The 13th-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team is off to its best start in 25 years this fall. The Irish pushed their record to 5-0 Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 upset victory over No. 4 Akron.
Irish senior Dillon Powers clinched a win over No. 4 Akron with his second goal of the season.
A pair of wins this weekend gives Notre Dame its longest unbeaten streak to start a season under head coach Bobby Clark in his 12 years at the school. It’s the best opening stretch they have had since starting 9-0 in 1987, and will likely bump the Irish into the top ten of the national polls when they are released later this week.
Along with knocking off the previously undefeated Zips, the Irish beat Oregon State 1-0 at home this weekend to claim the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament title.
“I think with a game and a weekend like this it’s really going to help our confidence moving forward and make sure we can get out to a quick start the next weekend,” said Irish captain Dillon Powers
Powers, a senior midfielder, scored the game-winning goal for Notre Dame after the Irish fell behind early. Powers caught the Akron goalkeeper out of position on a free kick from 20 yards away to give the Irish a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute. Junior forward Harrison Shipp nearly was awarded a penalty kick when he was tripped up a step in front of the 18-yard box on a short run. Instead, Powers took the resulting kick and drove a low shot to the far post through a screen set up by two of his teammates.
Senior Ryan Finley added an insurance goal with a penalty kick in the closing minutes after a shoving match broke out in front of the Akron net.
Spurred on by Powers’ aggressive play in the midfield, Notre Dame controlled the action throughout the second half. The Irish took 13 of their 22 shots and six of their eight corner kicks in the final 45 minutes. Akron played a man down for the entire half after Zips midfielder Aodhan Quinn picked up a red card in the 30th minute of the game.
The extra man allowed the Irish to steadily plug away at the 1-0 deficit and gave them their first shot of confidence that they could run with Akron, the 2010 national champs.
“We started the game very tentatively,” Clark said. “Akron’s a good team, and they come in with a great reputation. I think we were a little bit intimidated by the reputation. They really handled the opening very well,”
The Zips scored less than four minutes into the game off of a 15-yard shot through traffic from the foot of junior Scott Caldwell. Notre Dame had several chances to respond early in the game, but didn’t start attacking the goal aggressively and firing shots when they presented themselves until Akron lost Quinn to the red card.
Junior Leon Brown tied the game a few minutes after halftime with his first goal of the season. He plucked a cross from freshman Patrick Hodan out of the air and fired it past the Akron goalkeeper. The play started on one of Notre Dame’s many early corner kicks in the half.
“We felt like we were playing well. We were dominating them at the time,” Brown said. “The goal was just a good way to make a statement at that point and carry us on to the victory.”
The win itself was a fairly bold statement for the Irish who are proving they can play with the best this season after failing to make the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Notre Dame plays Michigan State and Michigan this weekend before opening a tough conference schedule that included both No. 1 Connecticut and No. 19 Marquette.
Women’s Soccer (3-3-1)
The Irish women had a tough West Coast road trip this weekend. They tied Portland 1-1 in a double over time draw Friday night before falling to Washington 3-0 in Seattle. The Irish hit three posts during their tie with Portland, but sophomore Sammy Scofield was the only Notre Dame player to find the back of the net during the weekend trip.
Notre Dame’s volleyball team was also playing near the Pacific this weekend. They traveled to Los Angeles for a three-game tournament against some tough competition. The Irish swept Cal Poly Friday before losing a pair of matches to No. 5 USC and No. 17 San Diego on Saturday. The Trojans beat Notre Dame in three straight sets. San Diego needed all five sets, clinching the win with a 15-9 score in the rubber match.