ND earns No. 7 seed in NCAA tournament
Daniel O'Boyle | Wednesday, November 18, 2015
After the program’s first ever run to the ACC tournament final over the weekend, Notre Dame earned a No. 7 seed in the 2015 NCAA men’s soccer championship on Tuesday.
The seeding represents Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive top 10 seed in the tournament. The seventh seed propels the Irish (11-4-5) past the first round into the second. They will host a second-round matchup against the winner of Thursday’s first-round game between Tulsa (7-6-6) and Florida International (12-6-1). Although Notre Dame has little history with either side, both teams have already played competitive games against leading ACC opposition this season. Florida International, who won the Conference USA title, lost, 1-0, to the Tar Heels in its season opener Aug. 28 and, 3-2, to Wake Forest two days later. American Athletic Conference champion Tulsa defeated Connecticut, 4-3, in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in the conference championship game, after drawing 1-1 with Virginia early in the season Sept. 4, right before a close loss to North Carolina, 2-1, on Sept. 6. While the Panthers won each of their conference tournament games including a 1-0 win over Kentucky on Nov. 13, the Golden Hurricane earned its conference title through a series of three consecutive penalty shootouts.
Despite the difference in how each team reached the tournament, senior tri-captain and forward Patrick Hodan said that regardless of the opponent, the focus for the Irish will be on their own game.
“We’re just going to have to play our game,” Hodan said. “We’re going to have to move the ball well, get our pressure right and just stay composed in the tough moments of the game.”
A win for the Irish in the second round could see them in a third-round clash with No. 10 seed Maryland. The Terrapins have a history of success in the NCAA tournament as three-time champions, most recently lifting the trophy in 2008. ACC rival Virginia also represents a potential third-round opponent for the Irish. The Cavaliers and the Irish met three times last year: in the regular season, the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament, with the Cavaliers winning the last encounter on the way to the national title. This year, the two sides have met already in the regular season and the ACC tournament, with the Irish winning each time. Looking even further ahead, the Irish may take on No. 2 seed Clemson in a quarterfinal clash for a place in the College Cup games.
But right now for the Irish, it’s all about their first opponent.
“Right now, all we’re focused on is the first game,” Hodan said. “We’re just focused on whoever wins between Tulsa and Florida International, and that’s our focus.”
The Irish come into the tournament after Notre Dame’s first ever appearance ACC conference championship final, where the Irish lost to the tournament’s seventh seed, Syracuse, 1-0. Notre Dame’s run to the final saw a 1-0 win over Virginia on Nov. 8, followed by a 1-0 road win over top-seed Wake Forest on Nov.11. Hodan said the quality of the conference allows the tournament to act as a perfect tune-up for the national competition.
“The ACC tournament is great practice for the NCAA tournament,” Hodan said. “All the teams we played in the ACC tournament are actually in the NCAA tournament and mostly very high seeds, so there were a lot of learning points from each game.”
The Irish, as the seeded team, have earned home-field advantage. Hodan said the advantage could be important for the Irish, especially in the event of adverse weather conditions.
“It’s definitely nice to be at home,” Hodan said. “We’ll obviously be comfortable with all the weather throws at us. We’ll obviously be comfortable, but you never know how the opponent will prepare. I’m sure they’ll be ready.”
The Irish have proven to be one of the most successful men’s soccer programs in recent years, winning a regular-season title in the ACC last year, along with recent regular-season and tournament title victories in the Big East and a national title in 2013. Another postseason run could present the season-defining moment the Irish have awaited.
“In the tournament, we’ll really find out who we are as a team. I think we’ve done a good job,” Hodan said.
The Irish will host either Florida International or Tulsa at Alumni Stadium in the second round of the NCAA’s men’s soccer championship on Sunday at Alumni Stadium. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tulsa plays hosts to Florida International in the first round Thursday at 8 p.m.