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Men’s Soccer: Irish defeat New Mexico to advance to National Championship

Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, December 13, 2013

If there’s a team that can stop sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan, the No. 3 Irish have yet to face it. Hodan scored both Irish goals as Notre Dame beat No. 7 New Mexico, 2-0, on Friday in a national semifinal game to advance to the National Championship.

“We’re obviously delighted to have one more game in the season,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I think they call it dancing in December – it’s good, it’s fun.”

Although the Lobos (14-6-2, 7-1-1 Conference USA) put pressure on the Irish (16-1-6, 7-1-3 ACC) in the opening minutes of the match, the Irish took advantage of a giveaway to strike first in the seventh minute. Senior forward Harrison Shipp took the ball at midfield and threaded a pass to Hodan in traffic inside the 18-yard box. Hodan found an opening, took a left-footed strike and sent the ball sailing past New Mexico senior goalkeeper Michael Lisch.

“I think it was important that we got the first goal,” Clark said. “I think that put us in a position where we controlled the tempo and controlled the game a little bit. I thought we did that fairly well. “

Notre Dame looked comfortably in control for the rest of the game. The Lobos’ best shot at evening the score game came in the 63rd minute when redshirt freshman Christopher Wehan took a screaming shot from outside the 18-yard box, but the ball went just right of the net.

The Irish put the game away for good two minutes later when junior forward Vince Cicciarelli bounced a shot off the crossbar and Hodan headed the rebound into the goal for a 2-0 lead. The goal was Hodan’s 11thof the season, and the sophomore has now scored in six straight games.

Cicciarelli had another impressive scoring chance in the 68thminute when he battled through two defenders and took a shot that went straight into the waiting arms of Lisch.

Irish senior goalie Patrick Wall and his defenders notched another shutout, their 10th of the season.

“I think we were pretty solid defensively all night,” Shipp said. “[Senior defenders] Grant [Van De Casteele] and [Andrew] O’Malley did great in the back, and [senior defender] Connor Miller was stepping in at left back.

“I think they kept the ball in our half more than we would’ve liked. I think we would’ve liked to be up the field, but they switched to being direct so it was hard for us to get out of our half. Although that happened, I don’t think they looked to dangerous.”

Shipp said he’s confident in his teammates going into the College Cup final.

“I think we’ve assembled the right group of guys – I don’t think we have any weaknesses on the field,” he said. “I have complete trust in the guys that they’re going to make the plays that need to be made.”

The Irish will play the winner of the other semifinal game between No. 8 Virginia and No. 9 Maryland, which kicked off at 7:30 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. The Irish tied the Terps, 1-1 in double overtime on Oct. 8, and the Cavaliers are the only team to beat the Irish all season. Virginia (13-5-5, 4-3-4 ACC) beat Notre Dame, on Oct. 26 and knocked the Irish out of the ACC tournament on penalty kicks after a 3-3 tie in the semifinal game on Nov. 15.

The championship game will be the first in the history of the program, although Clark coached a championship game during his time at Stanford.

“I was here [in the final game] with Stanford, and I hope this team can do a better job because we lost the final,” Clark said. “I think it’ll be very nice to take the title home, but it’s not going to be easy. Whichever team we play, we haven’t beaten. UVA, we lost and tied in the season and we tied Maryland in the season.
“Whichever team wins out in this game, we know it’s going to be a very hard game.”

The National Championship game will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu