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Notre Dame beats Urbana 3-0 to win Class 2A soccer title

November 6th, 2012
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2012 IHSA State Champions

2012 State Championship CelebrationIrish top Urbana for third title in five seasons

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

FRANKFORT – Score one for the unsung heroes. And make that four for the Notre Dame boys soccer team.

Seeking their third state title in five seasons, the Irish captured the program’s fourth Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Urbana in the Class 2A final at Lincoln-Way North.

Senior reserve Danny Aeschliman was the unlikely hero for the Irish, as his goal in the 15th minute of play ultimately proved to be the game-winner for ND.

But it was a collective effort by the unheralded Irish defense that may have been the key on this day. Facing a Tigers attack that had produced 90 goals coming in, the ND back unit was able to keep Urbana under wraps long enough for Grant Inskeep to seal the victory with back-to-back goals late in regulation.

“For me, it feels just as good as the first one,” said ND coach Mike Bare, who also guided the Irish to state titles in 2008 and 2010.

Coming off a third-place finish in 2011 and undefeated against in-state opponents this season, the senior-laden Irish (22-2-2) may have been expected to finish the job this time around.

However, an Urbana (21-3-0) side that was short on state experience but brimming with determination made meeting those expectations a bit more difficult than ND had hoped.

Playing in their fourth final in five seasons, the battle-tested Irish looked the part of the favorite in the early going and nearly took the lead a minute in only to be denied by the crossbar.

But it wasn’t until Aeschliman buried a loose ball in front of the goal at the 14:51 mark that the Irish had a clear advantage.

“I’ve always dreamed of something like that,” said Aeschliman, who may not have been on the field at that point had it not been for an injury to starter Jerry Ivie in the 10th minute of play.

“I got in, the ball came right to me and I finished it,” Aeschliman said. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”

Despite the Irish controlling the run of play, the Tigers remained dangerous on the attack and nearly pulled level on a few occasions.

Jonathan Lukusa, who came into the game with a team-high 21 goals, had a pair of chances late in the first half but could not find his way past ND goalkeeper Justin Buck.

“We got ourselves some decent opportunities to score, but they’re solid,” Urbana coach Randy Blackman said. “They cleared some of those off and we missed a few opportunities to tie it up.”

A tag-team effort by defenders Thomas Galbreath and Grayson McGraw proved effective at keeping the all-state senior out of goal.

“He was pretty fast,” McGraw said. “I just had to get a head start on him and had to predict where the ball was gonna go before it went there.

“And Thomas was always covering just in case. … We covered each other’s backs.”

Leading 1-0 at the half, the Irish spent most of the second searching for insurance. But the extra padding proved to be elusive for ND, thus keeping the door open for an Urbana equalizer.

“They’re one of those teams where you had to stay mentally in tune to the game for eighty minutes, because one slip up in the back and it’s gonna be a 1-1game,” Bare said. “Every time they had a counterattack they were dangerous, so it was very important for us to find the second and the third.”

And after a few near-misses on both ends of the field, the Irish finally got the insurance they were looking for and then some when Inskeep scored a pair of goals 46 seconds apart to seal the deal.

Drew Whalen helped set up Inskeep’s first goal, with his shot from the baseline spilling out into the path of the senior striker, who slid into the rebound for the score at 70:21. Alex Garcia then assisted Inskeep at71:07 for the match’s final goal, setting off a wild celebration by the cold but faithful Irish supporters.

“This was a group that went through a little adversity, that fell short last year and then really worked hard in the offseason,” Bare said. “So to see this senior class finish it off on a high note with a state championship, it’s really special.”

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Notre Dame soccer saving the best for last

November 6th, 2012
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Drew WhalenNotre Dame keeper comes up big in PKs as Irish advance to 2A title match

By BO RYAN
Peoria Journal Star

FRANKFORT – Never a doubt. Well, not exactly.

Notre Dame advanced to the Class 2A state soccer title match with a fingernail-biting, penalty-kick victory Friday over West Chicago Wheaton Academy at Lincoln-Way North High School.

The Irish won 3-1 in PKs after 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes. Each team scored a one goal in 100 minutes of timed play.

“This point of the season, you take (a victory) any way you can get it,” Notre Dame coach Mike Bare said. “I don’t know if we played to our ability, but (Wheaton Academy) is a nice team, big and physical. They kind of took us out of our style of play.”

Notre Dame (21-2-2) will play Urbana (21-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state championship match. Urbana defeated Arlington Heights St. Viator 2-1 in the second 2A semifinal.

“That’s the goal every year, to play for a state championship,” Bare said. “But I’ll tell you, Justin Buck saving three penalties. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a penalty shootout like that, where the first four balls are saved. Incredible.”

Buck and Wheaton Academy’s Spencer Graf rejected shots all day. Graf was credited with 11 saves and Buck eight, but understandably none were bigger than the penalty kicks.

“We practice PKs in practice all the time,” Buck said. “Today, I just wanted to keep my mind clear and try to pick up any movements to which way (the attacker) is going. It’s just you and the kicker out there.”

Graf started the PK session by stopping ND leadoff kicker Alex Garcia.

“You always want to go first,” Bare said about penalty-kick endings. “You want to get that first one in the net, just to relieve those nerves a little bit. You miss and it, unfortunately, puts more pressure on your goalkeeper.”

Buck didn’t flinch and followed Garcia’s miss by turning back Wheaton Academy’s Grant Stoneman.

Graf kept Ben Fiddes’ attempt out of the net. Buck then stopped the Warriors’ Casey Zimmerman.

Nick Finerty finally got a shot by Graf and Wheaton Academy’s Andrew Luetkehans scored on Buck.

Tommy Frampton converted ND’s second PK from the fourth position and Buck, with a dive to his right, stopped Zeb Lewis.

“Three saves in a PK situation is pretty much unheard of,” Bare said. “And Justin, he was supposed to be our backup this season. We lost a goalkeeper to the Academy system and Justin stepped in, and it is a credit to him on the type of season he had.”

ND’s Drew Whalen scored from the fifth position to send the Irish to the title match for the fourth time in five years.

“That was a dream come true,” Whalen said. “Going up there, I didn’t have any nerves in my stomach … I’ve been thinking about something like this since I was a little kid. I just stare at the keeper the whole time, and whichever he goes I go the opposite.”

Notre Dame started sluggishly. The Irish dodged a bullet when Wheaton Academy’s goal 1:18 into the match was nullified on an offsides call.

“The first half we went against the wind. We picked that,” Bare said. “I didn’t think it would effect us as much as it did.

“The first 15 minutes we were defending our half of the field, but we held them out and went to halftime nil-nil.”

Whalen gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead with his unassisted goal at 50:31. Wheaton Academy tied the match on Casey Zimmerman’s score at 72:07.

“We got the score, and I thought we had the game under control,” Bare said. “Unfortunately, we had a few bobbles and (Wheaton Academy’s shot) got over our goalkeeper’s head.”

Urbana and Notre Dame did not play each other this season, but did have a common opponent in Normal Community. ND defeated the Ironmen 6-2 in its season-opener while Urbana had a midseason 4-1 victory.

“St. Viator is more defensive-minded and would have packed it in,” Bare said. “Urbana is more offense first.”

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Irish boys soccer team earns fifth consecutive trip to 2A state finals

November 6th, 2012
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Morton Goal CelebrationBy JANE MILLER
Peoria Journal Star

LEMONT – Qualifying for the boys state soccer finals is getting to be a habit for Notre Dame.

The Irish will play on the final weekend for the fifth year in a row after a 4-0 win Tuesday night over Chicago Washington at the Lemont High School Sports Complex.

Notre Dame faces West Chicago Wheaton Academy at 11 a.m. Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals at Frankfort Lincoln-Way North High School.

It took Notre Dame (20-2-2) more than 30 minutes to get on the scoreboard, on an unassisted goal by Ben Fiddes with 9:34 left in the half.

“Before we scored, we felt like we had the run of play,” Notre Dame coach Mike Bare said. “We were generating a lot of corners, and we had a lot of set plays, so we were a little disappointed it took us so long to find the net. But I was proud of the fact that once we found the net, we stayed on it and got a second one, which I think ultimately put us on the right track in getting a win tonight.”

Read the full story here.

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Irish blast past the Potters soccer at ND

November 6th, 2012
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Grant InskeepNotre Dame soccer team wins sixth straight sectional with 8-2 result over Morton

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

PEORIA – Some came dressed as ghosts. Others came costumed as clowns, and at least one showed up as a crayon. The Notre Dame boys soccer team came as a tank batallion.

And by showcasing the offensive firepower that has obliterated opposing defenses all season long, the host Irish rolled right along their intended postseason path Friday night with an 8-2 victory over Morton in the Class 2A Notre Dame Sectional championship.

The victory, which netted the program’s sixth sectional title in succession and 15th overall, moves Notre Dame to within one win of a return to the Class 2A state finals.

The next stop in the Irish’s journey will be the Lemont Supersectional, where they will face the winner of Saturday’s New Lenox Sectional match between Burbank St. Laurence and Chicago Washington at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Playing in front of a visibly cold yet partially costumed crowd, the Irish (19-2-2) wasted little time signalling their intentions against a Morton (13-9-3) side it had to rally to defeat (3-1) just a few weeks prior.

And after firing off a few early warning shots, the Irish effectively set the tone for the evening when J.J. Slomba buried a loose ball in the box for the game’s first goal just 4:14 into the match.

Read the full story here.

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