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Tale of the Tape: Notre Dame (NCAA Tournament)

The state of Indiana will have a representative in this year’s College Cup.

Those are the stakes when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travels to Bloomington Friday to face an Indiana team trying to get back there for the second straight season. It’s an in-state rivalry for the right to keep playing for a national championship.

These two sides know each other well. There won’t be many secrets come Friday night and that’s what makes this a good matchup. Indiana was in this same position last year against the No. 7 seed. But with the empty feeling of last season, the stakes for the Hoosiers might even be higher. This will be the third all-time NCAA Tournament matchup between these two Indiana rivals. The Hoosiers are 2-1 in those matches.

Let’s get to know the Fighting Irish a little bit more.

Revenge Game?

The Hoosiers and the Fighting Irish met this earlier this season back on September 11 in South Bend. It was a 2-1 overtime win for the Hoosiers that came with a bit of controversy. Nonetheless, it was a come from behind win for Indiana on the road against one of the top teams in the country.

Indiana has won the last two matchups against the Fighting Irish going back to last year’s 1-0 win in Bloomington. But from a historical perspective, the last time these two sides met in the NCAA Tournament was back in 2012; the year Indiana took home its eighth national championship. The No. 16-seeded Hoosiers were road underdogs against the No. 1-seeded Fighting Irish. IU won that game 2-1 in double overtime.

The players have all moved on, but from a historical perspective, it’s something interesting to look at. Notre Dame last won in Bloomington in 2015.

Notre Dame's journey

The Fighting Irish’s path to the Elite Eight was a bit bumpier than IU’s. While IU coasted through the second and third rounds, Notre Dame needed overtime twice and penalties once. The Irish won a marathon penalty shootout against Michigan in the second round and needed overtime to beat No. 10-seeded Virginia in the third round.

Notre Dame’s biggest issue has been goal scoring in this NCAA Tournament. The Irish have scored just one goal, and it was the game-winner last game against Virginia. That goal was scored by Jack Lynn with one second left in overtime. Things won’t be any easier Friday going up against one of the best defenses in college soccer.

Matchup to watch

Patrick Berneski vs. Timmy Mehl/Jack Maher: It’s not very often where the center backs are matched up against each other. But because Berneski has scored six goals, it is a matchup worth watching. Set pieces are always important in matches such as these. Look no further than the goals IU scored in last year’s College Cup semifinal and last year’s NCAA quarterfinal. Both came off of corners.

Of the 29 goals Notre Dame has scored this season, 13 have been from set pieces. That is one of IU’s strengths and the Hoosiers have defended them very well this season. If Notre Dame earns a set piece, look for No. 25 to potentially make an impact.

Overall assessment

Anything can happen in a game of this magnitude. With it being a rivalry match too, the stakes are even greater. The Irish are a good team. That was evident by the No. 7 overall seed they were given and the Hoosiers saw that in South Bend earlier this season. They’ve also been battled tested in the ACC, and now are the only ACC team left in the tournament.

Saying all of that, it’s hard to find another team left in the tournament that is in better form than Indiana. The Hoosiers are scoring goals at a high clip and if they can get off to a hot start, it will be a key factor in the outcome of the game. That can be attributed to two things: Notre Dame has not been down at halftime and have only allowed two first half goals all season long.

Indiana has the upper hand in this match. The Irish have struggled scoring goals and that seems likely to continue Friday against a stout IU backline. Unless Indiana is way off its game, there is no reason to think they won’t find themselves in the. College Cup once again.

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