Sep 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
A solid victory over #12 Marquette and a hard-fought draw with #9 Georgetown were enough to earn top-ranked Notre Dame its third consecutive adidas/IU Credit Union Classic title.
The Irish shared the championship with Indiana, which also went 1-0-1 at the tournament.
Notre Dame opened against Marquette on Friday evening and found itself on its heels after the Golden Eagles punched in a goal nine minutes into the game. The Irish responded beautifully, however, with tallies by junior midfielder Connor Klekota (28’) and graduate student Leon Brown (66’) propelling the squad to a 2-1 win.
Irish head coach Bobby Clark agreed that the early deficit might have been a blessing in disguise.
“It certainly woke us up, there’s no question,” Clark said. “It was a fairly soft goal, a typical early season goal. I thought we got into the game quite nicely after that. It made us really concentrate right up to the end of the game. Playing the whole 90 minutes was good for us.”
Marquette later went on to drop a 1-0 decision to the co-champion Hoosiers, but Clark had nothing but praise for the formal BIG EAST rival.
“They’re just a hardworking, well-organized team,” Clark said. “It was good win, because they’re a tough team. I was very happy with the result.”
It was an ideal start to the season for Brown, a fifth-year senior who started 38 games as a sophomore and junior but started just 3 last year as a senior. Firmly entrenched in a starting role once again, Brown seems primed for a career year.
“He had a wonderful weekend,” Clark said. “I’ve never seen Leon work as hard as he is at the moment. He’s very mobile, very dangerous. If he keeps this up, he’ll be very valuable to us.”
Neither Brown nor his teammates were able to draw blood against Georgetown on Sunday afternoon, but Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall was brilliant, and the squads battled to a 0-0 tie. The Irish dominated the match statistically, besting the Hoyas 23-9 in shots and 8-3 in shots on goal. Clark maintained that the game was more even than the numbers indicate.
“Statistically we had the better game, but to be honest with you they had some very good chances too,” Clark said. “It was a game we could’ve won, but we could’ve just as easily lost. It was just a great event for college soccer, a fantastic match between two very, very good teams. Both teams played very well.”
The 0-0 draw marked the 14th career shutout for Wall, a graduate student who played every minute in goal for the Irish last season. The veteran often serves as an extension of the coaching staff on the field.
“He’s just got a great soccer brain,” Clark said. “He’s like a coach at the back. He’s terrific at knowing when to come off his line and when to stay put. Pat just does all the things you expect a fifth year senior to do.”
Clark was pleased with his squad’s performance as a whole, and happy that his players successfully defended their tournament title. But his mind is already focusing on this weekend’s slate.
“We’ll take it,” Clark said. “It was nice to win the tournament, but I think we’ve already moved on from that one.”
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