Oct. 31, 2015
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium, even the elements could not derail the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team. The Irish found a season-high five goals, including three in under two minutes during the second half, to shut out Pittsburgh 5-0 on Senior Day.
The victory secured the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship for Notre Dame (9-3-5, 4-2-2 ACC), who will host No. 5 seed Virginia on Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. (ET) in the quarterfinal round of the ACC tournament at Alumni Stadium.
The No. 14/10 Irish outshot Pittsburgh (5-9-3, 0-7-1 ACC) by a final count of 27-4 on the afternoon, including a 17-3 second half margin. Notre Dame located 12 shots on goal for the match, while the Panthers managed to find frame on two attempts.
“This has been a great senior class, and the entire team did well today,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “Hopefully there’s more to come. This is the end of the regular season but this is the most important part of the season. We’re in the ACC tournament and I think we will also be in NCAAs, so it comes down to the cutting edge of the season. We’ve got a lot of unfinished business still to take care of.”
Notre Dame spent a majority of the opening minutes on the Pittsburgh end of the field, and a tri-captain Max Lachowecki service from the left flank found its way to Oliver Harris out front in the eighth minute. A charging shot from Harris was blocked away by the Panthers defense.
The Irish persistence broke the home side through in the 18th minute. Evan Panken sent a great lead pass ahead on the run to find Jon Gallagher gliding up the middle of the field. Gallagher chipped the ball over charging Pittsburgh goalkeeper Dan Lynd and finished the run himself just inside the box for his ninth goal of the year and a 1-0 Notre Dame lead at 17:41.
A tempting corner kick from Panken at the left flag in the 28th minute made landfall inside the Panthers box, but the Pittsburgh back line shielded the Notre Dame attack from gaining possession.
Gallagher looked to notch his second of the game after slipping past the defense in the 31st minute. A strong right-footed shot from over 20 yards out just sailed over the crossbar.
Harris looked to cash in a looping cross from the right wing off the foot of Michael Shipp in the 37th minute, but his one-time shot carried wide to the right and out of play.
Still maintaining its one-goal lead after the first 45 minutes, Notre Dame had the first scoring attempt of the second half in the 50th minute. A Pittsburgh foul from 20 yards out at the top right of the box set tri-captain Patrick Hodan up in prime real estate for a free kick attempt. Hodan’s bending left-footer toward the near post was punched aside by Lynd.
The Irish looked for an insurance goal on a nifty give-and-go in the 53rd minute. Thomas Ueland drove a shot that was saved by Lynd, and a rebound try from Mark Gormley right on the doorstep drifted just wide.
Notre Dame opened up the floodgates in the 55th minute, displaying its best offensive soccer of the season over a three-minute stretch. The surge began when Lachowecki played a lofting cross from the left of the box that found Panken all the way on the opposite side of the 18. The unmarked Irish midfielder headed home his second goal of the season at 54:52 to extend the Notre Dame lead to 2-0.
Nearly one minute later, Hodan teed up a corner kick from the far flag that drifted all the way to the left post and on to the foot of Brandon Aubrey. After a quick gather, Aubrey banked his shot in off a Pittsburgh defender for his second of the year at 55:58, giving the Irish a 3-0 advantage.
During the next trip up the field, Shipp sent Gormley through up the right side and found the Notre Dame attacker in stride. Gormley dribbled to his left foot and beat Lynd short-side at the right post for his third career goal, inching the Irish to 4-0 at 56:20.
“I think it could have happened at any time,” Clark said in reference to the second half offensive pace. “There were a lot of close things in the first half and we carried the play pretty well. We had 10 shots to one in the first half, so we actually had a great amount of shots in the first half. Once you get the second goal you break their resistance, they lost their enthusiasm when the second goal went in. They knew that was the game. When it’s a one-goal game someone will always hang in there, but once it goes to two they were beginning to think that might have been it.”
Notre Dame capped its scoring blitz in the 68th minute on another strong finish in front of the Pittsburgh net. Gallagher freed himself on a run up the right wing against the Panther defense and sent a shot humming toward the far post. The ball clanged off the iron and was headed back out of the goal mouth until Jeffrey Farina arrived on the scene to deposit the rebound into the back of the mesh. Farina’s second goal of 2015 provided the final 5-0 scoring margin at 67:56.
“There are always lessons to learn, both good and bad,” Clark said. “Most of it was good today, and on a wet day I liked the attitude. The positive attitude coming into a game on a dirty day, there wasn’t a big crowd due to the weather, I liked the positivity. A lot of that was led by our seniors, and as I’ve said they have been a fantastic group throughout their four years.
“I would like (the seniors) to finish with something, something tangible this year,” Clark added. “They’ve finished with something tangible the previous years. That was a good end and a good start, because it’s the end of something but really the start of the next phase.”
Notre Dame welcomes Virginia to Alumni Stadium next weekend for the fourth time since the start of the 2014 season, hosting the Cavaliers for the third occasion in a postseason match during that span. The Irish defeated the Cavaliers 3-0 in an ACC quarterfinal matchup on Nov. 9 of last year.
“(Clinching a home ACC Championship match) was huge, that takes us into a bracket that we know now pretty well,” Clark said. “We obviously have to play Virginia, which is a very good team, with it possible that you could go back to Wake Forest. It was a great atmosphere there in front of a big crowd, we feel that we could do better there the next time.
“There’s no easy games in the ACC once you hit tournament time, and all 10 teams could win it. We’ve still got to get past Virginia, that’s not an easy task.”
Oct. 31, 2015
No. 14/10 Notre Dame 5, Pittsburgh 0
Alumni Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Pittsburgh 0 0 — 0
No. 14/10 Notre Dame 1 4 — 5
ND 1. Jon Gallagher (9) (Evan Panken), 17:41; ND 2. Panken (2) (Max Lachowecki), 54:52; ND 3. Brandon Aubrey (2) (Patrick Hodan), 55:58; ND 4. Mark Gormley (3) (Michael Shipp), 56:20; ND 5. Jeffrey Farina (2) (Gallagher), 67:56
Shots: ND 27 (10-17), Pitt 4 (1-3)
Shots on goal: ND 12 (3-9), Pitt 2 (1-1)
Saves: ND 2 (Chris Hubbard 2 in 67:56, Brian Talcott 0 in 22:04), Pitt 7 (Dan Lynd 7 in 90:00)
Corner Kicks: ND 14 (7-7), Pitt 1 (0-1)
Fouls: ND 8, Pitt 3
Offsides: ND 1, Pitt 0
Yellow Cards: Andrew Wright (Pitt) 15:23; Raj Kahlon (Pitt) 48:54; Evan Panken (ND) 56:31; Patrick Dixon (Pitt) 57:56; Thomas Ueland (ND) 60:52; Wright (2nd) (Pitt) 71:48
Red Card: Andrew Wright (Pitt) 71:48
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.