Nov. 7, 2013
PITTSBURGH (1-10-4, 0-8-2)
#1 NOTRE DAME (10-1-5, 6-1-3)
Friday, Nov. 8 – 7 p.m. (ET)
Alumni Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The scenario is simple. If the top-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team defeats Pittsburgh Friday evening at Alumni Stadium it will capture at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and depending on how Maryland fares at Virginia Tech the Irish could have the crown all to themselves.
The Fighting Irish and Terrapins have identical 6-1-3 league marks and both will be taking to the pitch at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday. It’s somewhat fitting that the Irish, who are the new kids on the ACC block, are going down to the wire against the Terrapins during their final season in the league. In case you’re wondering, Notre Dame and Maryland tied, 1-1, on Oct. 8 at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (10-1-5) is pursuing its sixth regular-season conference title and obtaining it is no sure thing. Despite Pittsburgh’s 1-10-4 record (0-8-2 ACC) Fighting Irish head coach Bobby Clark knows what the Panthers are capable of doing.
“Friday’s game won’t be easy,” says Clark. “I’ve watched tape of Pitt and although their record has not been great, they’ve been in every game. I watched them play some very good teams and they more than handled themselves. They are going to come here firing on all cylinders and I’m pretty confident we will too.”
Even though it’s not a top-10 showdown, Clark is not afraid to say that Friday will be one of the biggest games for the program since he came on board in 2001. Winning the ACC title in the first year in the league would be a big feather in the Notre Dame soccer cap.
“The ACC is a true league because you play everyone and it would be a great achievement for the team to win it,” says Clark. “I don’t think there will be any problem getting the team focused for Friday’s game. I think everybody is very aware of the importance of it. Last year we were in a similar position where we had to go to Marquette and win (to win the BIG EAST) and we ended up tying.”
Clark guided the Fighting Irish to three BIG EAST regular-season titles (2004, 2007, 2008) and the program also captured two Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season championships (1989, 1993). Notre Dame could be hoisting an ACC trophy just 12 months after lifting hardware from the BIG EAST. The Irish won last year’s BIG EAST tournament and squaring off against the quality competition of that league had the squad prepared for the rigors of the ACC.
“The BIG EAST was a very strong league and our out-of-conference schedule has always been one of the strongest in the country and that helped us get ready for the ACC,” says Clark. “There is no question every one of our ACC games this season could have gone either way. It’s been a good challenge and so far we’ve handled the challenges pretty well. There were a few ties and a loss that we would have liked to have done better in, but that is all behind us now.”
Friday will be the third and final game in a seven-day stretch for the Fighting Irish. The first two legs were very successful. Notre Dame won at No. 12 Wake Forest, 3-1, Saturday and went up to East Lansing, Mich., Tuesday and topped No. 18 Michigan State, 2-0.
There is no doubt a huge reason why the Irish have had so much success is because of its veteran leadership and adding to the intrigue Friday will be the fact that it’s senior night and 10 Notre Dame student-athletes will be honored prior to the match for what they have accomplished during their college careers. Over the past four years the Fighting Irish have posted a 46-16-14 record, including a 27-5-6 mark in the last two seasons alone.
The senior class has compiled a 24-6-8 record at Alumni Stadium and if they can notch one more home victory it will mean they can add “ACC champions” to their long list of accomplishments at Notre Dame.
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director