Oct. 25, 2013
#19 VIRGINIA (6-3-4, 2-2-4)
Saturday, Oct. 26 2 p.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - After training and playing games for over two months the last thing you'd expect the Notre Dame men's soccer team to relish is more time on the practice pitch. But that is exactly what was on tap for them this week as they were able to step away from the grind of game competition and classes.
Last Saturday's match at North Carolina State, a 2-1 Irish win, was Notre Dame's sixth game in the last 18 days. The Irish handled that stretch quite well, going 4-0-2 in those contests. The Fighting Irish did not have a midweek match and that coincided with the University's fall break, which meant the team had ample opportunity to train and get some rest.
"This week let us get some practice in because we haven't had much time in the previous three or four weeks to have any decent practices," Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. "The guys also were able to do some study hall to catch up on their studies and they went over their midterm grades with their academic advisor. We were also able to give them a little bit of down time. I think it worked well for us last year because we had a similar situation. Hopefully this week allowed them to recharge their batteries."
The second-ranked Irish (8-0-5, 5-0-3) hope to be fully charged when they play host to No. 19 Virginia (6-3-4, 2-2-4) Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium. The Atlantic Coast Conference showdown is slated for 2 p.m. (ET). This will be the first visit to South Bend for the Cavaliers, who lead the all-time series 3-0.
"We definitely had a very dense soccer schedule over the past few weeks and having a week to get some real solid training sessions in was really helpful for the team," senior central defender and team captain Andrew O'Malley said. "We were able to work on some of the things we wanted to but didn't necessarily have the time to work on. We feel very prepared for Saturday's game. It also was a much-needed rest for the guys."
After coming off such a hectic three-week period, the Irish now are in a stretch of playing four matches in 20 days to close out the regular season. Three of those four games are league contests. Notre Dame currently is tied with Wake Forest for first place in the ACC standings and each tilt becomes crucial with knowing what's at stake.
"The next four games are vital because we have three league games and the big regional game at Michigan State, who are doing really well," Clark said. "I always say the true measure of any team is winning a league and we've put ourselves in a good situation, but we have three big ACC games to go and Virginia is the first of those three games."
While Notre Dame is just one of three undefeated teams left in NCAA Division I men's soccer, Virginia will bring an impressive unbeaten streak of its own into Saturday. The Cavaliers have not lost in the last nine contests (5-0-4) and their last three games were draws. Virginia currently is tied with Boston College for sixth place in the ACC.
Virginia's offense, which is averaging 2.2 goals per game, will be put to the test against Notre Dame's defensive pressure. The Irish are eighth nationally - and first in the ACC - in goals-against average (0.57) and they have not allowed more than one goal in any match this season.
"Virginia is a very good team," Clark said. "They have a lot of very talented players and they are well coached. All of the teams in the ACC are used to playing in big games so they won't be overawed in any way by coming to Notre Dame and we won't be overawed by them, so it's a two-way street. I think it's a game that both teams are looking forward to."
Saturday will be the first meeting between the two programs since the quarterfinals of the 2006 NCAA Championship. The Cavaliers prevailed in that match, 3-2, on their home turf.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director