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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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Sectional final has familiar look for ND soccer

October 24th, 2012
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Peoria Notre Dame's Drew Whalen lifts teammate Nick Arnold after Whalen scored a goal during Tuesday's Class 2A soccer sectional semifinal game with Washington. Notre Dame won the game, 4-0.With victories in Class 2A sectional semis, ND will again face Morton for title

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

PEORIA – Over the past two months, the Notre Dame boys soccer team has traveled near and far in search of quality competition.

On Tuesday night at the Class 2A Notre Dame Sectional, the quality came to the Irish. And by flexing their offensive muscle, it didn’t take long for the hosts to send it packing.

Facing one of the area’s top teams in Mid-Illini Conference champion Washington, the Irish showed exactly why they are regarded as one of the state’s best with a convincing 4-0 victory over the Panthers.

Read the full story here.

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PND picked to win Mid-State 6 by PJ Star

August 21st, 2012
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Peoria Notre Dame has once again been picked to win the Mid-State 6 conference by the Peoria Journal Star. PND is going for its 18th straight conference title and 4th state championship this season.

NOTRE DAME (21-6-0, 6-0-0): Expectations remain high for the 2011 Class 2A third-place finishers, who lost the bulk of their defense from last season but are still the undisputed team to beat in the area. With a large and experienced senior class, led by reigning JS POY Alex Garcia (sr.) and striker Drew Whalen (sr.), and an athletic group of players ready to step in at the back, the Irish are eyeing a return to the top of their class in 2012.

The Journal Star also tabbed PND as the “road warriors” referring to this year’s challenging schedule filled with away games.

Another year, another daunting schedule for Notre Dame.

Looking to regain their status as the top team in Class 2A after a third-place finish last fall, the Irish have once again put together the toughest schedule of any team in the area in preparation for their quest.

Unfortunately for their supporters, catching the Irish in action may require a road trip. In fact, out of the 20-plus games listed on the Irish’s 2012 schedule, only seven are slated to be played at PND.

After kicking off their season Wednesday with a home game against Normal Community, the Irish will hit the road for nine games before returning home for a Sept. 17 clash with reigning Class 1A champ Quincy Notre Dame.

Following a quick trip to East Moline and a ride south to compete in the annual Gateway Classic near St. Louis, the Irish will close out the regular season with four of their final games at home, concluded by an Oct. 11th tilt against rival Morton.

ND soccer up for challenge

August 23rd, 2011
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Johnny Frampton

Senior midfielder Johnny Frampton attempts to settle the ball during the annual Shamrock Scrimmage

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

Talk about having a tough act to follow.

Imagine being in a talent show and having to go onstage after Jimi Hendrix or Richard Pryor.

Now imagine having watched their performance firsthand, seeing what kind of standards that the waiting crowd will be holding for you up to once you get onstage.

For some, the task may be too daunting. For others, the opportunity to match or exceed those expectations is too great of a challenge to pass up.

And while its situation has little to do with talent shows, the Notre Dame boys soccer team is faced with a similar challenge this fall.

And if there is any question as to whether or not the Irish are up for the challenge, well, you just haven’t been paying attention.

Coming off of a season in which it went 26-1-0, rolled to its second Class 2A state title in three years and earned a No. 4 national ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the Notre Dame program has been enjoying a level of exposure and notoriety that few prep programs ever experience.

But these are somewhat uncertain times for a program that has established its reputation on being one of the state’s best.

Left with just four returning starters thanks to a graduation that took 68 percent of the team’s scoring, the Irish were left with more questions than answers last spring.

But if there’s any uncertainty surrounding this season, you won’t find it among those within the program.

“Going into this season, one of the things that we told the boys right up front is that even though we’re a young team this year, we still have high expectations,” ND coach Mike Bare said. “So the goal, regardless of what we graduated, is still to win another state championship.”

Coming off a season in which they outscored opponents 129-15, this year’s team won’t have the same potent attack that troubled so many opposing defenses last season.

Instead, the Irish will rely on a deep and talented junior class to help fill the void while leaning on the play of four returning starters for leadership.

But while last year’s team was viewed by many as the area’s best before the matches even began, the perceived uncertainty surrounding this year’s group has given teams a sense of opportunity.

“We had a great preseason, the guys have worked really hard and they know that this year is a big year for us,” Bare said. “They know that maybe some people in the area think it’s their turn to take over our top spot and they want to work extra hard so that that’s not the case.”

Not wanting to give his team a sense that his own expectations may be less for this season, Bare once again loaded up the Irish schedule with a handful of games against nationally ranked opponents.

Basically, the Irish have other ideas for those who think that it might be curtains for their long-running act as one of the state’s premier teams.

“That’s been a motivating factor for us as well, what everybody else thinks of us,” Bare added. “I think the general perception is that we lost so much and that this is the year that Notre Dame takes a step backwards. But what we’ve been preaching is that it’s not a year to take a step backwards, it’s a year to continue to push in the right direction and move forward.

“That’s not easy to do with the class that we graduated, but I think these guys are up for the challenge.”

ND state soccer champs pass down what they’ve learned

June 28th, 2011
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2011 Boys Soccer School

Peoria Notre Dame head boys soccer coach Mike Bare, joined by varsity players from the high school team, reinforce soccer concepts for area players during their soccer camp at the school. Bare, the 2010 Illinois Coach of the Year, stressed hard work as the key to the team’s success.

By KYLE DILLER
Peoria Journal Star

After winning the Class 2A state soccer championship last season, coaches and players at Peoria Notre Dame High School are preparing to compete for that title for years to come.

Monday morning (June 13) was the kickoff for the 2011 Peoria Notre Dame Boys Soccer School. The camp allows third-graders through incoming freshmen to learn from the state champions themselves.

“It’s an opportunity for them to come out and meet the coaches and meet a lot of the current players, to see the way we do things,” said head coach Mike Bare, 30. “To come out and actually play on the field that the varsity team plays on, I think they think that’s pretty neat.”

Bare expects about 95 percent of the campers to attend Peoria Notre Dame. Some are likely to be competing for places on the team within the next few years.

“It’s a good experience being taught by people that know the game really well and are ranked even at the national level,” said Timmy Johnson, 14, an incoming freshman.

The most important focus of this school is not scoring goals, but developing touch.

“The first touch is the most important because that’s the basis for your game,” said senior Brad Lazzari, 17. “It’s important to learn that from a young age.”

The camp is aided by players from last season’s championship team, including Lazzari.

“I remember when I was little, older kids helping me out and showing me stuff,” he said. “I looked up to them and it kind of motivated me, so I like to give back.”

Instilling the right mentality in the campers is also key as they look to the future.

“Every day you come out and give everything you have, because when you get to high school we’re going to expect everything you have every day,” said Bare. “And that’s what makes us a special team, and also the success that we’ve had is because everybody buys into what we’re doing here.”

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Gateway City Classic Preview

September 29th, 2010
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Kevin Whalen

Senior midfielder Kevin Whalen dribbles past a Dunlap defender

The following is an excerpt from the Peoria Journal Star preps daily article.

When the Notre Dame boys soccer team made its first trip to the St. Louis area this season, in early September, it was looking to make its mark on the national scene.

But after a whirlwind 24 hours spent competing against some of the best teams in the country, the Irish left feeling a bit exposed.

Sure, they pulled off what was perhaps the biggest win in program history by defeating then-No. 7 St. Louis Christian Brothers. But a 3-0 loss to perennial power St. Louis Chaminade the next day put a bit of a damper on an otherwise successful trip.

“We put a lot of work in during the summer to get ready for those early tests,” ND coach Mike Bare said. “And I thought we were there. But when we went down to St. Louis I don’t think we played at the level we’re capable of playing. There’s a lot of things that go into playing down there with the speed of play, the speed on the ball, the defensive pressure and the quality of those teams. I think they exposed some things.”

That early wake-up call might have served the Irish well, however. Since that loss, they have gone 9-0 and outscored opponents 41-1.

This weekend, again in the St. Louis area, ND will get another chance to test its mettle against some of the country’s best teams. The Gateway City Classic features 42 teams, including nine ranked in the top 50 nationally, according to ESPN RISE.

ND, ranked 38th nationally, will face Taylor Mill (Ky.) Scott at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Belleville in one of six groups that make up the sixth annual competition.

“Since that loss to Chaminade, we’ve spent a lot of time working on the little things to try and correct them, so that when we go down there this weekend, we’ll be a bit more prepared,” Bare said. “And I think we’re where we need to be.”

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PND Soccer Featured in PJ Star Preps Daily

September 1st, 2010
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The following is an excerpt from the Peoria Journal Star Preps Daily article.

7. That’s the national ranking of the St. Louis Christian Brothers College boys soccer team, according to ESPN RISE.

That also is the number of times the Cadets — who play host Friday night to No. 33 Notre Dame — have won a Missouri state championship.

The match between the two nationally ranked sides, scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. in St. Louis, is one of four highlighted in ESPN RISE’s matches to watch this week.

Last year, the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Notre Dame, with Jeff Cassidy’s 49th minute goal pulling the Irish level on their home turf.

This time, ND coach Mike Bare believes his team is ready to take the next step in the long path toward national prominence.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Irish have a pair of Division I strikers leading the offense, in Vince Cicciarelli (committed to Notre Dame) and Cody Gilfillan (committed to Bradley).

“We want to make our mark nationally. We want to be in the top 25,” said Bare, whose team will face perennial power St. Louis Chaminade — the 2001 national champions — at noon Saturday.

“We’ve talked about getting over that hurdle and beating these types of teams,” Bare said. “We know it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge we want and I know they’re ready for it.”

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