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No. 3 men’s soccer to play No. 21 Notre Dame in top-25 ACC showdown

Cavaliers look to continue their dominance away from home

<p>Virginia is riding a seven-match win streak heading into a top-25 clash.</p>

Virginia is riding a seven-match win streak heading into a top-25 clash.

After moving up to No. 3 in the nation Monday, Virginia men’s soccer is set to face yet another ranked opponent on the road this week. Friday night, the Cavaliers will head to Notre Dame, Ind., to face No. 21 Notre Dame.

The Cavaliers (7-0, 2-0 ACC) have already defeated two ranked opponents this season — No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 Duke. While this game not only gives Virginia a chance to solidify itself among the nation’s elite with a win over another high-caliber opponent in the Fighting Irish (4-2-1, 0-2-0 ACC), it also gives the Cavaliers a chance at long-awaited revenge.

The last two years have seen exceptionally close matchups between Virginia and Notre Dame. Three of the last four meetings have entered overtime, with another game decided by a single goal in regulation.

Last year, the Fighting Irish ended the Cavaliers’ season in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, as now-sophomore forward Jack Lynn finished off Virginia with a flick-in header for Notre Dame as time expired in the first overtime period.

Virginia returns eight starters from last year’s match, including their three leading goal scorers from 2018 — sophomore forward Daryl Dike, sophomore forward Cabrel Happi Kamseu and junior forward Nathaniel Crofts. 

Between the posts, junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler — who was out with an injury in last year’s loss to Notre Dame — has been a stalwart for Virginia, only allowing one goal through seven games. The Middleburg, Va. native’s dominance in goal this year has been critical to the Cavaliers’ success, as Virginia has won three of its matches by a one-goal margin. 

Going towards goal, Virginia has displayed an incredibly balanced attack — no player has more than two goals despite having 12 as a team on the season. While the Cavaliers have only scored more than two goals in a game once, they have shown an ability to score at crucial times to put games away.

On the other side of the field, while the Fighting Irish’s record may seem questionable for a team ranked No. 21 in the nation, this is due to the extremely high quality of their opponents. Their two losses have come at the hands of Clemson and North Carolina — currently No. 4 and No. 14, respectively — and their one tie was against No. 5 Indiana. 

This season, Notre Dame has shown to be vulnerable on the defensive end — through seven games, they have conceded 11 goals, only one less than the 12 goals they’ve scored. The Irish will likely need to play better defensively if they want to stay in the game against Virginia’s patient and balanced attack.

Offensively, Lynn leads Notre Dame with four goals this year, continuing where he left off near the end of the 2018 season. The forward is clearly the Irish’s most powerful weapon — if the Cavalier defense can limit his playmaking and scoring chances, Shutler may well be on his way to a seventh shutout.

While the game is certainly a huge opportunity for Virginia to continue their dominance this year,  it could reinsert Notre Dame into the conversation for being the class of the ACC.

Having only secured one draw from their first three top-15 contests, a win against Virginia would give the Fighting Irish confidence going forward. The ACC is loaded with talent across the board, boasting seven ranked teams and defeating a top-five Virginia squad would certainly help Notre Dame stand out.

This is a critical game for both programs, and the result could perhaps be a precursor to Saturday’s highly anticipated meeting between the school’s football teams.

Virginia vs. Notre Dame kicks off at 7 p.m Friday, Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium in Notre Dame, Ind. The game will be televised on ACC Network Extra. 

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