Nov. 8, 2015
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second consecutive season the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team found itself locked in an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship quarterfinal battle with No. 17/13 Virginia. The result was once again on the side of the Irish on Sunday, as Brandon Aubrey finished a spectacular header off a Patrick Hodan corner kick in the 87th minute to send fourth-seeded Notre Dame past fifth seed Virginia 1-0 on a sunny afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
No. 9 Notre Dame (10-3-5) will face the tournament’s top seed and national No. 1 ranked Wake Forest in an ACC Championship semifinal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ET) inside Spry Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“The team played very well, and I thought we dominated the last part of the game, especially the second half, we controlled very well,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “I don’t think Virginia had very many opportunities but they still have many very good players, and I thought our defense stayed focused and concentrated. They’ve got a lot of speed up front and we could have got caught in the counter, I was concerned about that, but I thought we controlled the game well.”
Notre Dame ramped up its offensive pressure entering the final five minutes, earning pair of corner kicks after Virginia (9-4-3) was able to clear the defensive zone. The second try was the one that counted, as Hodan lofted an arching service that Aubrey blasted into the net with authority at 86:57. The junior defender’s third goal of the season provided the ultimate winning tally.
“We had so many shots and their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves, so it was very welcome that (the game-winner) did come,” Clark said. “Patrick Hodan hit a really good corner, it was a well-placed ball. We had two big trees in there, with Brandon and Jeffrey Farina, and Matt Habrowski does ok on corner kicks as well. Brandon hits the ball harder with his head than most do with their foot. It was a great goal and it came at a nice time because we only had three minutes to kill.”
The breakthrough goal was a long time in the making for the Notre Dame attack, which finished the game with a 15-4 shot edge that included a 9-1 margin in the second half alone. The Irish also added eight shots on goal to just one for Virginia.
“(The goal) had been in the cards and we were pushing, knocking at the door,” Clark said. “The door wouldn’t open, nobody would open the door, and then Aubrey got it. That was nice.”
It was Virginia who was the aggressor early, picking up the first offensive chance of the match in the fourth minute. A strong Cavalier run settled with Todd Wharton, whose shot was blocked away by the Notre Dame defense.
“They pressed us fairly hard to begin with, and it took us a while to get a rhythm,” Clark said. “The two young strikers (Mark Gormley and Thomas Ueland) came on and did a fantastic job. The energy they gave us the last 15 minute of the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second half was terrific. They gave us so much energy, and they really pressed, hurried and worked.”
Tri-captain Max Lachowecki drew a hard foul at the top of the Virginia box in the eighth minute to set the Irish up in Cavalier territory. Fellow tri-captain Hodan ripped a strong left-footed free kick from straight on drifted just wide of the right post.
Strong give and go passing from Farina to Hodan found Jon Gallagher free in front of the Virginia goal in the 16th minute. The Cavalier defense collapsed to alter Gallagher’s try, which was corralled by goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell.
“They have so many talented players that the game is always going to be in doubt,” Clark said of Virginia. “I’d like to have seen a few more goals but you have to give big plaudits to their goalkeeper. He had some fantastic saves, and some of them were very top drawer saves, so full marks to their goalie.”
Notre Dame made its best run on goal of the opening half in the 38th minute. Evan Panken weaved through the Virginia defense up the left wing and sent a rolling shot toward the far post. Panken’s try just missed iron and continued out of play.
A scrum in front of the Virginia net in the 44th minute left Notre Dame’s Ueland with a great look at the first Irish tally, but the Cavaliers swept the ball off the back line to send the contest to the break tied 0-0.
“It was very important that we stayed focused through the whole game,” Clark said. “It’s so easy when you’re having a lot of the play to stop and have a hard time, as I say, keeping the back door bolted. I think we did a good job, and I give Aubrey, Habrowski, and our midfield and fullbacks a lot of credit. Chris Hubbard only had to make one save today, that was a positive.”
Virginia had its best chance to take the lead in the 58th minute. Edward Opoku blazed down the right flank and uncorked a shot short side at the near post trying to beat Hubbard. Opoku’s shot found the right post and caromed out of bounds.
A flip pass over the top in the 63rd minute was received by Gallagher in the right of the 18-yard box. From the difficult angle, Gallagher’s shot was deflected just wide of the left post.
Notre Dame returns to Spry Stadium to face Wake Forest for the second time since Oct. 23, a night where the Demon Deacons battled back from an early deficit to outlast the Irish 2-1 on their home field.
“You enjoy it for tonight, then you get back and analyze it,” Clark said. “We’ll meet with the guys tomorrow, and for those that played it will be more of a regeneration for them. We don’t have a lot of time (before Wednesday) but the nice thing is we played Wake Forest just a couple of weeks ago, so we have a good feeling for how they play. We know they’re very good so it will be a tough game, it will be a great game for us regardless.
“Wake, I think, are number one in the country, so it would be nice to go into the number one’s house and come out with a W.”
Nov. 8, 2015
No. 9 Notre Dame 1, No. 17/13 Virginia 0
ACC Championship – Quarterfinal
Alumni Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
No. 17/13 Virginia 0 0 — 0
No. 9 Notre Dame 0 1 — 1
Shots: ND 15 (6-9), UVA 4 (3-1)
Shots on goal: ND 9 (2-7), UVA 1 (1-0)
Saves: ND 1 (Chris Hubbard 1 in 90:00), UVA 8 (Jeff Caldwell 7 in 90:00, 1 Team)
Corner Kicks: ND 6 (1-5), UVA 1 (0-1)
Fouls: ND 11, UVA 14
Offsides: ND 0, UVA 0
Yellow Cards: Marcus Salandy-Defour (UVA) 20:05; Todd Wharton (UVA) 41:11; Mark Gormley (ND) 44:50; Jon Gallagher (ND) 62:58
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.