NOTRE DAME, Ind. For the first time in program history the Notre Dame men’s soccer team is headed to the College Cup. The third-ranked Fighting Irish used goals from sophomores Evan Panken and Patrick Hodan to defeat No. 11 Michigan State 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship on Saturday evening at a frigid Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (15-1-6) will face No. 7 New Mexico at 5 or 7:30 p.m. (ET) Friday in the national semifinals at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. Maryland and Virginia will meet in the other semifinal.
“We’re very excited to keep dancing,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “There’s nothing better than dancing in December.
“I’m very happy for this team because they’ve worked so hard. They are a good team and they are a fun team. They deserve this one.”
The Fighting Irish controlled much of the possession during the opening 25 minutes of Saturday’s match. Senior forward Harrison Shipp produced the first solid opportunity for the hosts in the 19th minute as he blasted a shot on frame from 19 yards out but Spartan goalkeeper Zach Bennett punched the ball out of bounds for his lone save of the match. Shipp had a 23-yard shot hit the far post two minutes later.
Michigan State (14-6-3) registered its first shot of the match in the 26th minute when Tim Kreutz placed the ball through the Irish defense and Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall scooped it up. Wall had four saves on the night.
Notre Dame capitalized on its possession in the 31st minute when a corner kick was sent into the box and Panken’s first shot was blocked but the rebound went to Vince Cicciarelli, who played a short pass to Panken and he delivered from six yards out. It was the fifth goal of the season for the sophomore midfielder. The Fighting Irish led 1-0 at halftime.
“This is what we’ve been working for all year and everyone played a part in this win and it feels so great to be a part of this team,” Panken said. “It was great getting us up early, especially in a big game like this because we knew we needed it. We also knew we’d need more than that to win the game. One wasn’t going to be enough.”
The Irish didn’t waste much time in the second half to claim a two-goal advantage. In the 48th minute, Hodan did a splendid job of maneuvering around a Spartan defender and then tucked his shot into the right post and past a diving Bennett. Hodan, a midfielder, has scored a goal in each of the last five games and he has nine tallies overall this season.
Michigan State would not go down easily. The Spartans sliced the Irish lead to one in the 59th minute as Kreutz crossed the ball into the box and Jay Chapman headed it home from seven yards out.
“We opened the second half superbly,” Clark said. “We got the (second) goal and were playing very, very well. We then lost the goal, which kind of came against the run of play. That upset us a little bit, but we got back into it.”
Notre Dame almost reclaimed its two-goal cushion in the 69th minute as Hodan nearly replicated his goal, but sent the ball just wide of the far post. The Irish held a 16-9 shot advantage on the night and they also had a 7-3 edge in corner kicks.
The Spartans continued to make the Irish work for their first College Cup bid. Wall came up with a big save in the 73rd minute as he punched an Andrew Herr 20-yard attempt over the cross bar. The ensuing corner kick was batted around in the box and Chapman eventually got a foot on it, but sent the shot wide left.
The last gasp for the Spartans occurred with just over a minute left when Brent McIntosh crossed the ball to Kreutz who was running at the near post and his shot clipped the woodwork and went out of bounds.
“This was my seventh time to be in the quarterfinals (as a head coach) and this is only my second time to win; I went once with Stanford,” Clark said. “It’s not easy to make that final jump. I was happy when that final whistle blew.”