Sep 7, 2013
#1 NORTH CAROLINA (2-0-0)
#4 NOTRE DAME (1-0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 8 Noon (ET)
Alumni Stadium Notre Dame, Ind.
Trey Bender (play-by-play)
Kate Markgraf (analyst)
Twitter - @NDMenSoccer
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Sunday will be Bobby Clark's 500th career game as a college head coach, but even he never has been a part of what will take place tomorrow afternoon at Alumni Stadium - Notre Dame playing an Atlantic Coast Conference match.
The first ACC opponent for the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish will be none other than top-ranked North Carolina, a program Notre Dame has yet to face. This also will be the first-ever showdown between two top-five teams at Alumni Stadium, which opened in 2009. The match is slated for noon (ET) and it will be broadcast live on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com.
Not only will it be the ACC opener for the men's soccer program, it will be the first ACC contest for any sport at Notre Dame, which officially joined the league July 1.
"There is something special about being the first Notre Dame team to play an ACC game," Clark said. "Everyone is excited about playing in the ACC, but when you throw in the fact that we have the No. 1 team in the country coming in, that makes it extra special."
The last time the Fighting Irish faced a No. 1 ranked team was Oct. 8, 2011, when they played Connecticut to a scoreless draw at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame's last win against a team that sat atop the polls was a 2-1 overtime triumph over UCLA during the 2007 IU Classic in Bloomington, Ind. The Irish are 1-3-2 versus top-ranked foes under Clark (since 2001).
"Playing the No. 1 team is always a challenge," Clark said. "North Carolina didn't get to be No. 1 for nothing. They are very good and it'll be a good challenge for our team. It'll also be a good opportunity for us because every team wants to make its own history. We can make our history by winning the first ACC game. That's very important for us."
Both teams will bring early-season momentum into the match. Notre Dame (1-0-1) captured its second straight adidas/IU Credit Union Classic title last weekend by drawing No. 9 UCLA, 0-0, and topping SMU, 2-1. North Carolina (2-0-0) posted wins over Monmouth, 1-0 in double-overtime, and No. 13 Coastal Carolina, 4-0, during the season's opening weekend.
"There were positives for sure from last weekend, but there also were some negatives," Clark said. "We've tried to address the things we didn't do so well and hopefully we can continue with the positives. One of the things we want to do this year, and we did it well last year, is to grow every game. We want to take something out of every game and try to improve on it and hopefully by the end of the season we've really become a very good team."
There is no arguing that the ACC is one of the top men's soccer conferences in the country and facing the Tar Heels will give the Fighting Irish a good taste of what the league has to offer. North Carolina has claimed at least a share of the last four ACC regular-season titles.
"Our team is really excited to be the first Notre Dame team to play an ACC game," junior midfielder Nick Besler said. "It's important for us to try and start the conference season out on the right foot. We've had a good week of practice so far and we're excited to hopefully start league play with a win."
Festivities around Alumni Stadium will begin at 10 a.m. (ET) Sunday when tailgating is open to fans in the Gold Lot (parking lot immediately south of Alumni Stadium) until noon. The rules that apply for tailgating at home football games will be enforced on Sunday. Sunny 101.5 FM will be broadcasting live from 10 a.m. to noon at the Gold Lot and fans can enter a drawing to win free Fighting Irish men's and women's soccer tickets.
The first 500 fans at the game will receive a free Notre Dame soccer ACC t-shirt. Free McDonald's breakfast will be available for Notre Dame/Saint Mary's/Holy Cross students.
Visit UND.com/tickets to purchase tickets for Sunday's match. Tickets also can be purchased Sunday at Alumni Stadium. Prices are $5 for adults and $3 for youth (21 & under)/seniors (55 & over). All Notre Dame/Saint Mary's/Holy Cross students will get in free with a valid student ID.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director