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Sports

Irish start tournament journey against Tulsa

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

After last weekend’s first-ever appearance in the ACC tournament final, Notre Dame is set to host Tulsa in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark said Notre Dame (11-4-5, 4-2-2 ACC), seeded seventh, hasn’t done much differently to stay consistent and focused this week leading up to Sunday’s match. After being knocked out of the tournament last season as the top seed against 16th-seeded Virginia in the third round, Notre Dame understands that rankings don’t mean as much at this point in the season.

“I think one of the nice things is that, of the top 16 seeds, we were No. 7,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “You want a high seed because, provided you keep winning, if you’re a top-four seed, you will play at home at all the way though until the final four, and if you’re a top-eight seed you play two home games and get a bye in the first round. It saves you one game, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything. You still have to win.”

Junior midfielder Mark Gormley fend off defenders during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Syracuse on Sunday in the ACC championship game at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame starts NCAA tournament play this Sunday against Tulsa.Zachary Llorens | The Observer

Junior midfielder Mark Gormley fend off defenders during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Syracuse on Sunday in the ACC championship game at Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame starts NCAA tournament play this Sunday against Tulsa.

Despite the competitiveness of the tournament, Clark said the team expects to make a deep run in the tournament, so he’s advised the team to prepare every day as if it’s going to play through December.

“The thing is that with a very busy college schedule playing two games a week, and I think we had a stretch where we played 14 games in 43 days, which was very hectic, it can be difficult,” Clark said. “This has been a week where we certainly have had the time to have a little bit of a break. Our boys were able to take two days off and catch up with studies. That was one of the messages we’ve put out because if you’re going to have a deep run into the tournament, and that’s the plan for us, then you will miss class, and this is a time where we really emphasize for the guys to get their studies done with the anticipation with a deep run into the tournament.”

The Golden Hurricane (8-6-6, 2-3-2 AAC) advanced to the tournament after winning their conference tournament for the second straight year, and they defeated No. 16 Florida International, 3-2, in overtime Thursday’s first-round action. Tulsa won each of its three AAC tournament games in a penalty shootout before winning Thursday in overtime in the NCAA tournament.

Senior midfielder Evan Panken jumps for a header in Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Syracuse on Sunday in the ACC title game.Zachary Llorens | The Observer

Senior midfielder Evan Panken jumps for a header in Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Syracuse on Sunday in the ACC title game.

Clark said the team is prepared to take on the Golden Hurricane on Sunday, a team that last lost Oct. 21.

“I don’t think there is any danger in our team taking [Tulsa] lightly,” Clark said. “Every team in the tournament, the 48 teams that make the tournament of the 200-plus teams that play Division I college soccer, all of them are very good and have had good seasons. Every team in the tournament is feeling good about themselves.

“[Tulsa] won their Thursday game, so they’ll be feeling extra good. … We know we’ll be in for a tough game.”

Despite Notre Dame coming off a loss last Sunday to Syracuse in the ACC championship bout, Clark isn’t worried about the team’s morale heading into Sunday’s game.

“I think [last weekend’s loss to Syracuse] will make them very hungry,” Clark said. “They’ll come out on Sunday a hungry team, and that’s a certainty. Especially with this senior class and the success they’ve had in their four years, they won’t want to limp out of the tournament. They’ll be a focused Notre Dame team. All tournament games are going to be tough. It’s up to us to get a hold of things.”

The Irish will host Tulsa on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Alumni Stadium in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

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