Nov 9, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
It’s been a theme all season for Notre Dame: the offense creates chances galore, but can’t finish them. The inability to capitalize on goal-scoring opportunities has largely contributed to the Irish’s pedestrian 4-4 record in games decided by one goal.
Notre Dame took a huge step towards shaking this issue on Saturday afternoon, riding an efficient offensive performance to a 3-0 victory over Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals.
It was an extremely blustery day inside Alumni Stadium, and Notre Dame took full advantage of having the wind at its back in the first half. The Irish broke the scoring in the 28th minute. Junior midfielder Evan Panken streaked down the left side of the field and passed to graduate student forward Leon Brown, who was standing unmarked in the center of the box. Brown one-timed Panken’s cross and beat the Virginia keeper from about 14 yards out. It was Brown’s sixth score of the year and thirteenth of his career.
Notre Dame doubled its lead in the 35th minute on sophomore defender Brandon Aubrey’s second goal of the year. Aubrey used his 6’3”, 175 lbs. frame to corral junior midfielder Patrick Hodan’s corner kick, fend off a slew of Cavalier defenders, and poke the ball past the Virginia keeper.
Notre Dame scored at least two goals in the first half for the second consecutive match but for just the third time all season.
“The wind certainly dictated how the game was played,” Clark said. “One half of the field is well-worn, and the other half is hardly worn at all. The nice thing is we got two goals when we had the wind in the first half.”
With a two-goal cushion, Notre Dame played very defensively after intermission. Virginia used the wind advantage to apply constant pressure on the Irish back line, rifling a seemingly endless barrage of shots at graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall. Wall was up to the challenge, though, and delivered yet another sterling performance in earning the 19th shutout of his career.
“I thought [Wall] handled the ball superbly throughout the whole game,” Clark said. “He was terrific.”
Notre Dame upped its lead on a fantastic individual effort by Hodan in the 59th minute. The junior gathered the ball 35 yards out, snaked his way into the box, and put a shot into the lower left corner of the net. It was Hodan’s team-high ninth goal of the season.
“[Hodan]’s goal made it a little easier coming down the final stretch,” Clark said.
The win marks Notre Dame’s first victory over Virginia in program history. The Irish were previously 0-4-2 against the Cavaliers.
Also of note, freshman striker Jeffrey Farina made the first start of his career and played the entire match.
“Farina was phenomenal today just holding balls up and bringing other players into the play,” Clark said.
“The whole team just worked phenomenally hard. I’m very happy. It was a good performance.”
Top-seeded Notre Dame advances to the ACC semifinals, where it will battle fourth-seeded Clemson on Friday in Cary, NC. The match will kick off at 5:30 PM and will be broadcasted on ESPN3.
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