Sept. 17, 2015
DATE: Sept. 18, 2015
TIME: 5 p.m. (ET)
LOCATION: Chapel Hill, N.C. (Fetzer Field — cap. 5,700)
LAST MEETING: ND, 2-0 (9/26/14 at ND)
LIVE STATS: GoHeels.com
TICKETS: GoHeels.com; (800) 722-4335
In what promises to be one of the most important regular season meetings in all of Division I soccer in 2015, the No. 2 University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team travels to Chapel Hill to face No. 3 North Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m. (ET). The contest will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
Here are key details about the matchup between the standout Atlantic Coast Conference sides in advance of Friday night’s kickoff.
Scouting North Carolina
North Carolina enters Friday’s match against Notre Dame sporting a 4-0-1 record, one full week removed from a 2-0 shutout of Virginia Tech to open ACC play for both teams in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Tar Heels have outscored opponents by an aggregate goal count of 9-2 over their first five matches, outshooting counterparts 75-38.
Raby George leads all North Carolina players with three goals over his first five starts, converting both penalty kick tries he has attempted. George has also notched a team-high two game-winning goals.
Goalkeepers James Pyle and Sam Euler have split time in net thus far, with Pyle compiling a 3-0-0 record and Euler a 1-0-1 mark. Pyle has conceded only one goal on 13 shots (0.29 GAA), while Euler has also allowed one goal on six opposing shots (0.58 GAA).
Head coach Carlos Somoano has compiled a 65-17-14 (.750) in his first five seasons at the helm of North Carolina, leading the Tar Heels to an NCAA Championship victory in 2011.
Notre Dame and North Carolina will meet for just the third time in series history, and the first time at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. The Irish and Tar Heels battled to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 8, 2013, before Notre Dame earned a 2-0 win on Sept. 26, 2014.
“They are one of the best teams in college soccer, so we know that it’s going to be a tough game,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “We played them to two very tough games the last two years, we tied and then we beat them, but they were both very close games at Alumni Stadium. Going on the road to Fetzer Field, it’s always going to be a challenging venue. All of the ACC games are like that so it’s not a new situation we find ourselves in.
“You have to play smartly in ACC games because you will be playing against very talented players,” Clark said. “There was a disappointment in the locker room after Tuesday’s (Xavier) game, but time heals all of that. Wednesday they were a little bit better, Thursday, by Friday they will be ready to go.”
ND In The State Of North Carolina
Set to make its first visit to Chapel Hill this weekend to collide with North Carolina, Notre Dame brings a 7-6-1 (.536) mark in games played all-time in the state to Fetzer Field. The Tar Heels will be the eighth different school that the Irish have faced inside the state of North Carolina.
The most games Notre Dame has ever played in North Carolina during a single season were the three contests at Belmont Abbey (Belmont; 1-0 win), UNC Greensboro (Greensboro; 3-1 win in OT) and Wake Forest (Winston-Salem; 2-1 loss) in 1982. The Irish added multiple wins in North Carolina in 1996 (at Charlotte and UNC Greensboro) and 2013 (at North Carolina State and Wake Forest).
Clemson is the only out of state team that Notre Dame has ever met on North Carolina soil, clashing in the semifinal round of the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship last November in Cary. The Tigers and Irish battled to a 1-1 draw, with Clemson advancing on penalty kicks.
“It’s sometimes quite nice to get away from campus, sometimes they get more studies done when they’re traveling,” Clark said. “It lets us focus on soccer, and sometimes with all that goes on around a home football game, even though it’s fun it can sometimes be a distraction. It’s a big game for us, a TV game on ESPNU. This will be a special game in college soccer and possibly the biggest game in college soccer this weekend.”
Irish D Still Grades Out Strong
Despite conceding its first goal of 2015 on Tuesday night against Xavier, the Notre Dame defense remains one of the most prolific and efficient back lines in the NCAA. The overall statistics continue to reflect the strong performance put forth by the Irish through the first six games of the regular season.
Notre Dame has only yielded 13 total shots on goal over the first six games of 2015, a .197 shots on goal percentage (13-of-66). On the flipside, 33 of the 81 total Irish shots in that span have found frame (.407 clip).
Notre Dame ranks fourth in the NCAA with a 0.16 team goals against average, and fifth with a .923 save percentage as of Sept. 16. Junior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard is fifth in the NCAA with a matching .923 save percentage and seventh with his individual 0.16 goals against average.
ND Racking Up The Ranked Results
Notre Dame has opened the 2015 regular season with one of the hardest out of conference slates in the country during its 4-1-1 start. The Irish own victories over No. 9 Clemson (1-0, Sept. 12), No. 14 Indiana (1-0 in 2OT, Aug. 30) and No. 24 South Florida (2-0, Sept. 4), adding a 0-0 draw against No. 13 Maryland on Aug. 28 at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.
Notre Dame has earned an impressive 31 results against NSCAA top 25 opponents since joining the ACC in 2013, logging an 18-3-10 (.742) record in ranked matches in three seasons as an ACC member.
The ACC Remains Among The Elite
Entering play on Friday against North Carolina, Notre Dame is one of nine ACC teams that have fewer than two losses thus far in 2015. ACC teams are a combined 44-13-9 (.735) to begin the season, boasting the best collective conference winning percentage in the NCAA.
— Tony Jones, Athletics Communications Assistant