Despite heavy rainfall and the on-campus traffic brought about by crowds for the Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game, the Irish Men’s Club Soccer team found a way to host Michigan for their most important home game of the season on Friday, October 3. The game was played at the KROC Center, a local South Bend turf facility, at 8:30 PM. Nearing game time, rain showers increased and temperatures continued to drop. But this wasn’t the first time the Irish squad were forced to face adversity, and they dealt with it well. While the weather conditions didn’t appear to bother ND, hurried play and an inability to maintain possession plagued the first half. Michigan knocked in a goal after a dangerous free kick cross bounced behind the Irish defense for an easy tap-in. The Irish responded with an explosive start to the second half, ravaging the Michigan defense with relentless efforts by the offense. A rare goal from senior Mike O’Brien equalized the game for the Irish. O’Brien hammered a volley into the net after a scrum in the box. Goalkeeper Connor Bliss maintained the Irish surge with a brilliant diving save after an unlucky penalty kick was called on senior Matt Hickey. Diehard fans lingered in the stands for the entirety of the highly anticipated finish. Unfortunately, relentless efforts up top and an eventually dominating midfield presence by the Irish came up short, and ND had to settle with a tie. The game proved to be quite the spectacle and lived up to all the hype. Though it wasn’t the result that the Irish had hoped for, the game instilled confidence in the Irish as they seek to close out their season.
Sunday’s matchup was against the Bulldogs. No, not the powerhouse Ferris State Bulldogs (the Irish had taken them on last week) but rather the Butler Bulldogs out of Indianapolis. Right from the start of the whistle blow the Bulldogs came out playing rough. Things escalated quickly. Within a minute, Notre Dame’s goalkeeper Andrew Dorrite broke his nose. This put the Irish down two men, as their interim head Coach Tyler McGehee was forced to take Dorrite to the hospital. The game looked bleak for Notre Dame. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, the Irish decided to put forward Peter McGrane in goal. Right off the bat, the bulldogs scored a goal. These canines seemed to be some of the fiercest enemies the Irish had faced this season. With only 13 players altogether, Notre Dame decided to dig deep and find their passion. After about 10 minutes of intense play, the Irish were awarded a penalty kick. Senior Michael O’Brien slotted it in the corner on the ground. Butler’s keeper needed to play more games of catch before he could stop that one. The game was now 1-1. With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, the Irishmen did what they do best: they rallied. In no time, one of the Bulldogs’ players was sent off with a red card. Immediately after, O’Brien put another one in for the Irish. O’Brien doesn’t always score, but when he does it is simple and ordinary. Being up 2-1 Notre Dame started playing with more confidence. They possessed the ball in a way they never do. They were taking shots, making plays, crossing over defenders, scoring an alley hoop here and there. It looked like a new Notre Dame soccer team. Joe Grady, relentless as always, put away a banger close to halftime. Following Grady’s goal Kurt Roemer scored the first freshman goal this season (contrary to popular belief that fan favorite Matthew Millay would do so) to put the Irish up 4-1. Going into the second half Notre Dame knew these mutts were no challenge anymore. They were out of their cages and it was the Irishmen’s duty to tame them. With ease, comfort, and the help of constant 7 minute rotations for goalkeeper, Notre Dame saw results three more times. Gazelle like Peter McGrane (retired goalkeeper) put away a goal early on to demoralize Butler even more. Team captain Brian Roddy decided it was his time to shine and scored a header off a cross from the left side. The referee decided it was not Roddy’s time though as the goal was called back. Next up was devoted Manchester City fan and Frenchie Cornelius McGrath, who saw his efforts rewarded as he fired a left footed shot that deflected off the post and went into the net. To make it 7-1, team secretariat Joe Grady finessed a free kick that made me wonder if the Irish had been practicing that skill in practice. Although plagued with hamstring injuries (freshmen Paddy Lawler, Jack Kill, and sophomore Ryan Casserline), Notre Dame fought back and made sure those domesticated carnivorous mammals of Butler remembered the time they played the Irish.