Oct. 4, 2013
#2 NOTRE DAME (5-0-3, 2-0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 5 7 p.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Atlantic Coast Conference's two stingiest defenses will square off Saturday evening when No. 2 Notre Dame (5-0-3, 2-0-2) visits No. 13 Clemson (7-1-1, 2-1-1) in a marquee midseason matchup. The pressuring begins at 7 p.m. (ET) at Riggs Field.
Both teams have allowed just four goals this season, but Clemson holds a slight edge in goals-against average (0.43 to 0.46) due to games played. The Tigers have posted seven shutouts and the Irish have four, but before you chalk this game up as a scoreless draw, both squads can find the back of the net.
The Fighting Irish have netted 12 goals in the last five matches and they are averaging 1.88 goals per game this season. Notre Dame has scored multiple goals in four of those contests. Clemson owns a 1.67 goals-per-game average.
While the numbers tell part of the story, Fighting Irish head coach Bobby Clark knows those figures don't just appear. They have to be earned.
"I always say if we outwork the other team we'll be a very difficult team to beat," says Clark. "I think we have people who can make chances and unlock defenses. If the whole team keeps working hard when they don't have the ball we'll be very difficult to beat."
Notre Dame indeed has been difficult to beat. The Irish are one of just seven teams in NCAA Division I that have not lost a game this season and they have a combined record of 22-4-4 over the past two seasons.
One of those victories was a 2-1 decision over Clemson during last season's adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. That was just the third meeting all-time between the Fighting Irish and Tigers, who have a 2-1 lead in the series. Notre Dame is making its second visit to Clemson. The Fighting Irish fell to the Tigers, 1-0, in the Round of 16 of the 2005 NCAA Championship at Riggs Field.
Saturday will be the first time the programs have met as conference counterparts and the match will have significant ACC implications. Notre Dame currently stands in third place (8 points) and Clemson is right behind in fourth (7 points).
"Clemson is having a very good season," says Clark. "We played last year at Indiana's tournament and they made us fight all the way for the victory. They made it quite difficult and I was happy to get the final whistle. It's going to be a good game. It'll be another big ACC road test for us."
Notre Dame stepped away from league play on Wednesday for a showdown with instate rival and defending national champion Indiana at Alumni Stadium. The Irish prevailed 2-0 behind goals from junior forward Vince Cicciarelli and sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan, who had five shots on goal in the match. It was the first career goal for Cicciarelli and he became the seventh different Irish player to score this season.
Harrison Shipp assisted on both tallies against the Hoosiers to up his team-high point total to 11 (3g, 5a). The senior forward currently is riding a career-best six-game point streak. Senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall saved three Indiana shots to earn his fourth clean sheet of the season.
"We created a lot of chances against Indiana," says Clark. "We maybe gave them a few more chances than I would have liked and we still have to do better with that. We have to tighten up in defense just a little bit, but we'll do that. We also have to keep making chances at the other end. When you stop them on one end and convert on the other, then you're in business."
Playing two high-level matches in a span of four days might be a burden to some squads, but Clark thinks it keeps the team focused and on the level they need to be.
"Every game is big at the moment," says the Fighting Irish head coach. "I remember from my own playing days that if you play one big game every so often it seems like a big game, but when you play a big game every week it just becomes the way it is. If we continue doing well then every game becomes a big game because they become more important.
"I don't think we'll have a problem getting the team ready for any of our remaining games. They always know beating Indiana is big because it's an instate rival, but you have to move on. It's nice that you don't have much time (between games) and you just have to move on."
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director