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ND Men’s Soccer

After postponement, Notre Dame looks for revenge against Virginia

| Friday, October 23, 2020

The Notre Dame men’s soccer team had already travelled to Blacksburg, Va. last weekend, prepared to face Virginia Tech in a Sunday morning match. Instead, they received the news early Sunday that the game would be rescheduled in a “mutually agreed upon postponement,” according to head coach Chad Riley.

Riley confirmed the game was postponed due to COVID-related issues, describing the decision as an “abundance of caution.” This year, all ACC teams are being tested three times per week.

“It’s always disappointing, but at the same time, the guys are pretty well adjusted to things changing,” Riley said. “Everybody understands that it’s not going to be a straight path through the season this year.”

In a normal season, the Irish (2-2, 2-2 ACC) would be playing two games a week during the fall. Riley says that is typically difficult, but allows the team to get in a rhythm. Already down to just one game a week due to the shortened schedule, the Irish have not played since Oct. 11 due to the postponement.

“Missing that opportunity to compete certainly changes the rhythm a little bit,” Riley said. “… You never quite know if missing a week gives you a little rest and you come out stronger, or does it give you a week off, and you’re a little bit rusty.” 

Junya Kanemitsu | The Observer
Irish sophomore midfielder P.J. Bujouves looks to evade his defender during Notre Dame’s 4-2 loss to Clemson on Sept. 13, 2019 at Alumni Stadium.

On Wednesday, the Irish played a long intrasquad scrimmage during practice to ramp back up to game pressure. Riley says he thinks the added rest will be beneficial for the team moving forward.  

He wanted to improve both the defense and the attack this week in practice. Their last game, a 1-0 home win over Syracuse, was their second clean sheet of the year. Riley wants to build on that defensive performance, and continue to pressure the opposition.

“We always work on our pressure, [it’s] an important part, he said. “Coordinating, and having good collective pressure on the ball.”

Offensively, he wants his team to improve their attack.

“Soccer’s a hard game to score (in), so we’ve been spending a lot of time coordinating our attacks and getting to know each other a little bit more,” he said. 

The Irish will be looking for revenge when Virginia (1-1-1, 1-1-1 ACC) returns to Alumni Stadium on Saturday. Last year, then-No. 3 Virginia defeated Notre Dame 1-0 on a controversial second-half penalty kick.

“Anytime you lose to a team the year before you always get excited about them the next year,” Riley said. “It leaves a little bit of a sour taste in your mouth.” 

This year, Virginia has won a game, lost a game and tied a game, all in overtime.

“They’re always well organized,” Riley said. “They’ve got that veteran belief and they know how to handle games.” 

Virginia lost a number of key players from last year’s squad, which reached the national championship game, but Riley is still wary.

“They’re just a group that’s won a lot over the last couple years, and they know how to win, and so that’s gonna make them tough to play against,” he said. 

Riley said it’s more difficult to scout opponents now, with only one game per week, especially in regards to opposing players returning from injury. Multiple Virginia starters have been out with injuries, and it is unclear if they will play on Saturday.

“We’ll take more of a holistic approach as a team, but then making a note of guys that haven’t played who could play in this game,” he said. 

With just four games and less than a month to go until the ACC tournament, each game is critical for Notre Dame’s hopes of playing in the postseason. The top four teams in each region advance to the tournament, and Notre Dame currently sits fourth in the North division. Riley commented on the quality of the teams in the ACC.

“The reality in our league, every game we’re going to play is a top team, so our guys are pretty excited about every game.”

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