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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish head to Chapel Hill for third-straight top 16 matchup

Fresh off of a 1-1 tie against No. 4 Indiana, No.16 Notre Dame will hit the road to face off against No. 11 North Carolina on Friday in its second ACC match of the season.

The Irish (3-1-1) have played two top 10 matches since Friday, and while Irish head coach Chad Riley said the limited rest is not ideal this early in the season, the team will have to adapt to the challenge.

“You’d like to have more than three days rest to be quite honest,” Riley said. “You probably don’t want 12, that creates its own problems. What’s nice about having a little more time during the beginning of the season is we are trying to learn about ourselves and get better, so a little bit of time gives you the chance to train a bit more and watch more video. We have to use these games to continue to improve.”

Junya Kanemitsu | The Observer
Irish senior defender Spencer Farina heads the ball during Notre Dame 4-2 loss to Clemson in Alumni Stadium.

Indiana shares some similarities with UNC (3-1-2). Both teams have highly concentrated scoring, with Indiana getting five of its eight goals this season from two players, and UNC getting eight of its 13 goals from three players. Both are stout on defense, conceding under a goal per game to their opponents to date. Riley said the Irish can learn from their last opponent and apply that knowledge to their game plan against the Tar Heels.

“You have to go in to play another very high-quality opponent like everybody in the ACC, and we have to play away from home, so there will be some similarity there,” Riley said. “There are going to be chunks of the game where we’re not going to have the ball, and we need to defend well. When we do have the ball, we need to be a little bit sharper than we were tonight and really continue to create more quality chances since scoring in soccer is a very difficult thing to do.”

The on-the-road tie against Indiana was a key result after Notre Dame’s 4-2 home loss to No. 7 Clemson Friday, helping the Irish build some momentum in the earl stages of conference play. However, even as the team prepares for a key stretch against ACC opponents, Riley is focused solely on the next game.

“I think you look back and look at momentum, but I think playing the hardest schedule or somewhere in the top five hardest schedule in the country, not many people intentionally do it but we do it,” Riley said. “It really forces you to take each game as a single entity. While it was great to get a tie against Indiana we’ll start thinking about this game and how it will make us better and then we’ll only focus on UNC. Momentum and streaks is kind of something you look at after the fact. Our success will come from how well we can focus on each day leading to the game. We have a team that can beat anyone in the country so now we just have to do it.”

The Irish will take on the Tar Heels on Friday at 6 p.m. at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.