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Men’s Soccer: Irish get ready for Big East semifinals

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On a team buoyed by veteran leadership and dominated by experienced players, Irish freshman midfielder Patrick Hodan has found a spot among the upperclassmen. After helping propel No. 5 Notre Dame to the conference semifinals Saturday, Hodan’s spot on Monday was the same as that occupied by most freshmen: the one carrying the equipment. 

Not exempt from the universal rookie duties, the youngster from Brookfield, Wisc., has six goals and five assists on the season and is second among all Irish players with 17 points. 

Hodan’s success in his rookie campaign can largely be attributed to the talent around him, the freshman said.

“It’s pretty easy when you have the players around like we do,” he said. “I mean, we have such great players [and] each person is able to do their job.”

In his senior season at Marquette University High School, Hodan scored a school-record 45 goals and contributed 10 assists, numbers that earned him recognition as a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American and the 2012 Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year. Having carried into Notre Dame (14-3-1, 5-2-1 Big East) such accolades, among others, Hodan said he has improved significantly this season.

“It’s been a fun year and I’ve been able to better myself in practice and learn from the upperclassmen,” he said. “I think I have improved in almost all the areas. The coaching staff and everyone else on the team has helped me improve as a player.”

However, the transition into college soccer is not without its difficulties, Hodan said.

“There is a pretty big transition from high school into college,” he said. “The speed of play is a lot faster and people are a lot stronger so you have to get used to the pace of the game and just develop and adapt.”

Although he grew up in the vicinity of Marquette, Hodan did not consider becoming a Golden Eagle. While he did consider other schools, Hodan said he was confident in his final decision to come join the Irish.

“I was very excited to come to Notre Dame because of the academics and athletics and just the atmosphere of Notre Dame,” he said. “I looked at a few other schools but ultimately I knew Notre Dame was the right fit for me.”

Hodan has fit into the Irish lineup as the only freshman to see time this year. Having played in all 18 of the season’s contests, Hodan has made one start. With only two sophomores – midfielder Nick Besler and defender Max Lachowecki – having made starts this year, Hodan has had the benefit of playing alongside a corps of experienced players.  

“They’ve been a big help,” he said of the upperclassmen. “They’ve taught me how to play to the style of Notre Dame and they’ve also been very supportive and talked to me on the field and made sure I am where I am supposed to be on the field.”

Hodan was in all the right places Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Big East championships, when he delivered two goals and one assist in Notre Dame’s 4-2 victory over Syracuse. After scoring his first collegiate goal in a 2-0 win over Michigan State on Sept. 14, Hodan has become an important piece of an Irish offense that ranks sixth in the nation with 2.44 goals per game. 

Now only one game away from the Big East title game, Hodan and the Irish will travel to Harrison, N.J., to face top-seeded Connecticut on Friday for the right to battle for conference hardware.

“We are all very excited but we are taking it one game at a time and right now we are focused on Connecticut,” Hodan said.

Spoken like a true veteran.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu