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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

ND prepares to host Wake Forest in top-15 matchup

Coming off of a dominating 4-0 victory over No. 6 Indiana, No. 2 Notre Dame will host No. 11 Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium on Saturday.

The Demon Deacons (8-2-1, 3-1-0 ACC), ranked No. 34 in the RPI, have lost only once in their last 10 contests, securing wins in eight of them.

Wake Forest will be the third ranked team the Irish (9-1-0, 3-1-0 ACC) have played in their last four games. In those previous three contests, however, the Irish have outscored their opponents 8-1. Irish head coach Bobby Clark said he is uninterested and unfazed by the rankings and latest win streak by the Irish, adding that the team focuses on just one game at a time.

“I never look at rankings,” Clark said. “Win streak, I never know what it is — I just take one game at a time. Someone at the end of the game will tell me at the end of the game what the score was. Soccer is an easy game; I’ve got ten fingers so I usually can keep track of the score. Other than that, you take the game one at a time, and you get yourself ready for that game, and then you move on to the next one. I think the guys are pretty good at that. We don’t post stats or anything in the locker room. We just know we have to play well every game. And if you play well, you got a good chance of winning.”

The Demon Deacons’ offense is led by senior midfielder Jacori Hayes, who has contributed eight points to the team on the season. Wake Forest as a team nearly doubles its opponents shot output with a difference of 16.4 to 8.6 per game. They also earn many more corners than their opponents, a total of 72 to 31 on the year. The Irish will need to slow down the Demon Deacons’ offense with their defensive pressure if they hope to be successful, Clark said.

“The shots and corners are an indicator of how much domination a team is having, so clearly they have dominated their games, but it doesn’t always mean that you win,” Clark said. “The way you stop shots is getting pressure on the ball, and really from 35 yards out you need to pressure the ball. And if you pressure the ball, you keep them out of your end, so that saves them from getting corners. But a team is going to get corners, and you have to defend them. A team is going to get shots, and that is why you have a goalie, and we have a good goalie.”

Clark said knows this game will be no less of a challenge than Indiana was and hopes the fans turn out to support the team.

“It will be a huge game against Wake Forest on Saturday,” Clark said. “We played two tremendous games there, won one and lost one there last year at their place. I’d love to get a big crowd — when we played there at both games last year, there were over 5,000 people. There’s no football in town, [so] let’s get the students out [since] this will be a huge game for us. Let’s have a great turnout Saturday night — it will be a great time to come out and see two very good teams.”

Notre Dame kicks off against Wake Forest on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.