Sept. 26, 2013
DUKE (4-2-2, 0-2-1)
Friday, Sept. 27 7:30 p.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - When glancing at the 2013 Notre Dame men's soccer schedule you are left to assume the players and coaches probably are living out of suitcases (or issued adidas travel bags) for most of the season.
The bulk of the slate alternates between home and road matches, but the second-ranked Fighting Irish are set to embark on their lone homestand of the regular season. The two-game home stretch commences Friday when Notre Dame (3-0-3, 1-0-2) welcomes in Duke (4-2-2, 0-2-1) for an Atlantic Coast Conference clash. The match is slated for 7:30 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium.
While the team will have tunnel vision when it comes to the Blue Devils, a showdown with in-state rival Indiana lurks on the horizon. The Irish and Hoosiers do battle on Wednesday.
The Fighting Irish will look to defend their home turf, which is something they have done well recently. Notre Dame is 10-1-1 at home over the past two seasons with the lone loss, a 2-1 double-overtime heartbreaker, coming against Indiana in the round of 16 of last season's NCAA Championship. Since Alumni Stadium opened its doors in 2009 the Fighting Irish are 28-9-7 (.716) in their home venue.
"Our team really likes playing at Alumni Stadium," Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. "It's a first-class facility and we've been getting good crowds lately, which is nice. We have a great surface and I give big plaudits to our grounds crew who do a fantastic job. A good field is very important especially given the way that we play.
"To be fair, I think every team is always more comfortable at home in almost every sport. But that means nothing in a one-off game because you have to play. The ground certainly doesn't win you any games so it's very important that we come out to play."
Notre Dame's current stretch of success at Alumni Stadium began with a 1-0 win over Duke in the 2012 season opener. That was the first trip to South Bend for the Blue Devils, who now will be regular visitors during ACC play. That victory was the second straight for Notre Dame against Duke and it evened the all-time series at two wins apiece.
"Duke is a very talented team," Clark said. "We had a very close game with them last year and we know it's going to be a tough game on Friday. Every ACC game is big because it's such a tough conference. We know we're in for a real game, but I think it comes down to us and what we're going to do and how we handle things."
The Irish have been led recently by the hot play of senior forward Harrison Shipp, who will bring a career-best four-game point streak into Friday's match. Shipp on Monday was named the College Soccer News National Player of the Week after notching two goals and one assist in two matches last week. Shipp put the Irish on the board in the fourth minute of a 3-0 win over Michigan and he later assisted on the third goal of the match. In Saturday's 1-1 draw at Boston College, he deposited the equalizer just 12 seconds after the Eagles grabbed the lead.
The Notre Dame defense has been stout all season, allowing just three goals through the first six matches of the campaign. The Irish are ninth nationally, and first in the ACC, with a 0.45 goals-against average. Senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall has played every minute in goal this season and boasts a .875 save percentage with three clean sheets.
Duke has not been shutout this season and the Blue Devil offense has been led by freshman forward Brody Huitema, who has a team-high four goals. Graduate student Alex Long has seen all of the action in goal and carries a 1.17 goals-against average and a .750 save percentage to go with two shutouts.
"We have to create chances the way we have been doing," Clark said. "We also have to defend well because Duke has some big, athletic players so obviously they are a threat with set pieces. I think if we play properly and correctly we'll be okay."
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director