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Men’s Soccer

Notre Dame set for second round of NCAA championship

| Friday, November 18, 2016

On Monday, Notre Dame drew the No. 13 seed in the NCAA championship — its fifth straight top-16 seed nationally.

Monday’s unveiling marked the 19th time in program history the Irish (11-6-2, 3-3-2 ACC) have made it to the NCAA championship and their 15th appearance in 16 years under head coach Bobby Clark. The Irish hold a 16-12-2 record under Clark at the NCAA championship, including a run that ended with a national championship in 2013.

Junior forward Jon Gallagher dribbles upfield during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 25 at Alumni Stadium.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Junior forward Jon Gallagher dribbles upfield during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 25 at Alumni Stadium.

Though the Irish face a tough climb this year to repeat that achievement, they are a combined 5-4-2 this year against NCAA championship qualifiers and have been sufficiently battle-tested throughout the regular season, as the ACC established an NCAA record by qualifying nine teams for the 2016 field — seven of them ranked in the top 16. However, as Clark noted, perhaps the biggest key for the Irish was their ability to recharge and get back to the basics after their quarterfinal loss to eventual conference champion Wake Forest in the ACC tournament.

“It’s given us time to revisit a lot of things that we feel are important to how we play,” Clark said. “We’ve revisited a lot of our core, tactical ideas. It’s been great because, prior to that, we were playing two games a week, and it gave us very little time outside of regeneration — these last two weeks have given us time to actually do good practices. I think we’re in a really good spot, and the guys are itching to get a game in again.”

Notre Dame, as the 13th seed, faces Loyola Chicago on Sunday evening inside Alumni Stadium, after the Ramblers beat UIC on Thursday at Loyola Soccer Park in Chicago for the right to face the Irish. Loyola (13-3-1, 6-1-1 MVC) is fresh off a 2-1 upset loss at the hands of Missouri State in the conference tournament semifinal, but dominated their regular season schedule, losing only to fellow NCAA Championship qualifiers Creighton and SIUE. The Flames (9-7-3, 5-3-1 Horizon), on the other hand, secured the automatic NCAA bid from the Horizon League after defeating top-seeded Wright State, 1-0, in the conference-tournament final, right after downing Milwaukee, 2-1, in overtime during the semifinal round, claiming the fourth conference tournament championship victory in program history. Prior to Loyola’s win over UIC, Clark said the Irish would not overlook their opponent, regardless of whom they ultimately ended up playing.

“I don’t think it matters — I think they’d both be tough games,” Clark said. “There are 48 teams out of 206 that make it [to the NCAA tournament], so every team that makes it has had a good season. They’re all feeling good about themselves, their all very excited to be there, so there’s no easy game. We’ll treat them both with the upmost respect, I can assure you.

“We take it one game at a time. We don’t look past the first game, because if you don’t take care of the first game, there’s no second game. Now, you just focus on one game, and since you’ve got a week between games, you’ve got plenty of time to re-focus.”

Notre Dame will kick off its journey to the NCAA College Cup against Loyola on Sunday night at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a junior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. He is a proud resident of Stanford Hall and the defending champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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