Sept. 23, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Getting positive early-season results is like putting money in the bank and the Notre Dame men's soccer team is striving to ensure its deposits aren't fool's gold.
For the second straight year the Fighting Irish do not have a loss through their first six matches of the season. While this year's 3-0-3 mark isn't quite as nice as last year's 6-0-0 record, the lack of a loss still is a noteworthy achievement especially since they have faced three ranked foes, including two top-10 squads.
Notre Dame is one of 15 teams in NCAA Division I that have yet to suffer a loss this season (through games played Sept. 22). That list includes Notre Dame's Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina. The Fighting Irish and Tar Heels, who played to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 8, are the only two ACC squads without a setback. North Carolina also stands at 3-0-3 overall (0-0-3 ACC).
The Fighting Irish currently are No. 1 in the Soccer America poll and they will have to wait and see if Saturday's 1-1 draw at Boston College will cost them the top spot when the new rankings are released Tuesday. However, the squad isn't concerned with its ranking and the players and coaches know the win-loss tally doesn't always tell the whole story.
"Obviously we're aware of wins and losses but we always concentrate on the performance and how well we play," head coach Bobby Clark said. "We critique ourselves fairly strongly and there are certain things that we talk about and compare ourselves from game to game."
The Irish fell behind in two of their draws but responded with the equalizer in both contests (the tie with UCLA was scoreless). Leon Brown deposited the tying goal in the 79th minute versus North Carolina and Saturday's match against Boston College became level when Harrison Shipp scored just 12 seconds after the Eagles grabbed the lead in the 17th minute.
The Fighting Irish have allowed just three goals this season and their 0.45 goals-against average ranks 10th nationally and is second among all ACC teams. Senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall's
.875 save percentage is good for 11th in the country.
"We say that if we can outwork the other team then we'll be very difficult to beat," Clark said. "We have a very hardworking mentality on this squad and when you have that mentality as a group you don't lie down. The players work very hard in the spring and in the summer and when you put in the hard work you don't give in very easily."
Six matches do not make a season and there are no trophies awarded for the best six-game start to a campaign, but last year's fast start spring-boarded the Irish to a 17-4-1 final record and along the way the team won the BIG EAST Championship and earned the top seed for the NCAA tournament.
"It's like golf. When you're sitting at the 10th tee you don't start trying to work out what your final score will be. You start thinking about the next shot and that's very much the way we are. We take one game at a time and it's very important that you do that, especially with the type of schedule that we play," Clark said.
Notre Dame's next "shot" will be Friday when Duke visits Alumni Stadium. The ACC showdown is slated for 7:30 p.m. (ET) and it will be broadcast live and for free on WatchND.tv.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director