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Notre Dame collapses against Clemson, likely ending their season

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 jsanch24@nd.edu.

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Near misses costly as Irish fall to Indiana, 1-0

On Wednesday night, Notre Dame men’s soccer traveled to Bloomington for a non-conference game against in-state rival Indiana. The Irish came within inches of goals on several occasions but were ultimately unable to get in the scoring column, suffering a 1-0 loss. The game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 3 but was postponed due to inclement weather conditions. The defeat moved the Irish to 5-4-1 (2-2) on the season, while the Hoosiers improved to 5-2-3.

Notre Dame’s attack was firing on all cylinders to start the game. It was a continuation of their performance from last week when they defeated Kalamazoo and Boston College while compiling an impressive ten goals over the two games. In the ninth minute, junior defender Paddy Burns and sophomore forward Matthew Roou connected on a give-and-go that culminated with Roou lofting a well-timed pass to Burns inside the box. Burns’ volley got past the keeper but bounced off the left post, keeping the score level at 0-0.

After a stretch of scoreless play, a Notre Dame foul inside the box gave Indiana a penalty kick in the twenty-fifth minute. Redshirt senior Ryan Wittenbrink converted the penalty to give the Hoosiers a 1-0 advantage. Ceding penalties has been a recurring issue for the Irish, as their most recent defeat, a 1-0 loss against North Carolina, was also decided on a first-half penalty for the opposition.

Apart from the costly foul, Notre Dame head coach Chad Riley was pleased with the play of the defense, as well as that of junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, who recorded four saves against Indiana. Riley spoke postgame about the Irish’s defensive effort.

“Conceding another penalty, we’re a little bit frustrated with that,” Riley said. “As a unit, I thought [the defense] played pretty well and gave us some good performances. Indiana’s got some quality attacking players that were pretty good on the night. I thought, for the most part, that we did a good job containing them and limiting their attacks.”

Indiana took a 1-0 lead into halftime, and the Irish were the victims of another unlucky bounce early in the second half. With Notre Dame on the attack, sophomore midfielder Bryce Boneau received a pass from sophomore defender Kyle Genenbacher just outside of the box on the right side of the field. Boneau fired a shot to the left of the diving Indiana goalkeeper, but the ball deflected off of the left post for the second time in the game.

Later in the half, the Irish appeared to finally level the score, courtesy of a 71st-minute goal from freshman forward Wyatt Borso, but Borso was ruled offside. Riley spoke positively about the chances that the Notre Dame offense created, while also noting room for improvement and lamenting losing a winnable game.

“It’s a little frustrating anytime you lose a close game because, at the end of the day, we want to be the team that’s winning close games,” Riley said. “We had some good moments on the attack. We want to continue to grow our attack more while building on some solid defensive play.”

The overturned goal would be the closest that Notre Dame would come to evening the score, as Indiana held on to take the 1-0 win. Although the Irish did not get the result they wanted, they remain focused on their long-term goals. Riley discussed how facing a strong opponent in a difficult road environment will provide benefits that carry through the rest of the season as Notre Dame looks to turn these close losses into wins.

“It’s the good thing about these games, playing a good team like Indiana [on the road],” Riley said. “You know you’re going to get better from them. At the end of the day, you want to get better and pick up results as well.”

After the weather-induced break from their conference slate, Notre Dame will return home to host No. 11 Louisville (6-2-2) on Saturday. The Cardinals are currently playing at a high level, having defeating No. 8 Pitt and NC State in their last two conference games. The Irish will try to put this loss behind them as they return to ACC play.

“I think it’s just about leaving that result. Leaving that game, as far as the details of it, and letting our frustration be a positive for us and turn it into another performance where we show our growth,” Riley said. “On the bus ride home, we’ll lick our wounds a little bit. When we get off the bus, that game is over, we start recovering and preparing for Louisville.”

The Irish will aim to improve to 3-2 in ACC play as they host Louisville on Saturday at Alumni Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACCNX.

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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.

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Paddy Burns: ‘A leader on and off the field’

Looking at Paddy Burns’ resume through two and a half years of collegiate soccer, you’d be excused for thinking he was one of the most coveted recruits around before his enrollment.

Now a junior, Burns has played nearly every minute he’s been available for each of the last two seasons. A leader on and off the field, Burns’ composure was a key reason why he was the only underclassman to take a penalty kick in the Irish’ three postseason shootouts in 2021. 

He tied for the team lead in assists last season, the only defender on the roster to lead the team in any offensive category. Displaying a knack for coming up in big games when he was needed the most, the left back totaled a pair of goals as well as an assist in Notre Dame’s College Cup run, including the Irish’s equalizer in their quarterfinal showdown with Pitt.

His strong form carried over into 2022. He currently leads the Irish in goals despite exclusively playing as a fullback in Notre Dame’s back four. He’s been defensively sound, a mark of consistency on an Irish backline that’s steadily improved.

With such a stacked resume in such a short career, it’s no hard feat to imagine him being a prized recruit who the Irish had to battle hard to win. But that couldn’t be less of the case. In fact, Burns wasn’t recruited at all.

Hailing from Northern Ireland, Burns’ exposure to coaches and scouts in the American collegiate system was nonexistent. He racked up a wealth of on-pitch experience and accolades in his native Crumlin, captaining Northern Ireland’s U18 squad on multiple occasions and captaining his school’s team for seven years from 2012 to 2019. 

But without a collegiate scouting network in Northern Ireland, when he decided collegiate ball would be the best option for him, it was a shot in the dark. Burns only applied to only one college through the regular student admission process: Notre Dame.

“It was just Notre Dame, I honestly didn’t really know of any other colleges in America,” Burns said. “One of my best mates went to Duke, Lewis McGarvey who plays for their soccer team, so I knew of them. But my knowledge of the college system, college soccer and college sport in general, was pretty limited. I just knew this place had such an outstanding reputation, and then as a proud Irish Catholic, the mission of Notre Dame appeals greatly to me.”

Thankfully, Burns had perhaps the most on-brand guide to life at Notre Dame possible: then-Leprechaun Conal Fagan. But even with Fagan’s guidance, Burns knew his decision to head to campus was a bold one.

“I heard of Notre Dame through another Irish guy, who was a junior at the time, Conal Fagan, and he was the Leprechaun,” Burns said. “He was outstanding helping me through the application process and telling me about Notre Dame. But with COVID, I couldn’t fly out here… it was a leap of faith, honestly, I stepped off that plane in O’Hare airport in Chicago and didn’t know what I was getting into.”

Burns had no contact with the Irish coaching staff prior to being accepted into the University through the standard admissions process. But seeing his accolades in Northern Ireland, the coaching staff couldn’t say no to the unconventional new recruit. 

“Thankfully, I got in and got accepted to this magnificent place,” Burns said. “And when I got in, I emailed the coaches and they sort of took a chance on me and said they could take me onto the team. I’m just trying to repay the faith that they’ve shown in me. They put a lot of trust in me, taking me onto this team.”

Burns knew that his leap of faith wasn’t without risk. Moving across an ocean to an American University 3,500 miles away came with an understandable fear of homesickness. But the junior credits the program’s culture for making his transition as seamless as possible. 

“My time here wouldn’t be as great if it wasn’t for this soccer program… the family atmosphere here is just outstanding,” he said. “I’m so happy I’ve come here. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

And last week, after two and a half years, Burns’ actual family was able to witness his Irish soccer family. His parents made the trip to South Bend to witness him play in person for the Irish for the first time, and the junior didn’t disappoint. Burns notched a brace for the first time in his collegiate career.

“I wanted to do really well for them, and my younger brother who’s also a freshman at Notre Dame was watching, so that was just an added incentive. I was glad to get the two goals, but it was just a brilliant team performance,” Burns said. “Having my parents here was truly special, and I’m looking forward to catching up to them.”

Contact J.J. Post at jpost2@nd.edu.

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Irish build momentum, dominate Cougars

On Wednesday night at Alumni Stadium, the Notre Dame men’s soccer squad took the field against the Chicago State Cougars, seeking to notch another win after a 2-1 victory over Virginia. The match provided the opportunity for a tune-up match with more ACC play on the horizon. 

The Irish got off to a blazing start — establishing control of possession and feeding off the excitement and energy of the crowd. It wouldn’t take long for their efforts to be reflected in the score sheet. In the 3rd minute, junior halfback Paddy Burns notched his first shot home off an assist from sophomore forward Matthew Roou. The Irish did not let the Cougars up from this point, meticulously and methodically controlling the ball and moving up and down the pitch.

With the halfbacks playing at offensively aggressive positions, the Irish continued to swing balls into the penalty box and test the back line of CSU. Freshman midfielder KK Baffour was instrumental in the first half, winning numerous battles against taller Cougar players and dutifully controlling position in the center of the field. Burns would continue to make his presence known in this half as well, firing off two of the nine Irish shots in the first 45 minutes. 

Notre Dame’s persistence and tactical mastery culminated in a second goal in the 30th minute scored by graduate student midfielder Ben Giacobello, whose one-timer off a deflection sent a roar through the crowd. The goal was converted off a crucial Irish corner kick, with the Irish earning seven others throughout the match.

The rest of the first half was characterized by the spectacular play of sophomore forward Eno Nto, whose pace and craftiness in off-ball movement caused fits for Cougar defenders. Nto’s discipline on the ball and shifty movement would win the Irish a free kick very close to the box that went unconverted in the 34th minute. Nto would then be denied a place on the score sheet in the 37th minute when, despite his strong run, he was ruled offside.

The first half concluded with a well-place corner from junior midfielder Matthew Radivojsa, but again the Irish couldn’t convert, keeping their halftime advantage at 2-0.

The second half kicked off with the same Irish dominance. Despite a collision involving graduate student defender Mo Williams in the 48th minute, it went swimmingly for the Irish. The 51st minute brought a prime scoring opportunity for senior defender Reese Mayer, with his header just missing the mark.

The Irish again controlled possession, led by the work rate of Baffour. Chicago State was forced to blindly clear the ball, and their back line showed obvious signs of distress. The second half pace slowed significantly, relative to the frantic pace of the first half. A third Irish goal was disallowed and the teams more or less mounted no significant attack for a large portion of the half. One performance that didn’t show up in the box score was that of freshman forward Wyatt Borso, who won 50/50 balls and maneuvered around Chicago State defenders with regularity.

Finally, in the 74th minute, the Irish rediscovered the back of the net. Daniel Russo, a junior forward, would net a goal off a free kick set, with assists from Nto and Matthew Radivojsa. Only a minute later, Burns would leave his mark on the game with a screamer of a goal from outside the box off of one touch. The goal was assisted by junior forward Daniel Russo. Burns’ electrifying goal provided the boost the Irish needed to close out the match. The final score of 4-0 shines for a team that was only averaging 1.4 goals per game prior to this game. The Irish seemed to find many answers about their identity out on the Alumni pitch. 

Despite several different contributions, the story of this game will of course be that of Burns, whose highlight-reel second goal is an early contender for the goal of the season for this team. To add to the majesty of his performance, Burns’ parents were in the Alumni stands for the first time in his Notre Dame career, all the way from Northern Ireland.

However, Burns does not want himself to be the only story of Wednesday’s success. Burns credited the side’s freshmen contributors, calling them “unbelievable.” The junior defender added: “[The] maturity of their performances and how they act off the pitch as well…has been really impressive.”

Head coach Chad Riley echoed his halfback’s sentiments. “Our program wants to be a place where young players come and develop, but they have to earn it,” Riley noted. “All those who played tonight earned their minutes.” The freshmen, with another set of strong performances tonight, should continue to see those minutes tick up.

With the Irish now sporting a two-game winning streak, and a crucial game against UNC on the horizon for Saturday, Riley’s squad hopes to continue to ride their newfound momentum to success after a sluggish start to the season. Coach Riley wants to push his team to approach each game as an opportunity for improvement. “You need to know you got better, and every time you win your belief grows a little bit more,” Riley said. “It’s the idea of how do we grow from this game going forward to the next one.”

Burns seems committed to his coach’s goals for consistent evolution. “You want to have a team of winners…the more wins we can put in a row, the more momentum we will build, and the more formidable we will become,” he said.

Burns also said he is ready for the next challenge against the Tar Heels. “It is tough to win ACC games, and for us, it’s about winning the battle in front of your face. We will not look past UNC,” he said.

Coach Riley and the Irish, now again above .500 at 3-2-1, are back in action this Saturday at 7 PM against North Carolina at Alumni Stadium.

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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.”