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Men’s Soccer: ND hosts Elite Eight match

By Aaron Sant-Miller | Friday, December 6, 2013

For the first time in program history, No. 3 Notre Dame will host a quarterfinal match in the NCAA Championship. No. 11 Michigan State will travel to Alumni Stadium on Saturday to face the Irish for a berth in the College Cup.

“This is the biggest game, probably, in the program’s history,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “This is the time when you get a home game, the students are on campus and we have an opportunity to get to the Final Four. This is the toughest game we will have played at Alumni Stadium all year. I know we’ve played some big games here, but Michigan State has won a lot of big games on the road. It would be great if we could get Alumni Stadium rocking on Saturday night. This is a tough team we’re facing.”

Notre Dame (14-1-6, 7-1-3 ACC) traveled to Michigan State (14-5-3, 3-2-1 Big Ten) for a regular season matchup on Nov. 5 and beat the Spartans, 2-0. When the two teams met last month, Michigan State junior forward Adam Montague was out with an injury. Montague scored Michigan State’s lone goal in the 28th minute of its 1-0 victory over No. 6 Georgetown in the NCAA Championship Round of 16 on Sunday. Though he has had a quiet 2013 campaign due to injury, Montague led the Spartans in points and goals last fall and earned a First Team All-Big Ten nomination.

“[Montague] is their big threat up front, so he needs to be handled,” Clark said. “No question, having Montague back in the mix gives [Michigan State] an added threat up front. They have a lot of guys who deserve attention, though. They have won despite injuries, so they’re just a very solid team.”

According to Clark, the Spartans boast an impressive cast on defense as well, led by redshirt senior defender Kevin Cope and redshirt junior defender Ryan Keener.

“Cope and Keener have been a solid foundation of the Michigan State teams for the last few years,” Clark said. “They are both very good and strong in the air. They are excellent players who are very good in set pieces, both for and against. In general, they have a lot of solid players back there.”

On the other side of the pitch, the Irish boast an equally talented team, led by senior forward Harrison Shipp. On Tuesday, Shipp was named as a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist.

“We just have to play the way we play every game,” Clark said. “We have so many creative players on our team. If we play well, Notre Dame is the best team in the country when we play properly. We just have to turn up and play as a team.”

With a win Saturday, the Irish will travel to Chester, Pa., to compete in the College Cup for the first time in program history. 

“It will be difficult,” Clark said of Saturday’s game. “I think our lads know it will be difficult, but I think this team is really focused. We’ve got to have patience in the game. [Michigan State] won’t lie down and roll over. We have to play the full 90 minutes and maybe over that, well into overtime, if we want to advance.”

The Irish will look to advance when they host the Spartans on Saturday at 7 p.m. at  Alumni Stadium in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu