Sept. 9, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Senior center back Brandon Aubrey continued his forceful offensive opening to the 2016 season on Friday night against Virginia Tech. Aubrey connected on his first career hat trick, which featured two goals within five minutes, to propel the No. 1 University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team to a 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) victory over the No. 15 Hokies at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (5-0-0, 1-0-0 ACC) improved to 6-0-1 all-time against Virginia Tech (4-1-0, 0-1-0 ACC), including a perfect 3-0 record on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish have outscored the opposition 16-2 during their first five matches of the regular season.
Following a corner kick clearance by Virginia Tech in the 13th minute off the foot of tri-captain Evan Panken, midfielder Blake Townes settled the ball just over 20 yards from the Notre Dame goal. Townes ripped a right-footed strike from 23 yards that rattled underneath the right post and crossbar for his first career goal at 12:18 and a 1-0 Notre Dame lead.
The Irish quickly extended the lead to two goals in the 16th minute. A long lead pass ahead to striker Jon Gallagher drew a Virginia Tech foul inside the penalty area to set up the third Notre Dame penalty kick in as many home matches. Aubrey made the most of the chance, depositing his fourth overall goal and third conversion from the spot in 2016 at 15:09 for the 2-0 Irish cushion.
Virginia Tech came out roaring in the second half with six shots in the first 20 minutes of the period, but Chris Hubbard and the Notre Dame defense slammed the door on the Hokies. Off a left wing free kick from Panken 15 yards from the Virginia Tech goal, Aubrey made a long run to the right post and headed home his second of the night at 77:29 for the 3-0 Notre Dame lead.
Just under five full minutes later, Notre Dame was again awarded an advantageous free kick just outside the Virginia Tech box. Aubrey remained as calculated as he had been throughout the night on the offensive end, driving a 20-yard attempt shaded right post bending in to the left netting for the hat trick at 82:27 and a commanding 4-0 Irish edge.
Virginia Tech would pick up its lone goal in the 86th minute following a Notre Dame foul inside the 18-yard box. Som Essome snuck the penalty kick attempt past Hubbard for the lone Hokie tally at 85:27.
Notre Dame remains at Alumni Stadium for a nonconference showdown on Tuesday against former BIG EAST Conference foe Connecticut. The 7 p.m. (ET) match will air live on ACC Network Extra.
Season and single game tickets for the 2016 Notre Dame men’s soccer season remain on sale. Visit und.com/tickets or call the Murnane Family Ticket Office at 574-631-7356 for more information or to purchase tickets.
Play of the Game
A deflection off a Notre Dame corner kick from the right flag in the 13th minute was cleared out of danger by the Virginia Tech defense. Blake Townes regained possession for the Irish and crushed a shot that snuck under the crossbar at the right post, putting Notre Dame in front 1-0.
Brandon Aubrey upped his season goals total to six in only five starts, scoring off a penalty kick at 15:09, heading home a free kick at 77:29 and burying a free kick of his own from 20 yards out at 82:27 to guide the Notre Dame attack.
Coach Bobby Clark
Weathering Virginia Tech storm to open the second half…
“In the opening 15 minutes, two goals down, they obviously had to pressure. They pressured and pressured, and I think they ran out of a little bit of steam. You can only do that for so long. If they’d gotten a goal at that time it would have made it very difficult. We were taking water for that opening 15 minutes, they went way up in shots.”
On the difference made by the play of Jeffrey Farina and Blake Townes…
“When Blake and Jeffrey came on, they were fantastic. Once these two guys were on they got ahold of possession (for us), and the third goal obviously helped. The game turned at that time, and it’s not that the others weren’t doing well, I just think Jeffrey held the ball up front and we got the ball back in their half. When Jon Gallagher, Mark Gormley and Ian Aschieris were on we needed a person to hold the ball and get the rest of us in, and I thought Jeffrey was fantastic. He’s back to full fitness and does a superb job holding the ball up. Blake, I know the goal was great but what he did apart from that was outstanding.”
Overall game observations…
“It was a team performance, and Chris Hubbard had fantastic saves when he was called on. They may have had more saves over the course of the game than we had but Hubbard made the key saves when it was still 2-0 at the time. Goals change games, and Virginia Tech is a good team. I now see why they were 4-0 coming in. At 4-1 you think it was an easy game, but it wasn’t an easy game.”
Senior Defender Brandon Aubrey
On his hat trick and ability to be a versatile goal scorer…
“It’s just something that we work on at the training field all the time. Evan (Panken) putting in crosses, me running to the back post for the headers, finally it came off tonight. Set pieces are something I’ve been working on a lot this summer, Blake (Townes) is out there with me a lot, and we take 15 minutes after practice to work on that shot. Happy that it’s finally paying off.”
Junior Midfielder Blake Townes
On his first career goal and serving as a strong force on the Notre Dame offense…
“It was a really good strike, and we’ve been training in practice about getting the ball at the top of the box and shooting. I just took my chance and buried it. I was really happy and am hopefully going to score some more goals soon. I thought we played great and that we worked really hard, that’s why we got the win today.”
Note of the Game
Brandon Aubrey was the first Notre Dame player to log a hat trick in a match since Ryan Finley scored all three goals of a 3-0 win over Providence on Oct. 20, 2012.
#1 Notre Dame 4, #15 Virginia Tech 1
September 9, 2016
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)
No. 15 Virginia Tech 0 1 — 1
No. 1 Notre Dame 2 2 — 4
Total Shots: ND 14 (4-10), VT 15 (4-11)
Shots on Goal: ND 10, VT 5
Saves: ND 4 (Chris Hubbard 4 in 90:00), VT 6 (Ben Lundgaard 4 in 85:27; Morten Lamps 2 in 3:33)
Corner Kicks: ND 3 (2-1), VT 7 (2-5)
Fouls: ND 12, VT 13
Offsides: ND 1, VT 0
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant director 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 Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.