Irish look to build on 8-0 rout of Kalamazoo

Irish senior defender Reese Mayer dribbles the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 defeat to North Carolina on Sept. 24. Credit: Ryan Vigilante.

Following a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to North Carolina Saturday night, head coach Chad Riley and the Irish were looking to bounce back against Kalamazoo Tuesday night. On a rainy, crisp night at Alumni Stadium, the Irish took the field looking to find a momentum-building win with a tough patch of the schedule approaching. This was the first time Notre Dame took on Kalamazoo since 1980, when the Hornets defeated the Irish 1-0.

The Irish got off to a blazing start, dominating at every end of the pitch. Despite an aggressive and physical Hornets team, the Irish masterfully played the ball through their lines and began to rack up shots and corner kicks. The first goal of the game came courtesy of freshman forward Wyatt Borso, who scored in the eighth minute off a deflection from a Hornets defender.

Despite some questionable turnovers, the Irish would find the back of the net again eight minutes later through junior defender Paddy Burns, who was assisted by sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher and standout freshman midfielder KK Bafour. 

Bafour, who has had a fantastic debut season for the Irish, would find the net in the 16th minute, slotting his shot into the corner from outside the box. The technique on his goal showcased just how talented this freshman core is. The next goal would come in the 22nd minute, with sophomore forward Matthew Roou directing home a technical header off a corner taken by Bafour. 

Following a slew of reinforcements in the form of 25th minute substitutions, mainly eager freshmen, the Irish continued to dominate. Sophomore forward Eno Nto, taking a beautiful touch and with a world-class curve, slotted home his first goal of the season in the 32nd minute. The highlight reel strike was assisted by freshman defender Mitch Ferguson. 

Another freshman, forward Nicholas Legendre, would also get his first goal of the season only two minutes later, knocking home a screamer into the top corner of the net. Legendre was covered tightly by a Hornets defender, and his goal was all the more remarkable given the space he had. Junior midfielder Matthew Radivojsa got his name onto the score sheet with his assist to Legendre. Junior forward Daniel Russo would convert a penalty in the 42nd minute, making the score 7-0 going into the half. 

As the two teams came out of the half, the game slowed down a bit with the Irish ramping down their aggressiveness in approaching the net. The timid energy of the Irish, however, was not matched by the Kalamazoo Hornets, who continued to play extremely physical soccer and recorded their first shot in this half. The Irish would finally break the slogging deadlock of the second half with a 70th minute goal from senior defender Aaron Hill, squeezing his shot just past the keeper. Legendre provided the assist, making it a big night for the freshman. 

The rain progressed from a drizzle to a substantial pour as the half drew on, and the game slowly became more sloppy and ugly. The Irish would miss two prime chances in the second half, but continued to get valuable minutes for the whole roster. The game finished 8-0, with the Irish recording a much-needed win following the emotional downturn of Saturday night. 

The Irish dominated this match overall, recording twenty total shots, thirteen on target, compared to Kalamazoo’s one shot on net. They won five corners to the Hornets’ one and dominated nearly 70% of possession. Something must also be said for the Irish players’ ability to remain composed and collected despite an overtly physical and taxing style of play from the Hornets, a style that really did test the referee’s whistle. The Hornets ended up being booked four yellow cards, despite the lopsided possession time.

Riley was unsurprised with the aggressive fouls and unending effort of the Hornets.

“We knew they were going to be physical,” he said. “They are a good team. We knew it would be a well-contested game.” 

That’s despite the fact that Notre Dame, a top division one soccer program, scheduled a division three opponent. The Irish players and their coaching staff said they hope to take this game as momentum and a success to build on into conference play. Riley noted how games like this help create “good habits” for his team and allow them to “play the way they want to play.”

He also noted the “huge” nature of the minutes played tonight throughout the roster and believes that sort of on field experience will create a deeper bench as ACC games ramp up.

Riley believes his team’s offensive performance on the field Tuesday will be a key motivator of future offensive success.

“Finding the back of the net, being as efficient as we were, will help our finishing touch,” he said. “We got some good work on that.” 

The Irish take the field at Alumni Stadium at 6 p.m. Friday night, taking on a struggling Boston College team. They hope that the habits built in the tune-up against Kalamazoo will transfer over as they return to conference play.


Penalty kick dooms Irish men’s soccer in 1-0 defeat

The Irish entered Saturday night’s conference clash with North Carolina with a healthy dose of momentum. Eight days previously, freshman midfielder KK Baffour had scored at the death to deliver Notre Dame their first ACC victory, 2-1 over Virginia. Then, in a Wednesday non-conference battle, the Irish dominated and found the back of the net four times against Chicago State.

However, on Saturday, familiar issues resurfaced for the Irish. Notre Dame generated only a few offensive chances, and failed to finish any. As a result, they fell 1-0 to the Tar Heels in a frustrating defeat.

For the third time this season, the Irish gave up a goal via penalty kick. A foul in the box gave UNC the prime scoring chance and Milo Garvanian buried his team-leading third goal of the season. 

It was really the only scoring chance the Tar Heels produced. Irish junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd was only required to make one relatively easy save after the goal. The Irish backline produced a cohesive effort that limited North Carolina to very few chances. After giving up five goals in their first two games, the Irish have surrendered just four in the past five contests. 

“First halves of conference games are always going to be cagey, and we were really unfortunate with the penalty there. I’m really proud of how the guys responded, because that’s a really frustrating thing when you’re playing well,” Irish head coach Chad Riley noted. “That’s arguably our best performance of the year against a really quality opponent.”

Notre Dame earned double the amount of corner kicks (4-2) and outshot North Carolina 10-6. However, only two shots found their way on frame, both in the way of quality scoring chances. First, junior halfback Paddy Burns delivered a rocket of a left-footed volley. The slicing shot seemed destined for the lower left corner, but North Carolina keeper Andrew Cordes made a reflex save with his right hand. Burns generated another chance off of a corner kick. Baffour delivered a near post cross, and Burns flicked it towards the far post corner. The flick evaded Cordes, but a North Carolina defender saved the Tar Heels with a leaping goal-line clearance.

“I think they’re a tough team. Nine shots in the second half. North Carolina is always going to be a good defensive team, and I’m really proud of the way we played,” Riley said. “I think the second half, we were great. I thought it was one of our best performances. An inch here or there and we tie the game — and we maybe win it.” 

Beyond those two chances from Burns, quality opportunities were few and far between. The Irish offered continuous pressure and out-possessed the Tar Heels in the game by a 57-43% margin. They kept the ball in the visitor’s half of the field for most of the half. But they just couldn’t break through.

“We have a fit, deep squad. Our energy continues to grow. I felt like we were inches away from getting a couple,” Riley said. 

The Irish pushed hard late, getting one more excellent chance. After an Irish shot ricocheted off the crossbar, junior forward Daniel Russo faced a wide-open net. However, with heavy pressure from a defender on his heels, Russo airmailed the rebound effort. Soon there after, North Carolina secured the clean sheet victory.

Notre Dame plays Division III Kalamazoo on Tuesday, and they’ll return to conference play next Friday at Alumni Stadium. They kick off versus Boston College at 6 p.m. 

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Irish men’s soccer looks to stay on track against Indiana

On Monday, the No. 22 Notre Dame men’s soccer team bounced back from a surprising season-opening defeat against Seattle with a much-needed 3-2 win at Michigan State. The Irish will look to make it two consecutive road victories against Big Ten opponents as they match up with Indiana on Saturday night in Bloomington. The Hoosiers, ranked No. 21, will be seeking their first win of the new season. Indiana is 0-1-1 with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Clemson and a 3-3 draw with Portland.

After an up-and-down first week of the season that resulted in a precipitous 18-spot drop in the national rankings, the Irish will welcome the opportunity to win an important road game and reestablish themselves among the nation’s elite. Against Seattle, an inability to convert on scoring opportunities doomed Notre Dame. A scoreless first half from both sides quickly turned into a three-goal deficit that ultimately proved too much to overcome. Sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher tallied the first goal of his career off a pass from sophomore forward Eno Nto in the final minutes. But it ultimately proved to be a case of too little, too late.

Those scoring woes were nowhere to be found Monday. The Irish picked up their first win of the season on the back of a huge offensive outburst in the first half. This time, the Irish were the ones jumping out to a 3-0 advantage. First-half goals from junior defender Paddy Burns and freshman midfielder Sebastian Green began the charge, with further help coming from a Spartan own goal after the break. Notre Dame ceded a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes but did enough to hold on for the victory.

Regardless of result, a trend for the Irish at this early stage in the season has been their ability to consistently create shots offensively, as well as to prevent their opponents from doing the same. Even in a losing effort, Notre Dame outshot Seattle 19-10, and the Irish outshot Michigan State 22-15. A massive 14-3 shot advantage in the opening half in partiuclar saw them take firm control of the game.

They will want to stay aggressive and keep their attacking mindset against an Indiana team, that, like the Irish, has been susceptible to giving up goals in bunches thus far in the season, having allowed three in each of its games. Indiana holds aspirations of advancing to the College Cup, having been tabbed to finish second in a strong Big Ten during the preseason.

The Hoosiers finished last season with a 15-6-1 record, one of those wins being a 3-2 season-opening overtime triumph over in South Bend. Indiana advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national finalist Washington in overtime. Indiana returns an experienced and motivated lineup made up almost entirely of upperclassmen and led by defender Daniel Munie, a preseason first-team All-American.

Like the Irish, Indiana will be looking to shake off a few disappointing results to start the season. Their schedule began with about as difficult a test as could possibly be drawn up: on the road against No. 1 Clemson, the defending national champions. While the Hoosiers fought admirably, taking a 1-0 lead and later converting a penalty to level the score at 2-2, a late Clemson goal sealed the Tiger victory.

Then came a battle with another strong opponent, Portland, a team that received votes in this week’s coaches’ poll and ranks just outside of the top 25 nationally. Indiana came out of the gates hot, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Just as in the game against Clemson, though, they were unable to get the desired result, this time allowing consecutive goals and being forced to settle for a draw.

The biggest test for Indiana against the Irish will be whether they are able to finish strong and maintain their high level of play deep into the second half. The Hoosiers have played well for much of the season but late-game woes and an inability to properly close out their opponents have led to disappointment.

Neither team has started the year the way they hoped to. But Saturday’s game will provide an opportunity for one side to pick up a critical win over a likely NCAA Tournament-bound opponent. If the teams’ performances so far in the season are any indication, expect an exciting, high-scoring duel.

The Irish will face off against Indiana at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Bloomington’s Bill Armstrong Stadium.

Matthew Crow

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ND Rankings in the ACC

Notre Dame Women’s Soccer 

Notre Dame women’s soccer completed the 2021 season with an ACC conference record of 7-3, good for a fourth seed in the ACC tournament. The team was eliminated in the first round of conference tournament play to the fifth-seeded Clemson Tigers. The Fighting Irish were able to ascend further in the Women’s College Cup, losing out in the round of 16. 

This year the Irish landed sixth in the 2022 preseason ACC coaches poll. An impressive performance in the 2021 NCAAs, coupled with a hot 4-0 start to the 2022 season, lends hope that Irish could advance to the semifinals or even the finals of the ACC tournament this season. To get there, Notre Dame will have to wade through a stiff field of ACC competition such as 2021 Women’s College Cup champions Florida State and 2022 ACC women’s soccer preseason favorite Duke.

Notre Dame sophomore Korbin Albert, possibly the most dynamic attacking midfielders in the ACC, is one player to look out for this season for the Irish. Last season Albert was awarded third team all-ACC honors and racked up 12 goals. This ranked second nationally amongst Division I freshmen. In August, she was named to the 2022 women’s soccer preseason all-ACC team.

Notre Dame Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame men’s soccer won their first ever ACC title last year in an impressive run that included the defeat of Louisville on penalties in the quarterfinals and the shutout of Duke in the championship round. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish went on to fall to the Clemson Tigers on penalties in the semifinals of the 2022 Men’s College Cup. 

In the ACC preseason coaches poll this year, Notre Dame men’s soccer earned one first place vote. The team is predicted to finish third in the ACC’s coastal division. Just off their 2021 NCAA victory, the Clemson Tigers were selected as the 2022 preseason ACC men’s soccer favorite. This season the Fighting Irish will hope to overcome the replacement of their top-two goal scorers with a returning core of young contributors. Don’t let Notre Dame’s home opener loss have you fooled; the team fell to 1-3-1 last season before making their stunning post season run. Expect the Fighting Irish to make a final four appearance in ACC tournament among 2022’s conference competition.

Returning as one of the top goalkeepers in the country, junior Bryan Dowd will be the anchor of the Fighting Irish defense this year. A Notre Dame postseason legend, Dowd secured six straight shutouts over the ACC and NCAA tournaments last season. Dowd stands alone as the only goalkeeper on the 2022 ACC preseason watch list. 

Notre Dame Cross Country

Last fall, Notre Dame hosted the 2021 ACC Cross Country championships. The Fighting Irish men captured their second consecutive ACC championship last season and will hope to win their fourth team title in five years in 2022. The Notre Dame’s women’s cross country grabbed a fifth-place finish at the ACCs in 2021. In seven of the past eight seasons, the Fighting Irish women have placed in the top five at the ACC championships. At the 2021 NCAA division I Cross Country Championships, the men’s team finished ninth and the women’s team finished fifth. Notre Dame men’s coach Sean Carlson earned his second consecutive ACC Men’s Coach of the Year award in 2021.

This season the Fighting Irish will host two meets in September, including The National Catholic Invitation on September 16th. Bank on both the men’s and women’s teams being strong contenders for ACC champions and top five finishers nationally. The 2022 ACC championships will be held in late October at Charlottesville, VA where the Syracuse men and NC State women are perennial contenders. The 2022 NCAA Cross Country Championships will take place in November at the Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Keep an eye on senior Olivia Markezich this year as she comes off an All-American season in 2021 and an 11th place finish at the NCAA championship. All-American returners for the men include senior Jake Renfree and junior Joshua Methner.

Notre Dame Volleyball

Forget about 2021, Notre Dame volleyball is looking to transition this year under new head coach Salima Rockwell. A three-time All-American at Penn State, Rockwell has filled three assistant volleyball coaching since arriving in South Bend. The Fighting Irish landed ninth in ACC’s 2022 preseason volleyball coaches pool. Louisville, who received ten first-place votes in the coaches poll, and Pitt, who received five first-place votes, are expected to be top contenders this season in the ACC. Notre Dame finished eighth last season in the ACC and Fighting Irish fans should hope to see the team finish in the top half of the conference in 2022. An invitation to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament this season would be a step in the right direction for the Fighting Irish.

A key returning player for Notre Dame is junior libero Hattie Monson. In the 2021-2022 season Monson played in all 103 sets for the Fighting Irish and led the team with 407 digs. Monson was honored as member the ACC All-Freshman team in 2020 and as a member of the ACC All-Academic team in 2020 and 2021. SMU transfer Kaylyn Winkler is another name to look out for this season for Notre Dame Volleyball. Winkler led the AAC with a .384 hit percentage in 2021 and led her team, the Mustangs, with 114 blocks. The Irish will also hope to see leaders emerge among the five freshmen welcomed to the team for the 2022 season.

Peter Breen

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Notre Dame Men’s Soccer squad eyes College Cup return

The easy response to Notre Dame men’s soccer’s season-opening loss is an overreaction. Last year was a one-off, a fluke. Losing their top two goal-scorers may be too tall a task to overcome. Such thoughts became more prevalent as No. 4 Notre Dame fell to unranked Seattle, 3-1, in the opener. However, that final score was hardly indicative of the quality with which the Irish played. Notre Dame outshot the Redhawks 19-10 and out-possessed the visitors 52-48%. They doubled up Seattle in corner kicks, 10-5. 

Despite this, the Redhawks defended well and forced a lot of shots off-target. The Irish saw a few efforts clank off the post and crossbar. Seattle’s All-Western Athletic Conference keeper Akili Kasim made three solid saves and controlled his box well throughout the contest. His offense did enough with their counter-attacks to score three times. 

“Overall there were probably more positives than negatives, but it doesn’t feel that way when you lose a game,” Irish head coach Chad Riley said after the loss. 

So are the overreactions justified?

It’s easy to forget how the Irish kicked off their season last year. Oft-forgotten after Notre Dame blitzed through the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament to reach the College Cup was the fact that Riley’s squad opened the season 1-3-1. Their vaunted defense gave up three goals in the season opener. Three games later, they dropped a 4-3 decision to Michigan State. 

Of course, the Irish proceeded to win eight of their next nine games and ultimately reached college soccer’s ultimate stage, falling in penalty kicks in the semifinals. A season-opening loss, albeit a surprising one, is hardly reason to give up on this squad. 

As Notre Dame gels defensively, there’s every reason to believe they’ll return to last year’s form. With sophomore Josh Ramsey and junior Paddy Burns, the Irish return two starters from last year’s strong backline. They also added an experienced center back transfer in Seton Hall’s Maurice Williams. That trio worked along with sophomore Kyle Genenbacher as the starting defensive quartet for the Irish last Thursday. 

Junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd returns as one of the top keepers in the country. He anchored the Irish during last year’s postseason return and he figures to do the same this year.

The Irish also got some offense from their defenders. Burns finished second on the team with four shots, while Genenbacher rang up his first career goal in the 81st minute. The Irish looked strong defensively in the opening 45 minutes, not allowing a shot on target. But they faltered in the three-goal second half. 

“Seattle U was very clinical, but there were some key moments defensively where we could look at ourselves and do a better job,” Riley said. 

Offensively, the Irish know they need to find some scoring after graduating Jack Lynn and Dawson McCartney, their two leading scorers from last fall. Sophomore forwards Matthew Roou and Eno Nto may take on some of that burden, alongside senior striker Daniel Russo. Roou led the team with five shots against Seattle, and Russo added a pair. Nto couldn’t deliver an on-target strike but created some opportunities for the Irish while working on the wing. 

Another potential offensive X-factor is Matthew Radivojsa. After playing in 17 games as a freshman, Radivojsa missed last season with an injury. He came off the bench and provided a spark, delivering two quality shots. One forced a diving save and the other banged off the post. Riley noted that receiving quality minutes from the junior and sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau, who is also coming off injury, was a good sign for the Irish. 

Along with Boneau and Radivojsa, the Irish also got important minutes from their freshmen. Four of the six freshman field-position players saw action in the opener. Wyatt Borso led the way, starting and playing 43 minutes. Sebastian Green recorded a shot on target in his 37 minutes. KK Balfour and Mitch Ferguson also saw the field for the Irish. 

“Some of it is positional,” Riley said, regarding the minute breakdown for the freshmen. “All the first-year guys did a great job coming in. It’s gonna be a class that’s going to feature a lot over their four years. They’ve had a great start.” 

The road doesn’t get easier for Notre Dame. They play Michigan State and Indiana next week, with ACC play opening the following weekend. There will be a learning curve, but the Irish have a lot of experience from last year’s College Cup team and some new, young talent that will need to develop. But the potential and the ceiling is there. Despite an opening hiccup, a return to the College Cup remains the vision for the Irish. Riley emphasized that despite losing some of that goal-scoring and intangible leadership, he’s confident in the crew he has this fall. 

“I think we have great leadership,” Riley said. “And they’re figuring out how to do it in their own way.”

Aidan Thomas

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