Oct. 10, 2013
#2 NOTRE DAME (6-0-4, 3-0-3)
Friday, Oct. 11 7 p.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The regular season usually contains one or two difficult stretches where survival appears to trump success. The second-ranked Notre Dame men's soccer team currently is in such a portion of its schedule. Friday's match at Virginia Tech will be the squad's third game in a third different location in less than a week.
The Fighting Irish have both survived and succeeded to this point of the campaign. Notre Dame (6-0-4, 3-0-3) is one of four undefeated teams left in Division I men's soccer and the Irish currently are in third place in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
But it hasn't been easy. Adding to the recent grind for the Fighting Irish is the fact the last two matches have gone to overtime. Notre Dame won at No. 13 Clemson, 2-1, on Saturday and played fifth-ranked Maryland to a 1-1 draw Tuesday at Alumni Stadium.
If the Irish are tired, it sure doesn't appear that way on the pitch. Notre Dame clearly seemed the fresher side towards the end of the 110-minute affair with the Terrapins. That was the fifth overtime match of the season for the Fighting Irish, who are 1-0-4 in those extra-session contests.
"I give plaudits to Matt Howley who is our strength and conditioning coach," Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said following the Maryland match. "Our team looks very fit. In all the overtimes that we've played, we've looked like the team that's been driving the game. Matt deserves credit for that."
"I think our fitness really played a huge role (in the Maryland game)," junior forward Vince Cicciarelli, who netted the Irish goal against the Terps, said. "We saw their guys stretching out and they appeared to be cramping up. I think our hard work paid off as we were pushing it the whole game, but we just couldn't get one at the end."
The Fighting Irish will look to hold off the Hokies in regulation when they square off at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame share some history dating back to time spent together in the BIG EAST Conference. The only three meetings between the schools took place from 2001 to 2003 and Notre Dame came out on top each time. Two of those victories took place at Virginia Tech.
In order to notch another win in Blacksburg, the Irish will need to stay the course and do the things that they've done all season. Notre Dame has not been shut out since the opening match of the season and the Irish have outscored their opponents 10-2 in the first half of play. The team has only surrendered six goals all year (0.55 GAA) and it holds a 60-38 advantage in shots on goal over the competition.
While the Irish have not endured a loss, they still are in pursuit of perfection.
"I think it (the undefeated record) is a little different because we have some ties so it's not like we're perfect on the year," senior forward Harrison Shipp said. "You can always grow and we know that we can grow from every game. Even the Clemson game when we had a victory, we all realized we didn't play our best game and there were points in the game that Clemson outplayed us. On the road, especially in the ACC, there are going to be times when we are going to be outplayed, but it's pulling out those victories that are really key for us."
Shipp was the key in the Clemson victory as he netted both goals with the final tally coming less than two minutes into overtime. That performance came on the heels of his two-assist effort in last Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Indiana. Those offensive displays did not go unnoticed as Shipp was named the College Soccer News National Player of the Week, the ACC Player of the Week and he also appeared on the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week.
Given its latest stretch of games, Notre Dame could be in line for the "Whirlwind of a Week" award.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director