Junior midfielder Nick Besler, a first team all-ACC pick, returned to the Irish lineup last Friday against Virginia after missing eight matches with an injury.

#3 Irish To Host #19 Badgers Sunday In NCAA Second Round

Nov. 22, 2013

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Tournament Bracket

#19 WISCONSIN (14-4-2)
#3 NOTRE DAME (12-1-6)

NCAA Championship Second Round
Sunday, Nov. 24 – 7 p.m. (ET)
Alumni Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Nothing about the NCAA Championship – from earning a berth to advancing – can be taken for granted. The cliché “one game at a time” is never more appropriate than during tournament play.

While prognosticators like to guess what will happen based on where teams are seeded and what they’ve accomplished over the past few months, the bracket truly lays out a new season and no team can afford the luxury of looking ahead.

The Notre Dame men’s soccer team embarks on its “new” campaign Sunday against Wisconsin. The NCAA second-round match is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium.

Notre Dame (12-1-6) earned the tournament’s No. 3 seed and a first-round bye, while Wisconsin (14-4-2) is unseeded, yet ranked 19th in the latest NSCAA coaches poll. The Badgers defeated Milwaukee, 1-0, Thursday in opening-round action in Madison, Wis.

The Fighting Irish are riding a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) and Sunday will be the first time they have played since a 3-3 draw with Virginia in the semifinals of the ACC Championship last Friday. The Cavaliers advanced on penalty kicks, 4-3.

The three goals against Virginia matched a season-high output for the Irish and senior forward Harrison Shipp upped his point streak to five games when he tallied the first goal of the match. Shipp, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, leads the Irish in goals (9) and assists (8) this season. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan, a second team all-ACC pick, continued his solid play with a goal and an assist against the Cavaliers. Another bright spot from that contest was the return of central midfielder Nick Besler, who had missed the previous eight matches with a foot injury. Besler, a junior, joined Shipp on the All-ACC First Team.

The Irish are sitting on just one loss this season and they have gone 3-0-1 against Big Ten competition. Notre Dame defeated Michigan (3-0), Indiana (2-0) and Michigan State (2-0) and tied Northwestern (1-1). Wisconsin posted a 3-0-2 record this season against those four league foes.

Notre Dame annually plays a handful of Big Ten Conference opponents, but the Badgers have not been on the Fighting Irish schedule since Halloween of 1996. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 8-1-3, which includes a 1-0 Badger win in the first round of the 1993 NCAA tournament. Wisconsin finished second in the Big Ten this season with a 4-2-0 league mark and the Badgers are 9-1-2 in their last 12 matches.

“Having watched Wisconsin, it doesn’t surprise me that they have a good record and a good ranking,” says Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. “It’s clear how they’re a top-20 team. They have a lot of good pieces and they’re well organized. They have players that can play nice soccer and they have guys who can score goals. It’s not going to be an easy open to our 2013 NCAA tournament campaign.

“If we take care of what we do well, then I think we’ll be fine. It’ll be a challenge; we have to win the right to play in this game. If we do that, we’ll be fine. If we don’t, it won’t be easy and I think our guys realize that.”

The Fighting Irish are no strangers to the pressure of NCAA tournament play. Notre Dame has qualified for the NCAAs 12 times in Clark’s 13-year tenure at the University. The only time the Fighting Irish were left out of the dance under Clark was in 2011, but the program rebounded from that disappointment quite nicely by registering a 29-5-7 record over the last two seasons.

Notre Dame was the top seed in last season’s tournament and following a first-round bye, the Irish topped Michigan State, 3-0, in the second round. That set up a showdown with instate rival Indiana in the Round of 16. The Irish suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 double-overtime setback to the Hoosiers, who would go on to capture the national title. While Notre Dame has succeeded against the Big Ten in regular-season play, the Irish are just 2-7-1 all-time against that league in the NCAAs.

“I feel it’s about time we made a really good run in the NCAAs,” says Clark. “We’ve been there so often, but we’ve not really delivered. We’ve had really good regular seasons and I feel it’s time now for Notre Dame soccer to step up and deliver. We have a really nice team and I think it has the potential, but this is the true test. When it comes to tournament time you have to have the ability, a desire and you have to be able to compete in the environment where it’s winner goes forward and loser goes home.

“It’s different from the regular season. I have a lot of faith in this group. They’ve worked tremendously hard after going out last year to Indiana. That was a real disappointment and a huge spur to us. I feel pretty comfortable that the desire is there for this group.”

To purchase tickets for Sunday’s match, visit UND.com/tickets or call the Notre Dame ticket office at 574-631-7356. Tickets will also be available at the Alumni Stadium ticket window on Sunday. Prices are $7 for adults, $3 for youth (21 & younger)/senior citizens (55 and older) and $1 for children between the ages of three and five. All Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s/Holy Cross students will get in free with a valid student ID and all Notre Dame faculty/staff will get in free with a valid University ID.

— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director