Sept. 25, 2014
#8 NORTH CAROLINA
(5-2-0, 1-1-0 ACC)
#2 NOTRE DAME
(3-1-2, 1-0-1 ACC)
Friday, Sept. 26 – 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Alumni Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s been nearly three weeks since the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team last played at Alumni Stadium, but the second-ranked Fighting Irish return Friday night with a marquee Atlantic Coast Conference matchup against No. 8 North Carolina.
In fact, Friday’s affair will be the first of three straight home matches for the Irish, who have played four of their first six games of the season away from South Bend.
“It’s awesome to be back at home,” Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall says. “Our fans are great. Now while the weather is good, I really encourage them to come out and enjoy the atmosphere and help us push through these next few games. We need some wins to really start moving up the table.”
The Tar Heels are visiting Notre Dame for the second straight season. Last year’s encounter, a 1-1 draw, marked the first-ever meeting between the two programs and it also was the inaugural ACC match for the Fighting Irish.
While Notre Dame and North Carolina don’t share much of a history, the two squads have at least one thing in common this season: a stingy defense. Both the Fighting Irish and Tar Heels have surrendered only four goals throughout the first month of the campaign. North Carolina’s Brendan Moore (0.57) and Notre Dame’s Wall (0.62) rank third and fourth, respectively, among ACC goalkeepers in goals-against average.
“Every game is another challenge to not give up goals and you get excited for that challenge.” Wall says. “North Carolina is a very good team. Any time you go against another top-10 team it’s really exciting because you have a chance to move up. They are a very strong team in the ACC and you want to get results against teams like that.”
The Fighting Irish haven’t surrendered many goals this season, but there is at least one they’d like to have back. The last time the home fans saw the Irish they suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Kentucky thanks to a 90th-minute goal from the Wildcats.
Since then, Notre Dame has opened ACC play with two stout road matches. The Irish bested No. 20 Syracuse, 1-0, before drawing with fifth-ranked Virginia, 1-1. Notre Dame and Virginia currently are tied for first place in the ACC Coastal Division, while North Carolina is in a three-way tie for third place.
“I feel the season to this point has gone alright,” Wall adds. “We’ve dropped some results we didn’t want to and obviously we’d like to win every game, but we’ve played away against some strong teams. I’m pleased with where we’re at, but I’m not happy. We still have some room to grow. This is about where we were last year and everyone saw how last year ended up.”
North Carolina will be the fifth ranked opponent the Irish have faced this season. Notre Dame is 2-0-2 against the first four ranked foes its faced and the Irish are 18-3-8 against ranked teams since the beginning of the 2012 season.
“North Carolina is another top team, there’s no question about that,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark says. “I think they are a potential final four team. They returned a lot from last season and they also brought in a strong recruiting class. It’ll be a tough game and a challenge for us, but that’s nearly every game in the ACC. If you’re a true competitor these are the games you look forward to. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge and I feel they thrive in situations like this.”
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director