On Wednesday night, Notre Dame men’s soccer traveled to Bloomington for a non-conference game against in-state rival Indiana. The Irish came within inches of goals on several occasions but were ultimately unable to get in the scoring column, suffering a 1-0 loss. The game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 3 but was postponed due to inclement weather conditions. The defeat moved the Irish to 5-4-1 (2-2) on the season, while the Hoosiers improved to 5-2-3.
Notre Dame’s attack was firing on all cylinders to start the game. It was a continuation of their performance from last week when they defeated Kalamazoo and Boston College while compiling an impressive ten goals over the two games. In the ninth minute, junior defender Paddy Burns and sophomore forward Matthew Roou connected on a give-and-go that culminated with Roou lofting a well-timed pass to Burns inside the box. Burns’ volley got past the keeper but bounced off the left post, keeping the score level at 0-0.
After a stretch of scoreless play, a Notre Dame foul inside the box gave Indiana a penalty kick in the twenty-fifth minute. Redshirt senior Ryan Wittenbrink converted the penalty to give the Hoosiers a 1-0 advantage. Ceding penalties has been a recurring issue for the Irish, as their most recent defeat, a 1-0 loss against North Carolina, was also decided on a first-half penalty for the opposition.
Apart from the costly foul, Notre Dame head coach Chad Riley was pleased with the play of the defense, as well as that of junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, who recorded four saves against Indiana. Riley spoke postgame about the Irish’s defensive effort.
“Conceding another penalty, we’re a little bit frustrated with that,” Riley said. “As a unit, I thought [the defense] played pretty well and gave us some good performances. Indiana’s got some quality attacking players that were pretty good on the night. I thought, for the most part, that we did a good job containing them and limiting their attacks.”
Indiana took a 1-0 lead into halftime, and the Irish were the victims of another unlucky bounce early in the second half. With Notre Dame on the attack, sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau received a pass from sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher just outside of the box on the right side of the field. Boneau fired a shot to the left of the diving Indiana goalkeeper, but the ball deflected off of the left post for the second time in the game.
Later in the half, the Irish appeared to finally level the score, courtesy of a 71st-minute goal from freshman forward Wyatt Borso, but Borso was ruled offside. Riley spoke positively about the chances that the Notre Dame offense created, while also noting room for improvement and lamenting losing a winnable game.
“It’s a little frustrating anytime you lose a close game because, at the end of the day, we want to be the team that’s winning close games,” Riley said. “We had some good moments on the attack. We want to continue to grow our attack more while building on some solid defensive play.”
The overturned goal would be the closest that Notre Dame would come to evening the score, as Indiana held on to take the 1-0 win. Although the Irish did not get the result they wanted, they remain focused on their long-term goals. Riley discussed how facing a strong opponent in a difficult road environment will provide benefits that carry through the rest of the season as Notre Dame looks to turn these close losses into wins.
“It’s the good thing about these games, playing a good team like Indiana [on the road],” Riley said. “You know you’re going to get better from them. At the end of the day, you want to get better and pick up results as well.”
After the weather-induced break from their conference slate, Notre Dame will return home to host No. 11 Louisville (6-2-2) on Saturday. The Cardinals are currently playing at a high level, having defeating No. 8 Pitt and NC State in their last two conference games. The Irish will try to put this loss behind them as they return to ACC play.
“I think it’s just about leaving that result. Leaving that game, as far as the details of it, and letting our frustration be a positive for us and turn it into another performance where we show our growth,” Riley said. “On the bus ride home, we’ll lick our wounds a little bit. When we get off the bus, that game is over, we start recovering and preparing for Louisville.”
The Irish will aim to improve to 3-2 in ACC play as they host Louisville on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACCNX.