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Irish host Boston College in important ACC match

After a dominating performance against the Kalamazoo Hornets Tuesday night, the Irish are getting ready for an ACC matchup against Boston College Friday in South Bend. 

Notre Dame comes into the game with an overall record of 4-3-1, going just 1-2 in conference play so far this year. After losing to North Carolina and Syracuse, this game is all but a must-win for the team. While the Irish have had a less than perfect start to the season, recent successes show that there is more to this team than its record.

The eight goals by the Irish Tuesday night were scored by eight different players, including three freshmen and two sophomores. The young players showing they have the skills to step up and make big plays for Notre Dame will be critical for the rest of this season as they look to prove that last year’s NCAA tournament run was no accident.

Junior defender Paddy Burns currently leads the team with four goals scored this season (a total of eight points), while freshman midfielder KK Baffour has two goals (and a total of seven points). Junior forward Daniel Russo and sophomore forward Matthew Roou have each also scored two goals for the Irish this season.

Boston College will arrive in Alumni Stadium with a record of 2-3-3. The Eagles are 0-3-0 in conference play, with losses to No. 1 Clemson, No. 7 Duke and No. 25 Louisville. Their last game, against the Blue Devils, shows how much they are struggling to create offense. The game ended with the Eagles scoring no goals, taking only six shots with only one on target. And they only had one corner kick as well. However, they did rack up 10 fouls and three yellow cards.

Stefan Sigurdarson leads Boston College with six goals scored on the season. He is definitely a player the Irish defenders should keep their eyes on. In fact, Siguardrson is currently tied for ninth in the country for goals scored. No other Boston College player has scored more than a single goal this season.

The Irish lead in the series against Boston College 10-4-2 all time. The last time these two teams met was in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2019. Notre Dame won the game in double overtime.

As the Irish look to the rest of the season, there are some tough games out in front of them. Matches against Duke, Pitt and non-conference rival Michigan jump off the page. The NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee will announce the bracket in about six weeks. They aren’t that far out of the rankings. In fact, No. 25 Akron has a record of 4-2-2, which is only slightly better than Notre Dame’s.

If Notre Dame wants to be among the 48 participants, they need to stay competitive going forward.

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu

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Late strike saves Irish in draw vs. DePaul

After their game against Indiana was canceled last week due to poor weather conditions, the 22nd-ranked Irish tied DePaul in Alumni Stadium Tuesday night. 

Defense dominated the first half, with no goals scored. Notre Dame’s sophomore defenseman Paddy Burns, junior midfielder Mathew Radivojsa and freshman midfielder KK Baffour had one shot each. Cade Hagan and Jack Richards had one each for DePaul. 

Defense and goalie play has been a strength for DePaul so far this season as they were undefeated going into this game. Gandhi Cruz, DePaul’s keeper, had not allowed a goal in their first three games. Notre Dame and in particular sophomore striker Eno Nto, pushed the tempo in the first half but were unsuccessful in finishing in the box. They were also whistled for five offsides violations.

In the opening minutes of the second half, DePaul junior Jacob Huth scored after Bryan Dowd blocked his first shot. Unfortunately for the Irish, Dowd tripped on what appeared to be loose grass that was kicked up during the initial shot. 

The Irish continued to pressure Cruz into the second half, with Sebastian Green and Paddy Burns each missing the net by a matter of inches. Sophomore Bryce Boneau was fouled in the penalty box and Paddy Burns took the penalty kick for the Irish. While he faked Cruz into picking the wrong direction, the ball hit the side post and bounced off the goal. 

Finally, in the 82nd minute, all of the Irish’s hard work paid off. Matthew Roou scored with an assist from KK Baffour, ending the Blue Demon’s Cruz’s streak. The DePaul bench received a yellow card on the play for trying to get the referee to whistle the play dead. That announcement was lost on the Notre Dame fans, who were still celebrating Roou’s goal. 

After a yellow card on Balfour, a DePaul assistant coach received a red card and was escorted off the field with 48 seconds remaining. The game ended without further incidents. Notre Dame head coach Chad Riley was pleased with the different situations his team has been in so far this season and how they’ve learned from each one. 

“You have your identity, but that’s the reason you play a tough schedule. You know that DePaul’s going to be good, they’re a Big East team. Before we start conference play, they’re going to expose parts of your game. Then, you just learn by doing. Michigan State, I thought, was a little tough because we had some injuries, whereas I thought the guys adapted well.” 

On Saturday, Notre Dame will travel to New York to take on the 3-0-1 Syracuse. The Orange are ranked No. 24 overall after demolishing UConn 5-0 on Monday and knocking off No. 21 Penn State last week. As Notre Dame moves forward into conference games, the team is looking forward to showing off what they’ve been working on. 

“I think conference games always just give a bit of a different energy so that a good changeup, but then there are your traditional rivalries that you play every year. We try to create a schedule that the guys are excited to play every night.”

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Herko: The era of superconferences

On June 30, college football fans thought the biggest announcement of the day was Notre Dame Head Coach Marcus Freeman telling Irish fans to wear green against the September 17th game against Cal. They were wrong.

Later that night, news broke that would change not only the distribution of power in the Power 5 Conferences but college sports as we know them. But what exactly are the ramifications and lingering questions around UCLA and USC’s decision to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big 10?

What does this mean for the Power 5 Conferences?

With Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 for the SEC last year, and the sudden lack of Pac-12 teams in Los Angeles, the Power 5 is now the Superpower 2. Both abandoned conferences are without any real star programs and without any teams that someone could seriously consider for a national championship.

The ACC is a little different. They still have Clemson, UNC and Pitt, but no one who has been both historically and currently exceptional. The good news for them is that all of their schools are tied up in a deal with ESPN that runs until 2036. The bad news is that they are
playing catch-up. Before the recent migrations, the ACC could at least have Clemson win a ton of games, bring in revenue and everyone else would do okay.

However, the Big 10 and SEC are positioning themselves to be the only relevant conferences. In the long run, this will be really bad for the ACC, especially if they cannot convince a few major programs to join. And since they cannot compete with the financial incentives of the other two conferences, their significant schools will leave at the end of their contract, if not sooner because of a talent drain to schools with more funding.

What does this mean for independents, specifically Notre Dame?

Obviously, there are other schools that are independent besides the Irish, but they’re the only program that everyone really, really wants. For the ACC, Notre Dame is its only shot at survival. For the Big 10 and SEC, it’s the best program that’s potentially up for grabs. Basically,
whoever wins this battle wins the war.

Here’s the problem: Notre Dame prefers to be independent. Not only does the NBC deal actively prevent them from joining a conference (which expires in 2025), but the Irish like being on their own.

Here’s the bigger problem: Notre Dame prefers winning championships even more. If the two Super Conferences eventually take over college football, this means that they will also be in
control of the college football playoffs. Thus, making it almost impossible to be considered for a spot without having an advocate at the table.

If the Irish did decide to pick a side, they would be greatly compensated for it. Big 10 schools, for example, are expected to make between $80-$100 million next year. And if the Irish did join a conference, the Big 10 is the most likely landing spot.

Not only does the hockey program already compete in the Big 10, but it is a better values match for Notre Dame. All of the schools in the Big 10 are AAU (Association of American Universities) members, which pride themselves on strong academics and research. Notre Dame also has extreme rivalries with Big 10 schools that college football fans would want to protect.

Unless the SEC let Notre Dame pick their price, there really isn’t any match or connection between the two. Other independent schools just don’t have the market of Notre Dame and are going to really struggle to not be left behind in the reshuffle.

Ok so you’re the Big 10 or SEC, what now?

Before the Notre Dame question even gets answered, each conference has to decide how many is enough. Both conferences are sitting pretty with 16 teams in or on their way. When do they stop? At 24? 30? What is the right number of programs that maximizes profits while also
minimizing the power of the other?

Well, that really depends on where you want to expand to. The Big 10 now controls the three largest markets in the United States: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. (Oh, that’s why Rutgers is important.) The SEC controls the South, which may be less lucrative, but is way more passionate about football than other parts of the country. So what else is left? Philly is already controlled by the Big 10. They could look to Dallas, but TCU isn’t all that exciting. And finally San Francisco, for Stanford and Cal, but the Bay Area isn’t a great football market. And if those schools go anywhere they’d probably follow USC and UCLA because the University of California Trustees want Cal and UCLA to stay together.

That’s not a very friendly market for the SEC. Especially if other Pac-12 schools, like Washington and Oregon, want to follow Southern California to the Big 10 to preserve rivalries. Therefore, the SEC is probably looking to keep control of the South by going after schools like Missouri and Oklahoma State, or poaching from the ACC.

The poaching could be particularly difficult for the SEC because many of the ACC schools would probably be more interested in the Big 10 because of the AAU membership as well as higher academic standards that fall more closely in line with their universities’ standards.

What does this mean for smaller schools and non-football programs?

As much as both the SEC and Big 10 want to expand, they will eventually reach a limit. As they decide who they want to invite, they will really only be considering football and basketball, even though it will most definitely impact every sport. This could spell disaster for programs that relied on funding from the rest of the Power 5 or were in smaller conferences.

It is probable that when the dust settles in a few years that new, less influential conferences will form, but they will have way less revenue to divide between members. Football helps provide funding for other sports at all universities, no matter the size (assuming they have
a football team). If football programs everywhere suddenly have way less money, then that’s going to have a really negative impact on less lucrative sports.

The financial burden is going to be felt by basically all athletes at less successful division 1, 2 and 3 programs, and especially women’s sports. Additionally, schools in places that are expensive and/or difficult to travel to, like Hawaii, will be left out.

So while all this movement from conference to conference will make for some really exciting football games, it could spell trouble for the rest of college athletics.

The views in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Annika Herko

Contact Annika Herko at aherko@nd.edu.

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Men’s soccer looks to bounce back

After a bumpy start to their season opener at home, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team is on the road to East Lansing to take on the 1-0 Michigan State Spartans. 

Last week, Michigan State beat Army 2-1 in a game that statistically was very similar to the Irish’s loss against Seattle. Like Notre Dame, Army led Michigan State in shots on goal and corners. Despite these advantages, Army was unable to come up with the win. However, Army’s experiences should set Notre Dame expectations for what the Irish will face in East Lansing. 

Both of Michigan State’s goals last week were the result of aggressive box play — a deflection and a well-placed corner kick. The Irish must focus on winning the midfield 50/50 battles and clearing the ball out of box (even if a Spartan outside the box eventually takes possession), because their past performance shows that they capitalize on sloppy and hectic box play. 

On the offensive side, Notre Dame needs to pressure Michigan State’s back line. Army’s lone goal came from a one-on-one with their goalie. 

The Irish must also watch out for redshirt senior Will Perkins and freshman Jake Spadafora, who both scored for Michigan State, as well as graduate student Jack Beck and junior Greyson Mercer. Perkins, Beck and Mercer were all on this year’s Big Ten Players to Watch list. Michigan State is expected to finish fifth in the Big Ten this year behind Indiana (who Notre Dame will face Sept. 3 in Bloomington), Penn State, Michigan and Maryland. 

Notre Dame is facing its own conference race as this upcoming game will be important to stay close to other ACC teams in the rankings. Clemson, Pitt and Duke all won in their first games. 

Despite Thursday’s loss, Notre Dame has a lot to feel good about going into this game. The underclassmen stepped up at key moments and will likely continue to be featured in the lineups. Freshman Wyatt Borso started for the Irish with other freshmen Mitch Ferguson, KK Baffour and Sebastian Green all seeing the field, as well. 


Head coach Chad Riley was very impressed with the performance of his young players against Seattle and spoke positively about their upcoming games. 

“All the first-year guys did a great job coming out,” Riley said. “I think it’s going to be a class that features a lot over their four years. Some of the [personnel decisions] were positional and some of the guys just came in and adapted a little bit quicker, but overall, they’ve had a great start.” 

The leadership roles of these underclassmen will be important as Notre Dame looks to prove their exceptional season last year was no accident. In recent years, Notre Dame has struggled against Michigan State. Last year, Notre Dame led at halftime at home 3-0, before Michigan State scored four goals and shut out the Irish in the second half. Despite the last meeting’s unfortunate turn of events, Notre Dame still leads all time 18-9-6. 

But at the end of the day — as Riley said after last week’s loss — Notre Dame has to play good teams to get better. This week, we will see how much they learned playing against Seattle and what they will do differently to try and secure the win on Monday night.

Annika Herko


Contact Annika at aherko@nd.edu