Oct. 30, 2015
DATE: Oct. 31, 2015
TIME: 2 p.m. (ET)
LOCATION: Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium — cap. 3,500)
LAST MEETING: ND, 4-1 (11/1/14 at Pitt)
TICKETS: UND.com/tickets; (574) 631-7356
The stage is set for the final regular season game of 2015 for the University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team. The No. 14/10 Irish (8-3-5, 3-2-2 ACC) welcome Pittsburgh (5-8-3, 0-6-1 ACC) to Alumni Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET), with live coverage available on ESPN3.
Notre Dame returns home after a three-game road trip that saw stops at Virginia Tech (T, 0-0 on Oct. 16), Northwestern (T, 1-1 on Oct. 20), and Wake Forest (L, 2-1 on Oct. 23). The loss at Wake Forest snapped an eight-game Irish unbeaten streak that began with a 4-0 win at Michigan State on Sept. 22.
“It’s important we win this game,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “It was always going to be a very hard month, and when you look at the RPI we have the second hardest schedule in the country. We’ve played quite a few tough games, and in looking at the schedule we had a lot of road games in a row, and obviously you’d have liked to have done better. Some games we played quite well, certainly the Northwestern game, we dominated that game. Against Wake Forest it was one of the best college games I have ever been a part of, two very good teams and a great game with 4,000 people there.
“The schedule we play, you could win every game or you could lose every game, and that schedule prepares you for anything you’re going to see in the postseason,” Clark added. “That’s the key to the month of October. Its purpose was to prepare us very well for the upcoming games and a deep run into the NCAA tournament. Time will tell if that’s correct but it was a great testing month.”
Notre Dame will honor its six seniors from the class of 2016, Patrick Hodan, Connor Klekota, Danny Lojek, Evan Panken, Michael Shipp and Brian Talcott, along with fifth-year senior Max Lachowecki and senior manager Sara Chesser prior to Saturday’s contest with Pittsburgh. The seven-player group has combined to win 54 games, two conference regular season titles, one conference tournament and the 2013 NCAA Championship during their Irish careers.
“This is the most decorated class that I think Notre Dame men’s soccer has ever had, there’s no question about that,” Clark said. “They are hoping to add something this year as well. They have been a special group on and off the field, and they all have tremendous GPAs in this class. Everybody in the group has been very solid, good student-athletes.”
Lachowecki might be the only fifth-year player on this season’s Notre Dame roster, a low figure compared to recent years, but the Evansville, Indiana native has answered the call of seniority. As one of the three tri-captains on the 2015 Notre Dame team alongside Hodan and Klekota, Lachowecki has already set a career-high with nine points (three goals and three assists) through his first 16 starts.
“It’s been a great year for Max,” Clark said. “Max has always been a great player for us since he came into the team as a sophomore, and apart from his injury last year has pretty well played the full 90 minutes in all games since then. This year he has grown and become a better defender, and he’s become a leader. He always was a leader, part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and he’s been a real participant all around the school. He’s contributed so much in so many different ways.”
Pittsburgh arrives on the Notre Dame campus looking to snap a four-game losing streak, and is in search of its first victory in ACC play since joining the conference in 2013. The last Panther victory in the series against the Irish was a 1-0 triumph on Oct. 4, 2002.
A Notre Dame win over Pittsburgh and a loss or draw by Virginia against North Carolina on Friday would clinch the fourth seed in the ACC Championship tournament for the Irish, locking in a home meeting with Virginia on Nov. 8 at Alumni Stadium.
“It’s a huge game, and I think that the guys know that,” Clark said. “A couple years back (2010) we played Pittsburgh in the BIG EAST and we were tied 2-2, and they broke away with the ball with about a minute to go. Our goalie Philip Tuttle saved the shot, we came back up the field and Brendan King scored to make it 3-2. Two years ago when we played them here to win the ACC it was 1-0 up until the 81st minute, they are not an easy team. Up until conference play Pittsburgh had a winning record, and a lot of their conference games have been one-goal games. We better be ready because if we are not, it could be a very dangerous game.”
Pittsburgh enters Saturday’s match with a 5-8-3 record and is in the midst of a four-game losing streak after being shut out 1-0 by Duke on Oct. 24. The Panthers are in search of their first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) victory in their third season as a league member.
Hard To Beat In League At Alumni
Entering Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame looks to continue its strong ACC regular season home record since joining the conference in 2013. The Irish have compiled an 8-2-2 (.750) mark at Alumni Stadium in regular season matches as an ACC member.
In fact, Notre Dame is a combined 19-3-3 in regular season BIG EAST Conference and ACC home matches since 2010, good for an .820 winning percentage.
ND When Scoring 1st In Home Games
Scoring the first goal has been the key to seven of Notre Dame’s eight regular season victories in 2015, and has been a result guarantee in contests played at Alumni Stadium.
The Irish have been the first team on the scoreboard in six of eight home matches this season, winning on all six previous occasions when netting the first goal. Notre Dame has outscored the opposition 18-7 during its first eight home starts.
Class Of ’16 Looks For High Note End
Saturday’s showdown with Pittsburgh will be the final regular season home game for the Notre Dame soccer class of 2016: Patrick Hodan, Connor Klekota, Danny Lojek, Evan Panken, Michael Shipp and Brian Talcott, who are joined by fifth-year senior Max Lachowecki. The class has collectively accounted for a 54-14-16 (.747) record, two regular-season conference championships (2013 and 2014 ACC), one conference tournament championship (2012 BIG EAST), and was instrumental in Notre Dame’s 2013 NCAA Championship run.
With 54 wins entering this weekend’s matchup with the Panthers, the seven-player group is two victories from tying the class of 2006 as the winningest four-year class under head coach Bobby Clark since his arrival in 2001.
Shot Total Best In The BE/ACC Era
On the strength of 24 total shots in the second half and overtime sessions alone, Notre Dame finished its Oct. 20 match with a 39-7 shot advantage over Northwestern.
The 39 shot attempts by the Irish were the most in a single game for Notre Dame since joining the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 1995 season. The program standard bearer continues to be the 65 registered attempts by Notre Dame in a 1979 game against St. Joseph’s (Ind.).
Irish Against The ACC
Notre Dame enters Saturday’s contest against Pittsburgh with a 63-29-14 (.660) record all-time against the current ACC membership, including a 16-4-6 (.731) regular season mark in league play since joining the conference in 2013. The Irish were the outright regular season champions of the ACC that year before claiming the ACC Coastal Division title in the first season of the conference’s two-division structure in 2014.
Notre Dame previously defeated No. 9 Clemson (1-0 on Sept. 12), No. 4 Virginia (3-1 on Sept. 25) and Duke (3-2 in OT on Oct. 10) in ACC matchups earlier this season, while also playing to a 1-1 draw at North Carolina State on Oct. 4 and a scoreless tie at Virginia Tech on Oct. 16.
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.