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Men’s Soccer: ND jockeys for high seed

Matt Gamber | Thursday, November 13, 2008

Notre Dame’s unbeaten women’s team may have already wrapped up the Big East tournament title and the nation’s top seed, but the men are still jockeying for NCAA Tournament position heading into Friday’s Big East semifinal at No. 8 South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

The No. 9 Irish are all but guaranteed a top-16 national seed in the tournament that begins Nov. 21, which means a first-round bye and a second-round home game on Nov. 25.

If they keep winning this weekend, though, the Irish can put themselves in position for a few more games at home – NCAA Tournament games are played on the higher-seeded team’s campus until the College Cup’s final four (Dec. 12-14 in Fresco, Tex.).

And that would be an advantage the Irish would love to have. At 9-0-1, Notre Dame is unbeaten at home and settled for its only draw against No. 2 St. John’s on Sept. 19.

“Ideally you want to be in the top four for a No. 1 seed, but it’s hard to predict with all the conference tournaments coming up,” Clark said. “If we won the two games in the [Big East] final four, we’d have a fair chance of being a top-four seed. If we win one game, I’d say we’ll be in the top eight, and if we don’t win one, we still have a really good chance of being a top-16.

“That’s my reckoning of it, but you just don’t know – it’s hard to predict how the committee will ultimately decide.”

If the Irish want to earn significant home-field advantage, however, they’ll have to overcome South Florida’s tomorrow night. Despite entering the tournament as the Red division’s No. 2 seed, South Florida is hosting the semifinal and championship games based on a predetermined arrangement.

“Even though we’re the number one seed, with the way things have fallen, it’s suddenly an away game, which makes it a little bit more difficult and more of a challenge,” Clark said.

Like Notre Dame, the Bulls haven’t lost at home all year – they boast a 7-0-1 record on their own field.

“It’s a tough place to go and win,” Clark said. “It’s a great environment, they’ll have a great crowd, it’ll be on national TV – it’s exciting stuff. It’s a good test to go into this type of environment and see how we handle it.”

Handle it well, and the Irish won’t have to worry about playing away from Alumni Field for another month.