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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame knocks off No. 3 North Carolina in ACC quarterfinals

After losing its final regular season game to the Tar Heels, No. 21 Notre Dame (11-5-2, 3-3-2 ACC) got its revenge Sunday, defeating No.3 North Carolina (14-3-1, 6-1-1) in the ACC Tournament quarterfinal round at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

Notre Dame took the lead early when a header from senior midfielder Blake Townes — after some nice buildup play — ended up in the back of the UNC net to give the Irish a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game.

North Carolina had a couple of opportunities to tie the game, recording four shots during the next 15 minutes. But Notre Dame graduate student goalie Chris Hubbard stood firm to keep the Irish ahead, denying arguably the Tar Heels’ best chance in the 15th minute after a shot by Jelani Pieters.

Irish junior midfielder Thomas Ueland looks to head the ball during Notre Dame's 3-1 win over MIchigan on Oct. 10 at Alumni Stadium.
Irish junior midfielder Thomas Ueland looks to head the ball during Notre Dame's 3-1 win over MIchigan on Oct. 10 at Alumni Stadium.

But that would be the only save Hubbard would have to make in the first half, as the Irish defense shut down the high-powered North Carolina offense.

In the second half, senior midfielder Kyle Dedrick had an opportunity to extend the Irish lead during the 63rd minute, but his kick was blocked. North Carolina had an opportunity to tie the game shortly after, but Hubbard made another key save in the 63rd minute to keep the Irish in front.

In the 78th minute, senior forward Jon Gallagher scored spectacularly with a diving header off a feed from his fellow strike partner senior forward Jeff Farina into the net and extended Notre Dame’s lead to 2-0.

Junior forward Thomas Ueland had an opportunity to put the game away and make it 3-0 in the 81st minute, but his header went high of the goal. Gallagher recorded three shots during the next six minutes, but none of them found the back of the net.

North Carolina scored during the 87th minute to get a goal back and set up a nervy finish. The Tar Heels had one more shot to tie the game in the 90th minute, but freshman midfielder Cam Lindley’s shot sailed over the goal. Notre Dame held on for the 2-1 win to move on to its fourth ACC semifinal in the five seasons it has been in the conference.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark was very happy with his team’s performance..

“It was a very impressive performance,” Clark said. “North Carolina is the No. 1 RPI team in the country, and we went into their place and beat them. I thought the second half we really handled the game very well. We went up 2-0 and we maybe could’ve had another couple of goals, but I thought it was one of our very best performances of the season.

“They are a very good team and I have a lot of respect for North Carolina. They were the No. 1 seed in the tournament. But we played well. The whole team played well. It wasn’t just one individual. Everybody had their moments in the game.”

Clark said everyone contributed in a total team effort against North Carolina.

“I thought we defended very well as a team in the first half because they came at us,” Clark said. “But I thought in the second half we got the game into their half of the field and we kept the game there. I thought our passing was excellent, but I thought Jeff Farina was excellent the entire game. He can hold up things and he’s been phenomenal the whole season and I thought he was especially good today. And of course he is as good as his partner in crime in Jon Gallagher. The two of them combine so well and that’s how we got the second goal. It was a cross from [junior defender] Felician Dumas from the far post and Jeffry very unselfishly headed it across the goal to Jon and Jon headed it into the net. I thought the whole team played exceptionally well.”

Clark said playing so many quality opponents in the ACC during the regular season has helped prepare this team for the ACC Tournament.

“It gives you the confidence to play the No. 1 RPI team in the country and play them up straight,” Clark said. “It’s as hard if not harder to win the ACC Tournament than to win the National Championship. The ACC prepares you to play in a lot of tough games because every team member in the league is very strong.”

Notre Dame will continue to compete for a conference championship when they will take on No. 16 Virginia in the ACC semifinal round on Wednesday night at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia.