Irish, Hoosiers battle on the pitch
Also: UW-Oshkosh football looks to continue improbable run
What do you get when you cross the No. 1 football school in the nation with the No. 1 men’s basketball program?
Nope, the answer is not Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o going for a tackle as Indiana’s Cody Zeller drives to the basket.
But if you guessed a postseason men’s soccer match-up between in-state rivals Notre Dame and Indiana in the NCAA Championship Round of 16 on Sunday, then you’re right.
The Fighting Irish earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament after winning the Big East Conference championship. While the Irish have competed in the NCAA postseason 14 previous times, the top seed is the highest in program history. Notre Dame received a first-round bye and then defeated Michigan State in a second-round contest. The Irish are unbeaten in their past eight games.
The Irish are 11-13-1 all-time in the NCAA tournament, including a 10-9-1 record under head coach Bobby Clark, who has led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament in 11 of his 12 seasons at the helm of the program. It is the fifth time Clark has guided Notre Dame to the Round of 16.
Indiana, the No. 16 seed in the tournament, also earned a first-round bye before downing Xavier 4-1 last Sunday. The Hoosiers have a long history of success in the NCAA tournament as they are making their 37th overall appearance, and 26th consecutive. IU has posted a Division I-record 79 victories in NCAA tournament play. The Hoosiers have made 17 College Cup appearances and won seven NCAA titles, most recently in 2004.
While the Hoosiers have history on their side, Indiana’s season has come to an end at the hands of the eventual national champion in each of the last two seasons (Akron in 2010; UNC in 2011).
This is not your normal postseason matchup – the teams have developed a strong rivalry through the years. Not only will this be the 34th meeting in series history, but they met in the regular season and competed in each other’s early season tournaments. Notre Dame won the regular-season match 1-0 in Bloomington on Sept. 26, narrowing the Hoosiers’ advantage in the series to 24-7-2. The Irish are 6-6-1 against Indiana during the Bobby Clark era.
"This will be a big game because anytime you play Indiana in anything it's big," Clark said following the Irish victory against Michigan State. "This will be the first time [the Hoosiers] have come up here in the [NCAA] tournament. We've gone down there a couple times and have faired well. We actually have a poorer record at home against Indiana than we have in Bloomington so I'm hoping we can rectify that a little bit. It'll be a fantastic game for the town of South Bend because anytime we play Indiana it's exciting."
While Indiana looks to be the underdog in this weekend’s contest, Notre Dame will not be taking the Hoosiers lightly. Notre Dame has only posted a 12-2-1 mark against Indiana on its home field of Alumni Stadium in South Bend.
Game time is 3 p.m. ET Sunday.
• The South Dakota State football team will host an FCS playoff game for the first time in history as the Jackrabbits play host to Eastern Illinois on Saturday in a game that will showcase three Walter Payton Award candidates.
SDSU finished the regular season as the runner-up in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, posting an 8-3 mark behind one of the top rushers in the nation – Walter Payton Award candidate Zach Zenner. EIU is making its 14th trip to the FCS playoffs after winning the Ohio Valley Conference.
Zenner, who was held to a season-low 49 yards on 17 carries against South Dakota last weekend, ranks second in the nation with 154.82 yards rushing per game. The Jackrabbits’ defense is pulling their weight as well. SDSU is ranked eighth in the nation in total defense and fourth nationally in scoring defense allowing just 15.9 points per game.
Eastern Illinois’ offense will certainly pose a challenge for the Jackrabbits as it ranks sixth in the nation in total offense and seventh in scoring offense. The Panthers have their own Walton Payton Award candidates as well. Erik Lora – the OVC Player of the Year – set the FCS single-season reception record (124 catches) at Central Arkansas last week, while quarterback Jimmy Garappolo ranks fifth in the nation with 3,602 passing yards.
The first meeting between the two teams will kickoff at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN3. The winner of Saturday's game will travel to No. 1 North Dakota State on Dec. 1. The Bison earned a first-round bye.
• A pair of Gulf South Conference rivals will face off in the NCAA Division II football playoffs for the 21st time in league history when No. 4 seed West Alabama travels to top-seeded Valdosta State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. West Alabama will visit VSU for the second time this season. The Tigers earned the program's first win at VSU on Sept. 22 with a 39-28 victory. However, Valdosta leads the all-time series 28-3.
• In Division III football, Hobart looks to keep its historic season going as the Statesmen play host to Wittenberg (10-1) in the second round of the NCAA playoffs on Saturday. It will be the first meeting between the two schools. Hobart has compiled an 11-0 record -- two more wins than any other Statesmen team in the 109-year history of the program. Wittenberg, the Division III program with the most wins in history, boasts a 20-12 overall record in the NCAA playoffs. Both Wittenberg and Hobart rank in the nation’s top 20 in scoring offense.
• UW-Oshkosh will be looking to extend the longest active winning streak in NCAA football (13 games) when the Titans welcome Bethel for a second-round game in the Division III football playoffs on Saturday. UW-Oshkosh is not only enjoying a long winning stretch, but also the program’s first appearance in the postseason.
• The BYU women’s soccer team will be vying for the program’s first trip to the Women’s College Cup when the Cougars play host to North Carolina on Friday. After knocking off Marquette in penalty kicks, BYU is playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003, matching the furthest a Cougar team has gone in the NCAA tournament. Long-time perennial power UNC is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. Of note, the Tar Heels will be playing their first NCAA quarterfinal game on the road in 31 NCAA tournament appearances.
• The No. 2 Denver men’s ice hockey team is off to the program’s best start since the 2001-02 season with a 9-1-0 record and the nation’s top scoring offense at 4.50 goals per game. The Pioneers will play host to Yale at Magness Arena before welcoming No. 3 New Hampshire for a top-five showdown on Saturday. Senior Chris Knowlton leads the team with eight goals, which ranks second in the nation this season. New Hampshire enters the contest on a four-game winning streak and is off to its best start since the 1968-69 season at 8-1-1.
• Four nationally ranked Division III men’s ice hockey squads will converge in Norwich, Vt., for the 15th-annual PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut tournament beginning Friday. No. 2 Norwich hosts the tournament and carries a 32-game home unbeaten streak into the weekend and is the tournament’s defending champion. The Cadets will play No. 11 St. Thomas (Minn.) on Friday, while No. 12 Middlebury and No. 5 Plattsburgh – two regular tournament participants – will tangle in the other semifinal. The winners will play in the championship game on Saturday.
• The No. 5 Illinois Wesleyan women’s basketball team will host three other nationally ranked squads in the Frontier Tip-Off tournament beginning Saturday. The Titans begin action against No. 21 Coe, which follows a matchup between No. 4 DePauw and No. 9 Washington (Mo.).
• Congratulations to three NCAA student-athletes selected for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, who will attend the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom beginning in October 2013. The three were a part of only 32 outstanding scholars chosen from a group of more than 800 from colleges and universities in the United States.
Rachel Marie Woodlee, a senior volleyball player from Wofford is the school’s first Rhodes Scholar since 1974. She is double majoring in business economics and Chinese, and will pursue modern Chinese studies at Oxford.
Yale’s Dakota McCoy, a hurdler and javelin thrower for the women’s track and field team, was also chosen as a Rhodes Scholar – one of seven from the Ivy League school this year. She plans to study Zoology at Oxford.
Luther senior Georgianna “Annie” Whiteley also received the honor after maintaining a 3.988 GPA while majoring in chemistry and pursuing a minor in biology. She is also a member of the women’s tennis team. Whiteley will study medical anthropology at Oxford.
• Athletes love to compete, so why not do it for a good cause? The USA South Athletic Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee organized its annual Cans Across the Conference for the ninth consecutive year. Each campus SAAC collected cans and non-perishable goods at its school to benefit a local charity. The conference members collected 29,233 items this fall, and Christopher Newport won the contest with more than 9,000 items collected. Since the inception of the program, league institutions have donated almost 260,000 items to various charities.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy