Nov. 14, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s soccer team will play host to Western Illinois in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, Nov. 18 at Alumni Field. Game time is slated for 5:00 p.m., with the Fighting Irish women’s team taking on Yale in the third round of the women’s NCAA Championship at 7:30 p.m. Separate tickets are not required for each match. This marks the fifth straight appearance for the Fighting Irish in the men’s NCAA Championship and the ninth trip overall in program history.
The Fighting Irish finished the season with a 10-7-3 mark overall and 6-4-1 in BIG EAST play. Notre Dame is coming off a 1-0 loss at St. John’s in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday, Nov. 5. Sophomore forward Joe Lapira (Lake Charles, La./Saint Louis Catholic) leads the team in points (15), goals (5) and assists (5). He was a third team all-BIG EAST selection, while junior teammates Greg Dalby (Poway, Calif./Poway) and Ian Etherington (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral) were named to the first team.
“When you make the tournament it’s the initial seal on a good season,” states Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. “The trick now is to make it a great season. There is still work to be done.”
Close calls were the story of the season for Notre Dame as 17 of its 20 games were decided by one goal or less. The Irish posted key wins this season over then-No. 7 SMU (4-1) and then-No. 16 Seton Hall (4-0).
Western Illinois (6-9-4) captured the Mid-Con Conference tournament championship for the second straight season with a 4-3 overtime victory against Oakland on Sunday. The Leathernecks lost to Northwestern, 4-1, in last season’s NCAA tournament.
Notre Dame and Western Illinois have squared off twice on the soccer pitch, with the Irish winning both contests. The last match-up occurred during the 1996 campaign, a 6-0 Fighting Irish victory.
For the fifth straight year, the BIG EAST Conference has at least five teams in the field of 48-teams in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship. For the first time in conference history, the league landed seven teams in the championship field, besting its previous record of six teams in 2003 and 2001.
The Irish faced a total of nine teams that made this year’s field and they own a 4-5-1 mark against those squads, including two matches versus St. John’s.
“We are a battle-hardened team,” says Clark. “We have played some of the top seeds. We know we can play with the best teams in the country. Now we just have to do it.”
Last season, the Irish garnered the tournament’s fifth seed and received a first round bye before being eliminated by Ohio State, 2-1, at Alumni Field. Notre Dame has made the NCAA tournament all five years of the Bobby Clark era.
The winner of Friday’s game will travel to Bloomington, Ind. for a second round match-up against Indiana, the two-time defending NCAA champion, on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Hoosiers are the third seed in this year’s NCAA Championship. Maryland is the top seed, while New Mexico is the No. 2 seed.
Stay up-to-date on the Fighting Irish men’s soccer team by logging on to und.com or by calling the Notre Dame Athletics Hotline at (574) 631-3000.