PHILADELPHIA -- Fairly fresh faces highlight the first semifinal slated for the Men’s College Cup in Philadelphia at 5 p.m. ET Friday.
Seventh-seeded New Mexico is set to hit the grass in the program’s second appearance in the semifinals, with the last coming in a loss in the 2005 championship game. The Lobos will meet third-seeded Notre Dame, which is making its debut semifinals appearance.The Fighting Irish and the Lobos have paved similar paths in reaching the elite platform in Philadelphia. Both teams lost in the semifinals of their respective conference tournaments before pumping out three consecutive NCAA tournament wins.
To highlight Notre Dame’s eight-game unbeaten streak, the squad has plowed through Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Michigan State to punch a ticket to the men’s College Cup. During this streak, the Irish are 7-0-1 and have outscored opponents 21-7. During those eight matches, the Irish have trailed for just 1:52. They are also the highest-scoring team remaining in NCAA play with an average of three goals per NCAA match.
Notre Dame knows the NCAA tournament quite well, with this season marking the 16th time the Irish have made a mark in the bracket. The Irish are 14-14-1 all time in tournament action, but this year’s squad has made history in reaching the program’s pinnacle of success -- their first men’s College Cup.
"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."
Clark has led Notre Dame to the NCAA tournament in 12 of his 13 seasons at Notre Dame, reaching the round of 16 on six occasions and the quarterfinals three times.
Despite Notre Dame’s current fiery streak, New Mexico has no sympathy and doesn’t mind serving as the NCAA tourney heartbreaker.
The Lobos are holding their own in NCAA action, notching all shutouts in their three outings thus far, which included defeats of George Mason, Penn State and Washington. Their win against Washington handed the Huskies their first loss of the season at home (13 matches).
Michael Lisch and the New Mexico backline have added those three shutouts for a total shutout tally of 11 on the season, the third most in program history. The Lobos are the only team with no scores allowed throughout the 2013 tournament.
New Mexico, the lone non-ACC team heading to Philly, is 8-6-3 all time in NCAA tournament action. In making the round of 16 this year, the Lobos became one of only three programs in the nation to do so for the third consecutive year. Most notably, the Lobos head into only their second College Cup appearance.
“You can’t help but enjoy it,” New Mexico head coach Jerry Fishbein said. “It’s a special experience. You would love everyone who has played for you or worked with you to experience something like this.”
Fishbein, New Mexico’s all-time winningest coach, has guided his squads to nine NCAA tournaments in 11 seasons, including the Lobos' other appearance at the men’s College Cup in 2005.