making the conference championship. The Irish have an abbreviated, eight game schedule. After Kentucky, the Irish will play seven conference opponents, however, only six of those games will count towards conference standings. Due to the limited number of games and the fact that two major conferences are not participating in fall sports, the NCAA is planning a spring season as well. The NCAA tournament schedule has yet to be announced. 

Riley likens it to the Ivy League, which has no conference tournament, where he was previously the head coach at Dartmouth College.

“I like the idea of every game being very meaningful as it leads towards the ACC championship,” he said.

Riley’s teams did very well during his time at Dartmouth, winning four consecutive Ivy League championships. 

Much could happen during this strange season, and in the midst of uncertainty, the only thing the team is able to control is themselves.

“The best thing we can do is focus on how much do we improve ourselves as a team and as individuals and that gives us our best chance to be ready for our opponents,” Riley said.

The match against Kentucky kicks off at 7:00 p.m. Thursday at Alumni Stadium. No spectators will be permitted to attend the game.

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