By John Brice
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The one-year anniversary just passed.
For Bryan Dowd and his Notre Dame soccer teammates, the seared-in memory might as well have developed last week.
On the heels of their scintillating 2021 run to the NCAA Semifinals, the Fighting Irish never got consistently untracked in a topsy-turvy 2022 campaign that was halted in the ACC Tournament.
Yet along the way, through frustration and pain, Dowd recalled the moment that Notre Dame charted what has become a captivating run of dominance thus far this season for the No. 5-ranked Irish (11-1-4), who closed out their regular season on Friday with a 6-0 drubbing of No. 20 Pittsburgh.
“I vividly remember the moment after playing Duke away, they were ranked top-three, and our team got together, just players, on the field right after the game,” said Dowd, the sublime Irish goalkeeper who in four years, across nearly 5,100 minutes of service, has yielded a scant 54 goals. “We said to each other, ‘This can’t happen. What can we do to buy in?’ We talked it out a little bit, asked each other what can we do to make the most of this year and how do we start preparing for next year.
“It took a lot of tough conversations from guys, asking more of each other, putting in more work, a lot of determination.”
Irish coach Chad Riley is an realist; he doesn’t hide from Duke’s skill last season, but similarly he acknowledges the response of his Notre Dame team henceforth.
“I think that was a really disappointing moment in our season,” Riley said, “And even more so, we actually played pretty well in the game, gave up two goals, but good teams have the ability to score on you.
“I felt like it was a real kind of gut-punch, but we responded really well. I don’t think guys were necessarily playing poorly, but we weren’t getting things to go our way. Instead of splintering in that moment, we came together and recommitted to ourselves.”
Dowd’s dedication is a constant, his eight shutouts in 15 matches turning him into one of his sport’s top shields.
As selfless as his position dictates, Dowd points, yes, to his own work but more importantly to the roles of his coaches and teammates.
“I appreciate you asking this question, because part of the reason why I felt really good in my game, personally, is because I have been lucky enough to train with some MLS teams this summer,” said Dowd, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Willow Springs, Illinois,…