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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Irish ride huge second half to extend winning streak

No. 15 Notre Dame beat Northwestern on Tuesday night by a score of 3-0, extending its winning streak to three games. The Irish (6-3-1, 2-1 ACC) used a three-goal onslaught in the second half to beat the Wildcats (4-5-2, 0-3-1 Big Ten) in Evanston, Illinois.

The first half of the game was slow, with neither team getting a shot on goal. Irish head coach Chad Riley said it was “just not a very sharp first half from both teams.” One notable chance came when Irish freshman forward Jack Lynn took a shot in the 31st minute from outside the box, but the ball went over the bar. Despite the lack of action in the first 45 minutes, the Irish extended their first-half clean sheet to 10-straight games.

Connery McFadden | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Paul Rothrock dribbles away from a defender during Notre Dame's 1-0 double-overtime loss to North Carolina on Sep. 21 at Alumni Stadium. Rothrock scored his first career goal Tuesday night.

Coming back from the halftime break, the Irish finally managed to take their first shot on goal in the 48th minute off a shot from senior forward Thomas Ueland inside the box. Ueland's attempt, however, was saved by Northwestern goalkeeper Miha Miskovic. Nine minutes later, yet another shot was saved by Miskovic, as the sophomore Wildcat goalkeeper stopped a shot from the right side of the box by Irish sophomore midfielder Aiden McFadden.

After several more missed chances — a shot wide of the post by Irish junior midfielder Jack Casey in the 64th minute and a shot over the bar by fifth-year midfielder Blake Townes in the 71st minute — Notre Dame finally got the ball to the back of the net in the 74th minute. Ueland chipped the ball to sophomore forward Paul Rothrock, who headed it in for his first career goal.

Five minutes later, Notre Dame would celebrate its second goal of the night off a skillful volley from inside the box by senior forward Ian Aschieris — his second goal of the season. In the 90th minute, senior forward Sean MacLeod ensured he wouldn’t leave the pitch without being on the scoresheet by scoring his first career goal and ending the hopes of Wildcats fans for taking a point home.

Riley noted that the second half insertion of Ueland and the team’s commitment to pursuing effective offense propelled the Irish to break the game wide open in the latter half of the game.

“Thomas Ueland came in to start the second half and gave us a good lift,” Riley said. “And we just saw some of the things that might be successful offensively and started taking advantage of those a bit more [in the second half].”

The road victory gives the Irish their third-straight win, a stretch during which they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined score of 8-1. Riley gave his players a lot of credit for providing good performances every game this season, while adding that the team remains focused and is eyeing its next game against No. 6 Louisville.

“Winning is always better, it helps you feel better, but I think winning when you’re performing well — that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “I give the guys a lot of credit. Even in losses I haven’t felt that our performances have been low. It shows that we’re improving while getting positive results — which is the goal that we want. ... We’re feeling good, and we also know there’s still another level to push to. There’s a good hunger within the team, and we have a big game to look forward to on Saturday.”

Notre Dame will play four of its last six games this month on the road, with three of those opponents currently ranked in the top-25. Riley said he is confident his team will respond well to the challenges coming up in October.

“I think [the team is ready to play in tough environments], has done a really good job of getting ready for games on the road and playing in different fields, different conditions,” he said. “One thing our schedule will do [for] us is toughen us up overall, and I think the team has responded to those challenges well.”

Next up for the Irish is a marquee matchup against No. 6 Louisville on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Alumni Stadium.