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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Irish defeat Tigers 2-0, book trip to ACC Quarterfinals

Fifth-seeded Notre Dame defeated the No. 12 seed, Clemson, 2-0 at home on Wednesday night to advance to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. The Irish obtained a brace from senior forward Ian Aschieris and booked a trip to face No. 4 seed Louisville on Sunday.

Connery McFadden | The Observer
Irish senior forward Ian Aschieris hustles to track down the ball during Notre Dame's 1-0 double-overtime loss to North Carolina on Sep. 21 at Alumni Stadium.

The Irish got off to a quick start after scoring a mere 100 seconds into the game. Senior defender Sean Dedrick crossed the ball from the right flank into the box. His low cross was met by Aschieris, who headed in a shot just inside the right post and past Clemson goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. Irish head coach Chad Riley praised Aschieris for his effectiveness up front for the Irish.

“This is his first real season. He’s had some injuries, he’s had some guys that were ahead of him. Ian’s going to score a lot of goals for us. With that said, I think it’ll feel good for him to hit the back of the net because we know he’s got it in him but, I think he did great with his chances tonight,” Riley said.

The first twenty minutes were dominated by the Irish as they controlled the tempo and possession. In the 17th minute, a defensive mistake by Clemson left the goal gaping. After controlling the ball, Aschieris set up a shot to the lower right corner that was well saved by a recovering Sutherland.

Following that play, Clemson switched from its original defensive formation of 5-3-2 and employed a more offensive 4-3-3 scheme. The difference was evident, as Clemson held its footing for rest of the half, maintaining possession and defending well against the Irish.

Nevertheless, in the 42nd minute the Irish managed to get a good look at goal with freshman forward Jack Lynn taking a shot from the right side of the box. His shot was saved by Sutherland, but the rebound fell into the center of the box. As both teams scrambled to get the ball, Notre Dame’s senior midfielder Sean MacLeod managed to get a shot off, but a goal-line save from Clemson kept the Irish from doubling their lead.

The latter half of the game got off to a slow start, as neither team was able to create any quality chances. The Tigers maintained their improved play and kept pushing men forward, but Notre Dame’s defense kept Clemson from getting any good looks on goal.

In the 70th minute, the Irish got a great chance at scoring their second goal after off a deflection, Lynn had a chance from point-blank range. His shot hit Sutherland though, and Notre Dame was unable to capitalize.

Two minutes later, senior forward Thomas Ueland went down for the Irish. Team medics checked up on him, prompting Riley to walk on to the field as well.

“I was hoping it wasn’t his head, just had to see if we needed to [substitute] for him but, he got the wind knocked out of him. You don’t want really, anyone to get injured at this time of the year but, with him he just took a hard knock so, I wanted to make sure he was doing okay,” Riley said.

Ueland would walk to the bench on his own and returned to the game moments later.

In the 75th minute, Clemson’s Quinn McNeill flicked the ball up and hit great-looking shot from outside the box that went just inches away from junior goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull’s left post. The Tigers kept knocking on the door, as they tried to score the equalizer, but the Irish kept making it difficult for Clemson to get any quality chances.

With just a few minutes left in regulation, the Irish would score the dagger off a counterattack. Lynn would get the ball on the left side of the field and find a wide open Aschieris on the right flank. Clemson’s defense had collapsed, leaving Aschieris one-on-one with Sutherland, and one shot by Aschieris to the inside edge of the right post later, the Irish booked their ticket to Louisville.

Riley praised Lynn for his performance and for maintaining his composure in the play that led to the second goal.

“Jack did great. He’s been playing well all year, he’s causing every team he plays against — the defense is worried about him. He put in another good performance [tonight] and great composure on the pass to lead to Ian’s goal,” Riley said.

Lynn finished with two shots on target and one assist. Overall, Notre Dame outshot Clemson 14-7, forced Sutherland to make six saves and only needed one save from Turnbull. Riley liked what he saw from his team and noted that the composure of the Irish was key to the team’s good performance.

“It was a mature performance, is what I would call it. We got the goals, I thought we were maybe unlucky not to get the second goal a little bit earlier, which would’ve made the challenge for Clemson a little bit steeper. We knew Clemson was going to be a good team, that’s an NCAA team, they’re a very good team so we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Riley said.

“It was just a mature performance, there was good composure, [we] created a lot of quality chances, and we were fortunate to put two away.”

The Irish will now head to fourth-seeded Louisville on Sunday in an ACC quarterfinal matchup. Riley showed a lot of respect for the Cardinals and expects to see his team put up a fight.

“[Louisville]’s got some good athleticism out wide, they’re just solid, well coached. We’ll be away from home, we’ve had good success away from home so, I think we’ll see an exciting Irish performance down at Louisville on Sunday.”