ND Men’s Soccer
Irish blank Blue Devils 2-0 in 3rd spring slate contest
Liam Coolican | Monday, March 15, 2021
First half goals from Aiden McFadden and Jack Lynn and a dominant defensive performance throughout helped guide the Notre Dame men’s soccer team (7-5, 4-3 ACC) to a 2-0 road victory over Duke (3-8-2, 2-5 ACC) on Friday night.
“I think it’s starting to be our identity,” head coach Chad Riley said of the defense.
The Irish did not allow the Blue Devils even a single shot on target during Friday’s match.
“Any team that hopes to win in the tournament has to be outstanding defensively,” Riley said.
Since returning to play for the spring portion of the season, the Irish have allowed just one goal in three games.
Multiple conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, decided to move their fall season to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACC elected to continue with their fall season, but the NCAA tournament was postponed until April.
“I’ve been in college soccer for [about] 20 years now, and so it’s just weird to be playing games that count in the spring,” Riley said.
Riley said that delaying the NCAA tournament has allowed the team to develop more than in a usual year.
“You’re almost now getting an extra season because you have that pressure to win,” he said. “I thought our juniors who were juniors in the fall, really, they’re like seniors now. So they’re going to kind of get two senior years … Hopefully we can grow as a team twice as much.”
The Irish took the lead less than seven minutes into the contest after junior forward Jack Lynn beat his defender and found senior midfielder Aiden McFadden in the penalty area. The Duke keeper made the first save, but after multiple deflections McFadden found the back of the net. Then, in the 33rd minute, the Irish sent a ball into the box which caught a Duke defender’s hand. Lynn calmly fired the subsequent penalty kick into the net. The Irish’s top scorer, Lynn, is tied for the league lead with eight goals.
“We did exactly what we had hoped to do,” Riley said. “We knew it was going to be a battle.”
The Irish settled in defensively in the second half, maintaining their advantage and preventing Duke from getting any dangerous chances. Each time Duke appeared poised to mount an attack, the Irish defense shut it down.
The Irish have five games scheduled over the next month and they are looking to make a push for the NCAA Tournament. 36 teams will qualify this year: 24 teams automatically qualifying by winning their conference and 12 at-large teams. While the Irish came up short in the fall ACC tournament, they still can secure an automatic bid by winning the coastal division.
“Whether we’re the automatic qualifier or not … I think we’ll be in a good spot with the historical strength of our conference,” Riley said.
Next up on the Irish schedule is a contest against Division III opponent Calvin College. This will be the Knights’ first contest of the campaign after postponing their fall season, but in 2019 they posted a 23-2-1 record, eventually falling in the Division III tournament semifinals.
The Irish started the spring portion of their season later than many other schools because Notre Dame’s semester began later, making it difficult to play any exhibition games.
“We just wanted another chance to play together,” Riley said. “We’ll use it as any game, we’ll play to win and hopefully be able to play well and use a lot of guys on the night.”
The match kicks off at 7 p.m. Tuesday night from Alumni Stadium and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.