Nov. 1, 2017
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team was looking for that extra spark to find its mojo as the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship opened on Wednesday. A goal less than two minutes in set the Irish on a course without retreat, and standout games from a number of Notre Dame players carried the night in a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh at a rainy Alumni Stadium.
No. 21 Notre Dame (10-5-2), the seventh seed in the ACC tournament, scored five goals in a contest for the first time since blanking then No. 22 California by the same score line on Sept. 4, 2016, at Indiana’s adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. The Irish outshot Pitt (8-10-0) 22-12 for the night, despite the Panthers narrowing the gap to just 10-9 in the second half. Notre Dame dominated the corner kick count 9-1, ending a solid turnaround season for Pitt that saw the Panthers claim three victories against teams in the top 25 after winning two games during the entirety of the 2016 campaign.
Notre Dame raced out to a 1-0 lead just 1:31 into the contest. Pitt goalkeeper Mikal Outcalt snared a Jeff Farina shot that caromed off the right post. As Outcalt prepared to clear the zone, Jon Gallagher slashed in front of the Panther keeper and deflected the ball back into the visitor’s goal. Gallagher’s 11th goal of the season put the Irish out front early.
Farina made a nifty move in the 11th minute to tee up the next Notre Dame scoring play. A spinning drop pass down the right sideline to Sean Dedrick raced the Irish attack out in space. A looping cross to a charging Blake Townes at the left post was buried into the back of the Pitt net. Townes’ first goal of the season made it 2-0 Irish at 10:10.
The first half scoring barrage for the Irish ended in the 38th minute. Notre Dame gained a free kick shaded right of the Pitt frame with more than 20 yards to go into the Panthers box, and Felicien Dumas was called upon to take the try. A beautiful left-footed strike bent inside the right post and past a diving Outcalt for Dumas’ third goal of the year and a 3-0 Notre Dame lead at halftime.
Notre Dame continued to apply the pressure immediately out of the gate in the second half. After two Gallagher shots were saved in the first two minutes, the Irish broke through once more in the 49th minute. Dedrick ripped a shot in from the right flank that was punched down by Outcalt, but Farina arrived on the scene to wipe up the spillage for his seventh goal of 2017 and the Irish rout was on at 4-0 (48:29).
Pitt kept battling despite the deficit, and a Notre Dame handball inside the box exactly one minute later gave the Panthers an attempt from the penalty spot. Irish goalkeeper Chris Hubbard dove to his right to stonewall Colin Brezniak for one of his three saves, and a follow-up shot from Brezniak soared over the crossbar to cap a stellar Notre Dame defensive sequence.
The Notre Dame score line was finally settled in the 62nd minute. Dumas regathered a corner kick that was sent back to him at the far flag and fired a strike of a cross from the right flank. The ball caromed to a waiting Farina at the left post, and the senior forward’s second goal of the night and eighth of the season capped the Irish scoring at 5-0 at 61:16.
Notre Dame resumes ACC Championship play on Sunday, when it returns to Cary, North Carolina, to face the No. 2 seed Tar Heels in the tournament’s quarterfinal round. The 1 p.m. (ET) match will air live on ACC Network Extra.
Play of the Game
Jeff Farina iced his first career postseason brace, and a five-point night, by depositing a Felicien Dumas cross in the 62nd minute. Along with an assist in the 11th minute and his first goal in the 49th minute, Farina anchored a potent Notre Dame attack that featured 20 total players seeing game action.
Jon Gallagher sped to the front of the Pitt goal and deflected an attempted Panther clearance past keeper Mikal Outcalt and into the mesh a mere 1:31 into the game. Gallagher’s aggressive play, after the Irish had hit the post just seconds earlier, got Notre Dame off on the right foot.
Note of the Game
The Irish improved to 5-1 when hosting ACC Championship games at Alumni Stadium, dating back to their debut as a conference member in 2013.