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ND Men’s Soccer: Defending National Champs stand in way of Irish and Elite 8

Greg Arbogast | Friday, November 17, 2006

When No. 12 seed Notre Dame takes the field Saturday against No. 5 seed Maryland in College Park, the Irish will not only have a chance to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history – they will also be attempting to knock off the defending National Champion for the second consecutive year.

“There are no easy games in the round of thirty-two, and there certainly aren’t any easy games in the round of sixteen,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said Wednesday after Notre Dame’s win over Illinois-Chicago. “Maryland’s the defending national champs. We’re very aware of the enormity of the task ahead of us.”

Notre Dame surprised the two-time defending champion Indiana Hoosiers 2-0 in Bloomington to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season for only the third time in school history.

Now the 2006 Irish will try to do what neither the 2005 team nor any group in program history has been able to do – advance to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite Notre Dame only having four appearances in the third leg of the NCAA Tournament – including this year – many of the Irish players are in a familiar situation.

When the senior class was in their first year at Notre Dame in 2003, the Irish advanced to the third round before falling to Michigan on penalty kicks. One year later, No. 5 seed Notre Dame was upset in the second round by Ohio State. And last year’s team followed its upset win over Indiana with a 1-0 loss at Clemson.

Punching a ticket to this year’s Elite 8 will not be easy for Notre Dame.

Maryland looked every bit the defending National Champion on Wednesday night – defeating red-hot St. John’s 2-0 in their second round matchup. The Terrapins held a 17-6 advantage in shots on the evening, and their two goals ended a St. John’s 674-minute shutout streak – a Johnnies school record.

Maryland, who is currently No. 7 in the NSCAA/adidas national rankings, enters Saturday’s game 16-4-1. Including Wednesday night’s victory over St. John’s, the Terrapins have won 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament games played in College Park.