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Men’s Soccer: Irish earn berth in NCAAs

Brennan, Kevin | Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Notre Dame men’s soccer team breathed a little easier Monday after learning it had been included in the 48-team NCAA Tournament field. With a 10-7-3 record overall and a 6-4-1 conference mark, the Irish were on the bubble heading into the 5 p.m. unveiling of the bracket on ESPNEWS.

“It certainly was a relief,” junior Irish captain Greg Dalby said. “But I think, at the end of the day, I would have been really surprised if we didn’t get in.”

Notre Dame will host Western Illinois Friday at 5 p.m. at Alumni Field. The Irish are excited to be playing at home in the first round.

“I think us getting a game under our belt at home will definitely give us confidence, assuming we win and move on to the next round,” Dalby said.

Western Illinois finished the season with a 6-9-4 record. The Leathernecks captured the Mid-Con Conference title for the second straight season with a 4-3 overtime victory over Oakland Nov. 13.

Western Illinois is one of only two teams in the NCAA tournament with a losing record. Nonetheless, the Irish expect the Leathernecks to pose a stiff challenge.

“I know they don’t have a winning record, but they won their conference tournament so they are a team that’s coming in on a hot streak,” Dalby said.

Seven teams from Big East conference made the tournament. The only conference with higher representation in the tournament is the ACC with nine teams in the field of 48. Playing in such a competitive conference coupled with Notre Dame’s tough non-conference schedule should benefit the Irish in the tournament.

“I think this team has faced a lot of things that other Notre Dame teams of the past two years haven’t faced,” Dalby said. “I think our schedule helped us get into the tournament and hopefully it’s going to help us stay in the tournament.”

If Notre Dame defeats Western Illinois Friday, it will then take on Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Hoosiers, who have won the past two NCAA championships, enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Irish lost 3-0 to Indiana at Alumni Field Oct. 26.

Notre Dame is anxious to the start the tournament after an up and down regular season.

“I think we are all excited and looking forward to it,” Dalby said. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. We are in the tournament and hopefully we can make a run.”

Notes:

u Three Irish players were recognized by the Big East coaches when the conference awards were handed out Friday. Dalby and junior midfielder Ian Etherington were first team all-Big East selections, while sophomore forward Joe Lapira was named to third team all-Big East.

Dalby, who was unanimously chosen to the first team, felt honored by the selection, but said he was happier for his teammates.

“[Lapira] has the potential to be offensive player of the year next year,” Dalby said. “And I think [Etherington] has done a great job this year so far.

“Hopefully both those guys can really come through in the postseason because we are going to need both of those guys to be big.”