ND Men’s Soccer
Irish bested by Hokies on senior night
Greg McKenna | Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Notre Dame closed the 2020-21 regular season with a fourth successive loss Friday night as the Irish (8-9-0, 4-7-0 ACC) fell 2-0 to Virginia Tech (6-6-2, 5-5-2 ACC) during their senior night at Alumni Stadium.
With the win, the Hokies kept their second straight clean sheet at Alumni Stadium. Virginia Tech had bested the Irish 1-0 in South Bend this past November.
The Hokies opened the scoring just under four minutes before halftime. Following a sloppy giveaway in midfield by the Irish, Tech junior left-back Kyle McDowell fired in a cross from the wing that was finished brilliantly by junior Hokies forward Kahlil Dover.
Dover, who had come on as a substitute, opened up his body to delicately place his side-footed volley in the bottom right corner.
The Hokies added a second shortly after the break. Notre Dame senior goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin made an impressive kick save to deny Tech senior midfielder Kristo Strickler in the 52nd minute, but Hokies senior forward Jacob Labovitz slotted home the rebound from outside the penalty area.
The goal was Labovitz’s seventh of the season, and brought him to a tie for fourth in the ACC for goals scored. At seven goals, Labovitz leads the Irish in scoring as well.
McLaughlin saw his senior night end unceremoniously after being red-carded just over a minute later.
Hokies sophomore midfielder Mayola Kinyua bypassed the entire Irish defense on a blistering one-man counterattack, leaving McLaughlin one-on-one with Kinyua and stranded outside his box. Kinyua’s shot forced McLaughlin to throw up his hands to deny the certain goal, and the Notre Dame goalkeeper was promptly sent off in what was likely his final match in an Irish uniform.
Freshman goalkeeper Bryan Dowd came on as McLaughlin’s replacement for just his fourth collegiate appearance.
Besides McLaughlin, the Irish honored five other seniors pre-match: defender Jacob Huber, midfielder Michael Lynch, midfielder Aiden McFadden, midfielder Townsend Meyer and forward Simon Roennecke.
McFadden, a third-round pick by Atlanta United in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft, led the Irish with four assists this season.
Both Roennecke and Huber made their first career starts for the Irish on Friday.
Despite being reduced to 10 men, the Irish created several chances late on.
Notre Dame senior midfielder Dawson McCartney, a 2021 second-round pick by the Portland Timbers who transferred from Dartmouth before the spring season, came closest to giving the Irish a lifeline in the game when he hit the post in the 71st minute.
Prior to this year, the senior class had been to three straight NCAA tournaments. Their deepest run came as sophomores in 2018 when Notre Dame reached the quarterfinals in head coach Chad Riley’s first season in charge.
Riley lauded his seniors for their leadership through perhaps the most unusual collegiate soccer season ever.
“Certainly disappointed in the result,” he said to UND.com, “but I am proud of our seniors and the way they have led our team through this pandemic. They have represented Notre Dame so well during their four years.”
The selection show for this year’s NCAA Tournament, which was postponed in the fall, is scheduled for Monday, April 19. However, the Irish will likely miss out on the field for the first time since 2011.
This year’s tournament will feature 36 teams instead of the normal 48, with only 12 at-large bids up for grabs. As of Sunday, Notre Dame is ranked 71st in the country in RPI, the most important metric used in selecting the field.
The ACC’s automatic bid went to Clemson, who won the conference tournament in the fall.
The Irish fell in the semifinal stage of the competition in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh.