Connor Klekota assisted on both goals in Friday's 2-0 win over North Carolina.

#2 Notre Dame Set For First Encounter With VCU

Sept. 29, 2014

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(3-5-1, 0-0-0 Atlantic 10)
(4-1-2, 2-0-1 ACC)

Tuesday, Sept. 30 – 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Alumni Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.




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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Midweek matches are similar to midterm exams in that if you overlook them you most likely will pay the price later in the semester.

With challenging Atlantic Coast Conference games occupying the minds of the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer players each weekend, head coach Bobby Clark tries his best to make sure the squad constantly is focused by lining up a meaty midweek slate.

The Fighting Irish are fresh off a 2-0 triumph of ACC foe North Carolina that vaulted them into sole possession of first place in the league’s Coastal Division. Notre Dame will look to keep the momentum going on Tuesday when the Irish meet VCU for the first time.

Don’t let VCU’s 3-5-1 record fool you. The Rams are one of the few teams in the nation that have an early-season schedule that can rival Notre Dame’s. The Fighting Irish have met a ranked opponent in five of their first seven matches this season, while VCU has faced four ranked foes. The two teams have three common opponents that all appear in the national polls (Georgetown, North Carolina Virginia).

“VCU is a very talented team and they’ll be one of the most talented teams we’ll play this season,” Clark said. “They’ve played an amazingly tough schedule so they won’t be fazed by us. It’s a great challenge for a midweek game. We’ll have to play very, very well to come out with something.

“It can be a challenge to come out of a league game and into a midweek game. It possibly won’t be the same atmosphere for a midweek game. We’ll have to handle that atmosphere, which is different than a Friday or Saturday game when we have a big crowd. Sometimes you have to make your own atmosphere and compete.”

A capacity crowd of 3,007 was on hand Friday at Alumni Stadium to see Notre Dame top the Tar Heels. The Irish may have lost the stat sheet battle, but they won on the scoreboard by depositing their only two shots on goal. It was a nice combination of youth (freshman Jeffrey Farina) and experience (fifth-year senior Leon Brown) that provided the scoring punch, while goalkeeper Patrick Wall came up big with a season-best six saves en route to being named the College Soccer News National Player of the Week.

“I was pleased that we hung in pretty tough in a game where we didn’t get it all our own way,” Clark said. “That’s what our schedule is all about. You’re not going to dominate games for 90 minutes. It’s how you handle the pieces of the game when you’re not in complete control. You have to hang in tough and you have to keep your discipline and you can’t panic.”

Tuesday’s matchup with VCU will be the first of five midweek tests for the Fighting Irish over the next month. The other four showdowns are against Notre Dame’s annual Big Ten Conference rivals Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State.

The Fighting Irish will undoubtedly be prepared for these midweek matches and that can help avoid a late-season cram session to ensure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

– VCU will bring a 3-5-1 (0-0-0 Atlantic 10) record into Tuesday’s showdown with the Irish. Notre Dame will be the fourth top-10 foe the Rams have faced this season. They already have met #4 New Mexico (L, 2-0), #5 North Carolina (L, 1-0) and #6 Georgetown (W, 2-1 in OT).
– The Rams have scored 10 goals, while they have allowed 10. Kharlton Belmar (Sr./F), Devon Fisher (R-Jr./M) and Jose Manel (Sr./F) all have netted a team-best two goals. Garrett Cyprus (R-Jr.) has every decision in goal. He owns a 1.07 goals-against average and a .750 save percentage with two shutouts.
– Last season, VCU went 11-8-2 and fell to Navy, 3-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
– Head coach Dave Giffard is in his fifth season at VCU.

– Notre Dame and VCU have three common opponents so far this season (Georgetown, North Carolina, Virginia).
– The Irish topped North Carolina (2-0) and tied both Georgetown (0-0) and Virginia (1-1). The Rams defeated Georgetown (2-1 in OT) and fell to North Carolina (1-0) and Virginia (1-0).

– Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall was named the College Soccer News National Player of the Week for his performance in Friday’s 2-0 win over No. 8 North Carolina. Wall, a fifth-year senior, made a season-high six saves against the Tar Heels to collect his third shutout of the season.

– Fifth-year senior Patrick Wall ranks second in the ACC and 16th nationally with a 0.54 goals-against average. Wall has only allowed four goals, while making 20 saves for a .833 save percentage.
– He boasts a career record of 30-3-8 (.829) with 16 clean sheets and a 0.74 goals-against average. Wall has played every minute in goal over the last two seasons.

– Freshman forward Jeffrey Farina netted his first career goal in Friday’s triumph over the Tar Heels. The score put the Irish up 1-0 in the 37th minute. Fellow freshman Jon Gallagher and junior Connor Klekota assisted on the tally.

– Forward Leon Brown tallied his team-best third goal of the season in Friday’s win over North Carolina. The fifth-year senior scored in the 71st minute off assists from Connor Klekota and Luke Mishu.

– The VCU contest will be the second of three straight home affairs for the Fighting Irish. Friday’s North Carolina match started a stretch that will see Notre Dame play five of its next six games at Alumni Stadium.
– The Fighting Irish return to ACC play Friday when they play host to Boston College (7:30 p.m.).

– A capacity crowd of 3,007 filled Alumni Stadium to see Notre Dame top North Carolina last Friday. That tied the sixth-largest crowd in Fighting Irish history.

– Notre Dame is 19-3-3 (.820) at home over the past three seasons. The Fighting Irish are 37-11-9 (.728) at Alumni Stadium since it opened in 2009.

— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director