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ND Men’s Soccer

Clutch gene: Lynn’s postseason heroics define Irish career

| Friday, May 13, 2022

After 79 career games, 57 starts and 31 goals, 12 of the game-winning variety, senior Jack Lynn punctuated his career with a College Cup run and set a career-high in points, earning the 2022 Observer Male Athlete of the Year. He’s the second Notre Dame men’s soccer player to win the award in the last four years. Tommy McCabe won it in 2019. 

When Jack Lynn took a recruitment visit to Notre Dame, he met longtime Irish head coach Bobby Clark. “When I was there, Bobby Clark was unbelievable. Super welcoming to me as a junior in high school,” Lynn remembered.

Lynn recalled feeling at home with the Irish program and players: “Like a lot of Notre Dame student athletes, I was drawn towards getting a good education and having a place where I could pursue high-level athletics.”

However, Lynn’s decision to attend Notre Dame became more uncertain upon Clark’s retirement. But, in a stroke of good fortune for Lynn, the Irish hired Chad Riley and some of his staff away from Dartmouth. 

“I was actually looking at Dartmouth and Coach Riley’s program,” Lynn said. “So there was some uncertainty, but once they announced that, I was really excited with my decision.”

So Lynn stuck with his decision and headed to South Bend. Immediately, Riley gave the St. Louis product a chance to play. Lynn partook in 21 games his freshman season, starting three contests. 

“I couldn’t have asked for better college coaches,” Lynn said. “Coach Riley played me a lot as a freshman and he plays a super sound attacking style, which suited me well.”

Lynn contributes early in career

Lynn notched assists in two conference games as a role player off the bench. He scored twice in the regular season, but it was in the postseason that he made a name for himself. Lynn again came off the bench, playing 58 minutes in the Sweet 16 against Virginia. With seconds left in the overtime period, Lynn crashed the box and leaped to meet an arcing cross. Lynn delivered a striking header into the corner of the net for the golden goal. The Irish advanced to the Elite Eight on the strength of that goal. Lynn recalled that moment as one of the favorites of his career. 

However, Lynn didn’t stop there. The goal against Virginia proved to be just the start of a career full of clutch moments for the Irish striker. In his sophomore season, Lynn started 17 of 19 games, scoring ten goals. He scored on 24.4% of his shots and over half of his shots on goal, setting career highs in both statistics. There was no lengthy NCAA Tournament run his sophomore season, but Lynn still notched an NCAA Tournament goal. He scored in a 3-2 loss to Wright State in the opening round. 

Lynn recalled some of the leaders he learned from early on in his career, including McCabe. 

“I think guys that I learned from early on would be Tommy McCabe, [2019 captain] Ian Ascheris. I pick up different things from different guys, even guys in my own class like [Philip Quinton] and [Mohamed Omar],” Lynn said.

He noted he embraced a quieter leadership style. “I tried to lead by example, just staying after practice, working on finishing or penalty kicks. I picked that up from some older guys.”

Lynn shines in later seasons with Irish

In a COVID-affected 2020 season, the Irish played in both the spring and fall but didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Lynn continued to impress and develop. He scored eight goals in 16 games. Lynn also took over the role as the primary penalty kick taker on the roster.

“My junior year, the spot was open. I knew it was part of the game I could really help the team. I took two penalty kicks every day after training. When I stepped to the spot in a game, I was super confident, because I saw the ball go in the back of the net every day,” he said.

That junior year, Lynn scored all three of his attempts from the spot. With three postseason penalty kick shootouts in his senior year, Lynn delivered six penalty kick goals in 2021. 

That senior season — for both Lynn and the Irish — was the most successful campaign of Lynn’s tenure with the Irish. He matched his sophomore year total with ten goals, and he set a career-high with four assists. 

Notre Dame entered the season picked last in the ACC and started 1-2-1. Lynn scored just once in the first five games. Then, the senior delivered a two-goal effort in a 3-1 win over Michigan, and Notre Dame began to roll. After a loss to Virginia Tech, the Irish ripped off six straight wins. Lynn scored four goals in the stretch. After a tie and a loss, Notre Dame entered the ACC Tournament as the fifth seed.

One more postseason run

They knocked off NC State 1-0 and then Louisville in penalty kicks. Amidst a perfect showing from the Irish, Lynn nailed his effort as the first taker for Notre Dame. In the conference semifinals, Lynn scored late to seal a 2-0 win over top-seeded Pittsburgh. Notre Dame brought home the conference title against Duke.

“The ACC Championship this year, when we beat Duke in the final. That was probably my favorite accomplishment at Notre Dame, that will be a memory that stays with me forever,” Lynn said. 

The tournament win gave the Irish the fourth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They hosted three NCAA Tournament games at home, winning them all. Lynn delivered the eventual game-winning goal in a 3-0 Round of 32 victory over Villanova. 

“That was awesome. Getting to play in front of your friends and family is really cool,” Lynn said. “I was going into every game, thinking this could be my last home game ever. And then we just kept winning.”

Lynn delivered a key penalty kick in an Elite Eight victory over Pittsburgh as Notre Dame advanced to the College Cup. Although the run ended in a penalty kick loss to Clemson, Lynn added one more NCAA Tournament goal and another penalty kick make in the shootout. He finished his career a perfect 9-9 on penalty kicks and with four NCAA Tournaments. 

Lynn has moved on from Notre Dame, and he’ll take two more online classes this summer to earn his degree. However, this spring, Orlando City drafted him 18th overall in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Lynn has been practicing with the first team and earned his MLS Debut on April 24th. 

“Having a coach like Coach Riley prepared me. Everything you do matters, every game you play matters.” Lynn said. “I’ve loved my time in Orlando so far. Just trying to keep my head down and work hard.”

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About Aidan Thomas

A junior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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