NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A magnificent set piece that resulted in a Patrick Hodan goal in the 59th minute made the Notre Dame men’s soccer team’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship debut a successful one as the top-ranked Fighting Irish bested Duke, 1-0, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday evening at a frigid Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (12-1-5) will face No. 12 Virginia Friday in the league semifinals at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md. The match is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET) and it will be broadcast on ESPN3. Virginia handed Notre Dame its only setback of the season, a 2-0 decision on Oct. 26 at Alumni Stadium.
The first half of Tuesday’s affair didn’t feature much offense as the Fighting Irish recorded the only three shots of the stanza. The second half was a different story as Notre Dame upped the offensive pressure in a major way and it resulted in a 13-3 shot discrepancy in favor of the hosts for the half.
“Duke is a physical team. They pressured us and we didn’t have a lot of time on the ball and it was hard to connect our passes in the first half,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “As the game wore on we found a better space and then we took over the game. We played very, very well in the second half.”
Notre Dame midfielder Evan Panken notched the game’s first shot on goal in the 54th minute as he delivered an attempt on frame from outside the penalty box that was saved by Duke goalkeeper Alex Long.
The lone score occurred minutes later when Fighting Irish midfielder Connor Klekota sent a free kick to forward Harrison Shipp, who chipped the ball to Hodan and the sophomore midfielder scored from seven yards out for his fifth tally of the campaign.
“The goal was something we’ve worked on in practice and we saved it for the playoffs,” Clark said. “We have a few more up our sleeves, but tonight’s was a nice one.”
Klekota nearly scored on a free kick in the 62nd minute as he ripped a shot to the near post and a diving save from Long was needed to keep it a one-goal contest. Long came up with three saves in a span of five minute as Leon Brown, Vince Cicciarelli and Shipp all challenged the Blue Devil goalkeeper, who finished with six saves on the night.
Duke (8-5-6) did not register its first shot of the match until the 64th minute. Fighting Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall needed two saves to post his third straight shutout and his eighth overall of the campaign. Notre Dame will take a season-best scoreless streak of 320:25 into Friday’s match against Virginia. The Cavaliers are the last team to score on the Irish.
“It’ll be nice to get a go at the one team that gave us a blemish on our record,” Clark said. “It’ll be a hard game because Virginia was the only team I feel that undid us here (at home) this whole season. I feel we’ve had the upper hand in every game we’ve played with the exception of Virginia. It’ll be a tough game, but one we’re looking forward to.”
In addition to holding a 16-3 shot advantage over Duke, Notre Dame also had a 5-2 edge in corner kicks. The Blue Devils committed 21 fouls, while the Irish were whistled for nine.
The Fighting Irish, who shared the ACC regular-season title with Maryland, are the tournament’s No. 2 seed and Duke was the seventh seed. The loss snapped Duke’s eight-game unbeaten streak.