Notre Dame fell 3-1 to the defending national champion Clemson Tigers in the first round of the ACC tournament. The game was a rematch of the two squads’ College Cup semifinal matchup last year, won by the Tigers in penalty kicks. Ranked 48th in RPI, this loss almost certainly spells the end of Notre Dame’s season. Forty-eight teams make the NCAA Tournament, and that will include several auto-bid teams ranked below the Irish.
It was a bright start for the Irish as freshman forward Wyatt Borso broke through and had a 1-on-1 against Clemson goalkeeper Joseph Andema in the seventh minute but the freshman got down and made a good save to keep it scoreless. Notre Dame controlled much of the game early and had the best chances in the first ten minutes. However, in the 11th minute, it all changed.
Own goals dig Irish early hole
After collecting a ball from an Irish attack, Andema scanned the field and sent it long looking for one of his forwards. Instead, he found the head of Irish junior defender Paddy Burns who tried to pass it back to his classmate and goalkeeper Bryan Dowd. A miscommunication between the two led to Dowd coming off his line and seeing the pass from Burns go right by him and into the goal to give Clemson a 1-0 lead.
The own goal saw the momentum shift completely in Clemson’s favor as the Tigers asserted control over proceedings. In the 40th minute, they doubled their lead through another own goal. This time a cross from senior midfielder Alvaro Gomez fell perfectly into the six-yard box where sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher misplayed it and bundled it into the goal to give Clemson a 2-0 lead.
It was a contentious start to the second half with three yellow cards in the opening eight minutes, but it was in the 54th minute that the game really got away from Notre Dame. Sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau got his second yellow card of the game for a challenge from behind on Clemson’s Ousmane Sylla. His first booking came in the 31st minute when he interfered with a Clemson attempt to take a free kick quickly and go on a counterattack. The red card left Notre Dame with ten men for the final 35 minutes of the game and essentially ended any hope for a comeback. Simply put, it was two ill-advised plays from a young player costing Notre Dame big in a must-win game.
Clemson sees out the result
Clemson padded the lead with a goal from Mohamed Seye in the 59th minute to make it 3-0. The game settled in from there as Notre Dame kept going forward trying to find some offense. In the 81st minute, it came via junior midfielder Matthew Radivojsa who scored his first goal of the year to get the Irish on the board. Radivojsa got another good chance a few minutes later, but Andema made an excellent save to preserve the two-goal cushion. It was too little, too late for the Irish.
The loss eliminates Notre Dame from the ACC tournament and, realistically, also from NCAA tournament contention. After an inconsistent regular season, the Irish needed some marquee ACC postseason wins to have hope of an at-large bid in the tournament. This loss negates that and the Irish season will end at the hands of the Clemson Tigers for the second year in a row.
Contact José Sánchez Córdova at firstname.lastname@example.org.