Nov. 1, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Virginia Tech freshman midfielder Rob Smith and Notre Dame sophomore defender Kevin Goldthwaite both scored timely first goals of the season but it was a proven goalscorer who made the difference, as Erich Braun’s goal in the 83rd minute gave the 16th-ranked Irish a 2-1 victory in Friday night’s key lateseason battle for BIG EAST playoff positioning.
Notre Dame (10-4-3, 6-3-1 BIG EAST) – which used a pair of goals in a two-minute span for a quick change of fortune – crept closer to clinching one of four host spots in next week’s BIG EAST quarterfinals, with the Irish capable of finishing anywhere from second to fifth. Notre Dame can clinch a top-four finish if Rutgers fails to win both of its remaining games (vs. West Virginia and Boston College). The Irish also would clinch home field if Connecticut fails to beat Syracuse or if Boston College fails to collect at least two points in its remaining games vs. Villanova and Rutgers (one point is awarded for ties, three for victories).
Virginia Tech (10-7-1, 5-5-0) now needs some help to qualify for the eight-team BIG EAST tournament, as the Hokies can finish no higher than sixth but could end up as low as ninth.
Senior midfielder Chad Riley again played the role of playmaker in Friday’s pivotal win, with primary assists on both goals. Riley’s leftside corner kick in the 81st minute set up the fifth career goal from Goldthwaite, who ran into the play and dove low to the ground for a header into the left side of the net (80:05).
Moments later, Riley sent a pass from the left side and Braun found himself one-on-one with Hokies ‘keeper Chase Harrison. Braun paused before placing a six-yard shot over Harrison for his ninth goal of the season and the 34th of his career, good for a share of seventh in the Irish record book (82:09).
Riley’s 11 assists in 2002 nearly equal his total from the previous three seasons (12) and are the most by a Notre Dame player since Bill Lanza also had 11 in 1995. The two-assist night moved Riley into a share for fourth on the Irish career assists list (23), just two behind Lanza’s career total.
Sophomore Chris Sawyer made two of his four saves in the final seven minutes, diving low to his left to deflect a Peer Rogge header off the post before holding his ground to save a skipping 16-yard shot from Bobby O’Brien.
The Irish finished with a 13-9 shot edge while dominating in corner kicks (8-1), including 7-0 in the second half.
Smith scored on a well-struck ball from the top of the box, with the low shot tucking inside the far left post. Rogge set up the goal with his leftside throw-in to sophomore Bailey Allman, who then played a pass to Smith for the game’s only goal until the lategoing (28:41).
Virginia Tech 1 0 – 1
#16 Notre Dame 0 2 – 2
VT 1. Rob Smith 1 (Bailey Allman, Peer Rogge) 28:41.
ND 1. Kevin Goldthwaite 1 (Chad Riley) 80:05.
ND 2. Erich Braun 9 (Riley) 82:09.
Shots: VT 4-5-9, ND 5-8-13.
Corner Kicks: VT 1-0-1, ND 1-7-8.
Saves: VT 7 (Chase Harrison), ND 4 (Chris Sawyer).
Fouls: VT 13, ND 8.
Offsides: VT 1, ND 0.