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Men’s Soccer: Irish earn No. 1 seed for NCAA championship

Sam Gans | Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Irish made program history Monday when for the first time, they earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Championship.

Irish coach Bobby Clark was pleased with the honor after winning the Big East Tournament on Sunday, but said it doesn’t mean much once the tournament begins.

“It’s special for the team,” Clark said. “It’s a really nice reward for the players for the regular season and the Big East Tournament, but I think that’s it. It’s a nice reward. It’s kind of like winning the Big East Tournament. It’s something you work for and you’ve earned and no one can ever take it away from them, but in reality, the No. 1 seed, once you’ve got it, it doesn’t really mean too much.

“At the end of the day, you’ve still got to win the games. So it’s nice to put in the shelf, but then it’s very important we move on and get ready for competing, because it’s a tough bracket.”

As one of the top 16 teams in the 48-team field, the Irish (16-3-1) earned a first round bye and won’t play until Sunday in Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame will play the winner of Thursday’s game between Cleveland State (11-5-3) and Michigan State (11-9-1). The Irish beat the Spartans 2-0 in Alumni Stadium on Sept. 14.

Should the Irish advance, they could face No. 16 Indiana (11-5-3) in the third round. The Irish defeated the Hoosiers 1-0 on Sept. 26 in Bloomington, Ind. Other tough potential opponents in the region include No. 9 North Carolina (15-3-2), No. 8 Saint Louis (16-4-0) and Big East foe St. John’s (10-4-4).

“Just in our little bracket to get through the round of 16, it’s very difficult,” Clark said. “It’s a hard bracket. Then you look beyond that and the two teams that jump out at you would be North Carolina and St. John’s. But every team that gets into the NCAA Tournament has been successful in some shape or form. So you don’t expect any easy games at this stage of the season.”

The Irish have played three of the teams in their region – Indiana, Xavier (13-2-5) and Michigan State – in either regular season or exhibition games this season. Clark said that familiarity might be beneficial for Notre Dame.

“The one nice thing about the route is we know most of the [teams] well we could face and there’s little chance we’ll underestimate any of them,” Clark said. “I think that’s maybe the good thing. We’ve played Michigan State, we’ve played Indiana, we actually played Xavier in the preseason game. So these are three of the possible teams we could play and they’re all very tough, hard games, so I think we know it’s going to be very competitive.”

The top four teams in the NCAA tournament will play each game at home until the College Cup in Hoover, Ala., should they advance. Clark said the home-field advantage could play a huge role in the quest to advance for Notre Dame, who finished the regular season 8-0-0 in Alumni Stadium.

“I really hope our fans come out and support us,” Clark said. “We have had, especially early in the season, some terrific student support. Hopefully, they’ll come out and see this team. That could actually be a huge advantage if we could get home support and I know our team really appreciates when they get the fans out.”

Notre Dame won its third Big East Championship title and first since 2003 with a 3-2 double-overtime win over No. 3 seed Georgetown on Sunday.

This will be the 15th appearance in the NCAA Championship for the Irish, and the seventh time they have been one of the top-16 national seeds.

 

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu