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Notre Dame fights for playoff berth against Clemson

Notre Dame men’s soccer opens ACC tournament play on Wednesday with a road game against the Clemson Tigers. The postseason opener is a rematch of last year’s College Cup matchup where the Tigers beat the Irish on penalty kicks to advance to the national title game where they eventually beat the Washington Huskies to win the national championship.

This season has been a wildly different story for both programs. The Tigers enter Wednesday’s matchup as the 8-seed in the ACC tournament and have a 10-5-1 record and including a losing record (3-4-1) in ACC play. Notre Dame is the 9 seed and has fared even worse this season with an 8-6-2 record overall and 3-4-1 in the ACC.

Leading the line for Clemson is junior midfielder Ousmane Sylla, a second-team all-ACC player a year ago. This year, he has taken on an even bigger role for the Tigers, leading the team in goals (5), points (16), shots on goal (18), and game-winning goals (2). Freshman goalkeeper Joseph Andema has been outstanding as well, allowing 0.64 goals per game and keeping six clean sheets in 11 starts this year.

Last time out for Notre Dame, junior forward Daniel Russo scored against the Pitt Panthers on the road. He leads the team in goals (6) and points (16) including four goals in the last two games. Three of those came in a comeback rivalry win over Michigan in Notre Dame’s final home game of the year.

The Irish will also need junior defender Paddy Burns to come up big for them on Wednesday. The left-back has been a leader on the back line for Notre Dame while also providing an attacking boost down the left flank scoring five goals this season. He leads the team with 2 game-winning goals, including one just 10 days ago against Virginia Tech.

Wednesday’s game is undoubtedly more important for Notre Dame than for Clemson. Sitting at 48th in RPI, the Irish likely need to win the ACC tournament — or at least have a strong showing — to secure a bid to the 48-team national championship bracket. Clemson should be in as an at-large seed regardless, sitting at 13th in RPI.

If Notre Dame manages to beat Clemson on Wednesday, they would move on to face the undefeated No. 3 Duke Blue Devils on Sunday in Durham. Duke is the top seed in the ACC tournament after a phenomenal 11-0-4 regular season, including a 2-0 win over Notre Dame on Oct. 14.

Wednesday’s game will air at 8 p.m. on the ACC Network.

Contact José Sánchez Córdova at jsanch24@nd.edu.

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