ND Men’s Soccer
Irish earn bid to NCAA tournament
Connor Mulvena | Wednesday, November 20, 2019
The Notre Dame men’s soccer team has earned a place in the NCAA tournament for the 22nd time in program history. The bid comes after the Irish finished 10-7-1, 3-5 ACC, capping the season with a loss to Clemson in the ACC tournament.
And for the Irish, this year’s bid impressively marks the 18th bid in the last 19 seasons. Notre Dame has had some success in its tournament history, tallying a total tournament record of 19-19-3, making the 16th round 10 times, the quarterfinals four times and winning the National Championship in 2013. Luckily for the Irish, they have some experience against a number of teams in the tournament, as they’ve faced six of the 16 teams to earn national bids. For head coach Chad Riley, this fact comes as no surprise considering the challenging schedule his squad took on this season.
“I think one of the crazy parts is you take Duke and North Carolina who didn’t make it but were actually really good teams,” Riley said. “If you add those teams into it, it feels like a couple of more teams. It doesn’t surprise me. I think we knew we were playing good teams, so if anything we set that schedule up so we could grow throughout the season. But it really doesn’t surprise me that that many teams on our schedule are in the NCAA tournament.”
Riley believes this challenging schedule was a net positive in the end. It may have brought on a number of tough losses, but for Riley, the challenging competitors contributed significantly to his team’s growth.
“I mean I don’t know what it is, but I think we played somewhere around the fifth hardest schedule in the country, so there are always going to be those challenging moments in the season,” Riley said. “And I think whenever you feel like you’re playing your best soccer towards the end of the year, I think as a coach you’re pleased with that because you want these challenging games to help you grow. And credit to the team, which did grow. I think our confidence is in a good place, but I think those challenging games helped our quality. And now, going into games in the NCAA tournament, I think there’s really nothing we haven’t seen, and we’re just really excited to compete against whoever is in front of us.”
The Irish are heading into the tournament with a bit of momentum, having picked things up at the end of the season after a bit of a rough patch. Although the team lost in its second game in the ACC tournament, Riley said he was pleased with how things turned out and where the team is now.
“I think we maybe played better than the scoreline showed against Clemson,” Riley said. “I think they got their first goal on a set piece and their second goal on a PK in the second half. I thought the first half we defended well — there were a lot of crosses and shots from a distance, but I thought we created two really good chances against Clemson in the first half but didn’t take them. Once they got the penalty when it was 2-0 with 10 minutes left, the guys chased and worked and went after it, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a goal to make things interesting. But overall, I’m pleased with where we are.”
The Irish will host their first game in the NCAA tournament this Thursday at 7 p.m. against Wright State. When asked about the opponent ahead, Riley said the Irish respect Wright State.
“I think they’re clearly a good team,” he said. “They won their Horizon League tournament. They’re an older team. I think they’re a team that has been together for a few years. They have some attackers that have scored some goals, so I think it certainly has all of our concentration, and it will take all of our intensity and effort. We certainly respect them a lot.”