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ND Men’s Soccer

Irish on the climb ahead of non-conference match with Oberlin

| Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Ryan Vigilante | The Observer
Freshman defender Mitch Ferguson helps up junior forward Daniel Russo during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Boston College at Alumni Stadium on Sept. 30, 2022.

After defeating No. 14 Duke Saturday night, the 11th-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team now makes a quick turnaround for one of its final non-conference games of the regular season. The Irish (7-1-3, 4-0-1 ACC) will face Oberlin on Tuesday at Alumni Stadium. Residing in the North Coast Athletic Conference, the Yeomen are 2-4-5 overall and 0-1-2 in conference play.

Irish soar in RPI rankings after first ranked win

On paper, Notre Dame has emerged as the best team in the ACC, and the metrics agree. The rating percentage index, typically a lead indicator of the NCAA Tournament picture, ranks the Irish fifth in the country. Only unbeaten Marshall, Georgetown, UCF and SMU have higher positions. It’s worth noting that SMU will join the ACC next July.

Notre Dame has compiled quite the body of work in 2023, especially within conference action. The Irish have defeated two top-10 RPI teams, Duke and Clemson, at home. They also tied 23rd-ranked Akron on the road and stormed past 26th-ranked Virginia at Alumni Stadium. And Notre Dame’s final three conference opponents all rank inside the index’s top 40. In fact, Wake Forest and Pitt, the team’s last two adversaries, rank within the top 11.

Midweek matchup provides depth-building opportunities

While midweek games cut down on a team’s recovery period, they also serve as valuable grounds for experiment. Notre Dame should reasonably be able to pull away from Oberlin early on. It did so against similar opponents in Trine (13-0) and Kalamazoo (8-0) over the last two seasons. With a sizable lead, the Irish can dig into their roster while testing out different combinations and strategies. Expect to see more action for several of Notre Dame’s seven freshmen throughout the night.

Even in the grind of ACC play, Irish head coach Chad Riley has only added to his team’s depth in recent weeks. Graduate student midfielder Ethan O’Brien has returned from injury, co-captaining the Irish and making magic happen with his skillset in his first appearances since 2021. Another graduate student, defender Mo Williams, has played the role of experienced closer since mid-September. And junior forward Michael Rossi has added size and strength to the Irish attack at times.

Yeomen seek October push after slow conference start

Still yet to play five of its eight NCAC games, Oberlin could use some positives from the Notre Dame match. Only four teams make the NCAC tournament, and the Yeomen currently sit in seventh with two points. Oberlin has to jump three different teams who have either four or three points to reach the postseason picture.

With 10 goals in 12 games, Oberlin brings the NCAC’s quietest offense. The Yeomen haven’t scored in either of their last two games, most recently losing 2-0 at Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday. Their top scorer, Louis Gandelheid, has three goals but hasn’t struck since Sept. 16. And Oberlin’s two most frequent shooters, Nathan Thompson and Toby Wells-Zimmerman, have just three points each. Nasim Amer, the playmaker of the group, has three assists to lead the team.

Like Irish senior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, Oberlin’s Colvin Iorio has been busy between the posts. The junior ranks among conference leaders with 41 saves and has started 25 career games. Oberlin’s other two keepers, Louis Berger and Luke Yates, might also see the field Tuesday night.

Notre Dame’s penultimate home game of the 2023 regular season kicks off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. ACC Network Extra will carry the match between the Yeomen and Irish.

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About Tyler Reidy

Tyler is a sophomore who serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and Keough Hall, he enjoys road trips, all things collegiate athletics and Kansas City barbecue. Reach out here or @TylerJReidy on Twitter!

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