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ND Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame men’s soccer captures first ACC title in program history, looks ahead to national tournament play

| Wednesday, November 17, 2021

On Sunday night, Notre Dame men’s soccer captured the first ACC title in program history, downing Duke 2-0 in Cary, North Carolina.

A brace from graduate midfielder Dawson McCartney powered the Irish through the final, the first of his two goals coming on a beautiful strike from outside the box just five minutes after kickoff. McCartney picked up the ball in the midfield, and then raced towards goal into space before unleashing a rocket of a shot from roughly 20 yards out to put Notre Dame ahead 1-0.

In the second half the Irish would ice the game through another goal from the graduate student. Paddy Burns loaded up a long throw into the box from the sidelines, and the ball eventually made its way to McCartney who headed it goalwards. His first effort was parried by Duke goalkeeper Eliot Hamill, but Hamill’s save fell right back to the foot of McCartney, who tapped the ball into the empty net. Once up 2-0 the Irish team sat back, content to continue soaking up the pressure of a Blue Devil offense desperate to try and find a late spark.

But that spark never came, and at full time the Irish became the first team seeded fifth or lower to win the ACC tournament since Syracuse in 2015. 

Unsurprisingly, the win propelled the Irish into a prime position for the upcoming NCAA tournament. As a reward for their impressive tournament campaign that saw them fell a pair of top 15 teams and top the conference widely regarded as the most difficult in the nation, Notre Dame were awarded the fourth overall seed in the national tournament. Roughly akin to a one seed in college basketball, the placement means the Irish will play all their games at home at Alumni Stadium until the College Cup, which will be played at a neutral venue, though not one the Irish are unfamiliar with, in Cary, North Carolina.

Getting to play all their games until the College Cup at home is a massive win for Notre Dame, who have won eight straight matches at Alumni Stadium this season. Alumni has traditionally been a fortress for both Notre Dame’s men’s and women’s soccer teams come postseason time, with the Irish players being used to the piercing winds, cold temperatures and occasional snow and sleet storms South Bend tends to enjoy come November and December. And while Notre Dame’s next opponent (the winner of the Vermont vs. Villanova play-in match) will be used to playing in cold weather, the remaining teams the Irish might face in their quadrant on their road to the quarterfinal (Wake Forest, Mercer, Florida International), are all located in far warmer areas. And while weather plays a generally minimal role in a game of many factors, the lack of experience in cold weather games among those three teams should give the Irish a leg up in round two.

Notre Dame men’s soccer will look to extend their winning streak from the ACC tournament to national tournament play Sunday, as they take on the winner of Thursday’s contest between Vermont and Villanova.

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