Nov. 15, 2015
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Playing the role of spoiler was nothing new to the No. 13 Syracuse Orange. After beating a pair of higher seeds to reach Sunday’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship final, seventh-seeded Syracuse ousted the fourth seed University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team 1-0 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
Syracuse (13-5-3) secured its first conference tournament championship since 1985 with the victory, becoming the lowest seed to win the ACC Championship in tournament history. It was the first match No. 9 Notre Dame (11-4-5) had officially lost in ACC tournament play (4-1-2), and just the third time the Irish had ever fallen in a championship final (6-3-1).
“It was going to be a game of two halves,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “There was a strong wind (east to west inside the stadium) and a low sun, so I was very happy going into halftime 0-0. I felt although they had played the game in our half they didn’t have any chances. That was the funny thing, in the second half the one really good chance their boy took it went very well.”
Syracuse managed three early corner kicks in the match’s first seven minutes, but the Notre Dame back line was able to clear the zone in each instance. Juuso Pasanen deflected the final Orange attempt of the surge out of play for an Irish goal kick.
Pasanen found space all along at the top of the Notre Dame box after intercepting a clearance effort in the 12th minute, but his blast sailed over the Irish net.
“Any errors were really forced errors, and a lot of that came from their pressure,” Clark said. “They pressed us very hard in the first half. They dumped the ball in, put pressure on us, and we found it hard to handle the pressure. Between the wind and the sun it wasn’t easy (in the first half).”
Following Notre Dame’s first corner kick attempt in the 15th minute, Oliver Harris settled possession out in front of the Syracuse goal. Harris’ tried sailed wide of the left post for the first Irish shot of the afternoon.
The Irish had their best look of the match in the 27th minute. Tri-captain Patrick Hodan weaved his way up the right wing and uncorked a strong left-footed shot at the left post. The ball clanged off the post and kicked out of the goalmouth to stone the Notre Dame attack, and the game reached halftime with no score.
Syracuse broke through with great defensive pressure in the 47th minute. A failed Notre Dame clearance was stolen by Julian Buescher, who slotted the ball ahead to Ben Polk. Polk calmly finished his 10th goal of the year into the left corner of the net for the 1-0 Orange lead at 46:08.
A great through ball from Thomas Ueland in the 59th minute found tri-captain Connor Klekota streaking toward the net looking to equalize. Syracuse goalkeeper Hendrik Hilpert came off his line to make a great save and thwart the Notre Dame offensive.
Michael Shipp weaved through the Syracuse defense in the 66th minute, leaving a great give-and-go pass to Jon Gallagher. Gallagher raced up the right wing and hit a left-footed shot that bent past the left post and out of play.
“We had a lot of flurry without causing enough clear-cut chances on goal,” Clark said. “But we made enough things look dangerous and it just didn’t fall our way.”
Both teams jockeyed for position until the 88th minute, when Ueland won a ball at midfield and sent tri-captain Max Lachowecki through up the left side. Lachowecki’s shot went wide of the far post to secure the Syracuse triumph.
“I felt we had four very good chances, obviously the one in the first half when Hodie hit the post,” Clark said. “We had several good looks in the second half, but full congratulations to Syracuse. They had to go to North Carolina and pull out a result, they had to go to Clemson and pull out a result, and they had to come here and pull out a result. Any team that can do that are certainly worthy winners.”
Klekota, Brandon Aubrey, and Chris Hubbard represented Notre Dame on the ACC Championship’s all-tournament team. Polk led four Syracuse honorees on that squad as the tournament’s most valuable player.
“For us it makes us hungry for the NCAA tournament,” Clark said. “It’s very hard to win this and go all the way. Now we have three games to win again to get to the final four, and that’s the way we look at it, so we’ll wait and see what the draw does to us.
“It was a good game because it was a different type of team than we’ve played of late. They were a much more direct team, they’re big, and a little bit older. It was a good lesson for us and I think we can learn a few things from the game, take it into the NCAA tournament.”
Notre Dame awaits its probable selection as an at-large seed in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship. The NCAA Championship selection show will air at 1 p.m. (ET) on Monday on NCAA.com.
Nov. 15, 2015
ACC Championship – Final
No. 13 Syracuse 1, No. 9 Notre Dame 0
Alumni Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
No. 13 Syracuse 0 1 — 1
No. 9 Notre Dame 0 0 — 0
SU 1. Ben Polk (10) (Julian Buescher), 46:08.
Shots: ND 9 (3-6), SU 12 (9-3)
Shots on goal: ND 2 (0-2), SU 2 (1-1)
Saves: ND 1 (Chris Hubbard 1 in 90:00), SU 2 (Hendrik Hilpert 2 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: ND 3 (1-2), SU 9 (9-0)
Fouls: ND 6, SU 10
Offsides: ND 2, SU 1
Yellow Cards: Julian Buescher (SU) 47:20
2015 ACC Championship All-Tournament Team
Paul Clowes, Clemson
Kyle Murphy, Clemson
Jacori Hayes, Wake Forest
Ian Harkes, Wake Forest
Chris Hubbard, Notre Dame
Connor Klekota, Notre Dame
Brandon Aubrey, Notre Dame
Hendrik Hilpert, Syracuse
Julian Buescher, Syracuse
Miles Robinson, Syracuse
Ben Polk, Syracuse (MVP)
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.