Notre Dame earns No. 13 seed in NCAA tournament
Manuel De Jesus | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Despite an early exit in the ACC tournament, No. 20 Notre Dame will prepare to compete in its 19th NCAA Championship tournament on Sunday as it hosts the winner of Loyola Chicago and Illinois-Chicago at Alumni Stadium.
“It was a hard fought loss [against Wake Forest] and the first game in a long time we came out feeling like we didn’t really control the game,” senior forward Mark Gormley said. “But, ever since the game we’ve been watching film and critiquing our play, finding areas where we could improve. While it was disappointing to go out early in the ACC tournament, our primary goal has always been to win a national championship, and we are still in a great position to do so.”
Monday afternoon, the Irish (11-6-2, 3-3-2 ACC) were selected as the 13th seed of the tournament, which marked the fifth straight season that the team was seeded among the top 16 teams. Since 2013, when Notre Dame won the NCAA College Cup, the squad has advanced past the second round of the tournament and fallen in the third round. All time, the Irish are 17-16-2 in the NCAA tournament.
The road to the NCAA College Cup will go through familiar foes if Notre Dame manages to get past the winner of Loyola Chicago and UIC. The teams in their quarter of the bracket consist of No. 12 seed Virginia, who the Irish lost to 1-0 back on Oct. 14; No. 4-seed Louisville, who beat Notre Dame 1-0 on Sept. 16; and No. 5 seed Stanford, who the Irish squeaked by 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 2.
Other squads making the tournament field that Notre Dame played in the regular season include Virginia Tech, Michigan State, New Mexico, No. 7 seed Indiana, No. 9 seed North Carolina, No. 8 seed Syracuse, No. 3 seed Clemson and No. 2 seed Wake Forest. As a conference, the ACC dominated the NCAA Championship field this year, getting a record nine teams into the tournament. In the last 10 seasons, the ACC has had a team win the College Cup in 2007 (Wake Forest), 2008 (Maryland), 2009 (Virginia), 2011 (North Carolina), 2013 (Notre Dame) and 2014 (Virginia).
“The ACC is arguably the best conference in the country,”Gormley said. “We’ve played teams from other conferences, and nearly every team has some special players, but I think what really sets the ACC apart from many other conferences is the speed of play. The games are so fast-paced and I feel that many teams in the conference function well as a unit, always anticipating offensively and defensively.”
The seniors on this year’s team will be the last group of players to be associated with Notre Dame’s College Cup season in 2013. Knowing what it takes to win a title, the seniors will hope to share that experience with the younger players to get another deep playoff run in some of their final seasons, as the team is hoping to get past a late season blunder that saw the Irish go 1-5-1 in their final seven games and make a run towards the College Cup.
“Although we lost some games late in our schedule, it’s tournament time now,” Gormley said. “It’s a clean slate. We look back on our performances against top-ranked teams throughout the season and we know that we can dominate any team when we are at our best.”
Notre Dame is led by a handful of players who garnered national awards for their performances in the regular season. For the third time in the four seasons in which the team has been a part of the ACC, Notre Dame had a player win the ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Junior forward Jon Gallagher claimed the award after leading the conference with 12 goals and 31 points. He also notched six assists, which ranked tied for second in the ACC. The other two Irish to win the award were Harrison Shipp in 2013 and Patrick Hodan in 2014.
Senior defender Brandon Aubrey also earned first-team All-ACC honors. Aubrey scored nine goals, which was the best among ACC defenders. Captain graduate midfielder Evan Panken earned third-team All-ACC honors after scoring two goals and adding six assists throughout the season. Freshman midfielder Tommy McCabe made the freshman All-ACC team.
If the Irish advance past the second-round matchup on Sunday, the team will travel to another campus site for the third round. The quarterfinal matchups will also be hosted on campus stadiums while the College Cup will be hosted at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Notre Dame will compete against the winner of Loyola Chicago and UIC on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.