Men’s Soccer: ND readies for NCAAs
Aaron Sant-Miller | Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Notre Dame earned a No. 3 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Monday, giving the Irish (12-1-6, 7-1-3 ACC) a bye through the first round. They will begin their tournament run at home Sunday.
“As long as you’re a top-four seed, you’ve got the luxury of having a home venue until the Final Four, at the least,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I think that’s an advantage for several reasons. You avoid travel and missing school. It allows the players to remain in an environment they are comfortable in. You also have the familiarity of playing on your own field, and, hopefully, you have the advantage of having your support there.”
Though Notre Dame failed to claim the ACC title, as it was eliminated on penalty kicks against Virginia on Friday, following a 3-3 draw, it is the highest seeded ACC team in the tournament. Six ACC teams earned tournament bids, including fifth-seeded Maryland, No. 8-seed Virginia and Wake Forest with the No. 14 seed. Clemson and North Carolina also join their ACC rivals in the tournament.
“The ACC, perennially, has been the top conference,” Clark said. “This year we’ve been pretty solid again. We’re obviously very pleased we’re a top-four seed, but seeding doesn’t mean to say you win games. We learned that last year. Though, I think being a top four seed is a nice accomplishment in and of itself.”
Last fall, the Irish were the top seed in the tournament before they fell to Indiana, the eventual national champion, in double overtime in the Round of 16.
“At the end of the day, seeding is necessary to pick the tournament, but the seeds don’t say it all,” Clark said. “I think one of the most dangerous teams is Indiana. They actually had a losing record in the regular season, but I think they’re a very good team and a very dangerous team in the tournament.”
For Clark, the NCAA tournament holds unique value, as it parallels another well-recognized European championship.
“If you compare it to the European Leagues, winning the French League, winning the Scottish Premier League, these are great accomplishments,” Clark said. “Still, everybody knows that the biggest tournament in Europe is the Champions League with all the best teams. I equate this to the Champions League, where all the best teams from all the conferences play in one tournament. You want to be crowned a champion in this. This is the biggest tournament there is to offer.”
Though the Irish are entering the NCAA tournament this weekend, their approach remains the same as it has been all season.
“There is a lot of work to be done, and we’ll take it one game at a time,” Clark said. “It’s one of your goals to make the tournament and be in the top teams in the nation. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with that. The first stage is to qualify and the next stage is to try and compete in it. Hopefully, we’ll be playing our best soccer at this time. This is an exciting time of year.”
From this point on, it’s win or go home. One loss and the Notre Dame season is over.
“Another nice thing about the tournament is the finality of it all,” Clark said. “If you win, you go on, if you lose, your season is over. Every other game lacks that finality. There is always another game. This is all or nothing.”
On Sunday, the Irish will host the second round of the NCAA Championship at 7 p.m. in Alumni Stadium. They will play the winner of Thursday’s Wisconsin-Milwaukee first round matchup.
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