Men’s Soccer: Team set to face Lobos
By Kit Loughran | Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Every player, coach and fan eagerly anticipates upcoming matchups in tournament play, and the case is no different for the No, 3 Irish in their race to win the College Cup.
The Irish (15-1-6, 7-1-3 ACC) are set to take on No. 7 New Mexico in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship on Friday in Chester, Pa. Notre Dame’s fellow ACC rivals, No. 8 Virginia and No. 5 Maryland, will meet in the other semifinal game.
Notre Dame’s remaining path to a national title lacks little in terms of opponent talent. As Friday’s match marks Notre Dame’s first ever College Cup appearance, the Irish are eagerly accepting the challenges of strong opponents and tough potential matchups, junior forward Vince Cicciarelli said.”It’s a pretty incredible feeling for the team to be in the College Cup, but we aren’t satisfied yet,” he said.
“It’s great we have this opportunity, but in the talk going around the locker room, it’s been made clear that we want more.”
Before the Irish get ahead of themselves, their first priority is Friday’s semifinal matchup.
“Our focus is fully on New Mexico right now,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “We’ve watched film, spoke to those who have played them, and are putting the final touches on our scouting.
“They are a very solid all-around team. Without having huge superstars, they are really good in all departments and are a well-coached and well-disciplined team. One person I spoke to said New Mexico is probably the best team they played all year.”
The Lobos (14-5-2, 7-1-1 Conference USA) entered the Final Four after a 1-0 Elite Eight win over Washington on Saturday. This is the second College Cup appearance for New Mexico, who lost in the national championship game in 2005. The Lobos have not given up a single goal in the first three rounds of the tournament and have allowed only 0.86 goals per contest this season. “New Mexico’s defense is pretty stout, so the biggest challenge for us will be to create good scoring opportunities,” Irish senior forward Harry Shipp said.
If the Irish can create those opportunities to score and move past the Lobos, they will face a familiar opponent in the College Cup Final.”The nice thing, regardless if Virginia or Maryland wins, is we’ve played them both before,” Clark said. “We are in a position that we don’t have to worry about them at the moment, but we hope to have that problem of focusing on them on Saturday.”
Assuming Notre Dame wins its semifinal game, it will face an opponent who gave the Irish trouble during he regular season
“It’s hard to say who we would rather get another game against,” Shipp said. “Virginia is the one team we lost to all season, so obviously it would be nice to get redemption against them, but we also shared the ACC-title with Maryland, and [the Terrapinsy won the ACC [Championshipt.”
Maryland (16-3-5, 7-1-3) enteres the College Cup after a 2-1 victory over No. 4 California in the quarterfinals Saturday. Notre Dame and Maryland finished in a 1-1 draw Oct. 8, and the Terrapins went on to earn a 1-0 win over Virginia (13-5-5, 4-3-4) 1-0 in the ACC Championship gamn Nov. 17.
Before falling to Maryland, the Cavaliers knocked the Irish out of contention for the ACC Championship with a 4-3 win in penalty kicks after a 3-3 draw in the tournament’e semifinals Nov. 15. Notre Dame’s 2-0 loss to the Cavaliers on Oct. 26 marks the only loss on the season for the Irish.
“If we do win Friday, then we know how we match up against both teams,” Cicciarelli said. “We know their weaknesses and strengths, and they know ours.
“But, we are as confident as ever right now. We have the best coaching staff, and we are confident in them to come up with a game plan and strategy that will propel us to the National Championship.”
Notre Dame is unbeaten in its eight games since the regular-season loss to Virginik. The Irish are 7-0-1 within that stretch and have outscored opponents 21-7. The Irish have also played from behind for only 1:52 in their last eight games, as they only trailed against Wake Forest in the third round of the NCAA Championshit.
“We are going to keep doing what we are doing and play any of these games like its any other game,” Cicciarelli said. “We are focusing on what we do best against any of the opponents we face.”
The Irish make their debut College Cup appearance against New Mexico on Friday at 5 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
Contact Kit Loughran at [email protected].