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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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Notre Dame soccer captures third at state

November 8th, 2011
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2011 State Team

Lazzari PenaltyBy JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

FRANKFORT – With the Class 2A state championship trophy no longer available, Notre Dame had to settle for a smaller model Saturday.

But in order to settle, the Irish had to fight.

Facing an equally hungry Aurora Marmion side in the 2A third-place match at Lincoln Way-North High School in Frankfort, Notre Dame turned in a stellar defensive effort before edging the Cadets, 4-2 in penalty kicks, to claim the program’s third third-place trophy in 12 trips to the state tournament.

“We said that 10 years down the road, you’re gonna remember whether you got third or fourth,” ND coach Mike Bare said. “It’s nice to go out in your last game with a win.”

While the Irish (21-6-0) ultimately fell short in their quest for a second-straight state title, the victory did provide them some consolation as it allowed the team’s five seniors to end their prep careers on a high note.

And fittingly, it was a senior who sealed the victory for the Irish. With ND leading 3-2 in the shootout and one round left to go, senior defender Brad Lazzari stepped up to the spot, took a deep breath and did what comes naturally.

“I knew if I scored we won and if I missed it would go on,” Lazzari said. “So I just went up, relaxed, tried to put it out of my mind and just thought about where I was going to place it.”

With every set of eyes in the stadium focused on Lazzari, the senior struck a low ball that buzzed past Marmion goalkeeper Brad White and into the back corner of the net for the decisive goal.

“I got the job done,” Lazzari said. “I put it exactly where I wanted it.”

While Lazzari’s heroics capped what was a tightly-contested consolation game, his moment in the sun likely wouldn’t have come had it not been for the efforts of the ND defense and goalkeeper Mitch Auer.

With the wind at their back and the potent Mike Frasca leading the charge, the Cadets (19-8-3) went on the attack early to put the Irish on their heels.

Utilizing their speed on the outside, the Cadets managed to generate a few dangerous chances in the box but could not find their way past the 6-foot-3 Auer, who made three crucial saves in regulation and one in the shootout.

Perhaps the Cadets’ best chance came with 17:20 to play in the first half when Frasca, who had scored 42 goals on the season coming in, struck a header off the crossbar. Frasca nearly scored minutes later but sent his open volley from short range harmlessly over the goal.

“We didn’t have our best game yesterday. Today, I thought we played with tremendous heart,” said Marmion coach Kevin O’Connor, who retired as Cadets coach after 16 years at the helm following the loss. “As a coach you can only ask your players to leave it all on the field.

“Notre Dame is a great team with a storied history. We created a lot of great chances and we should be proud.”

The Irish managed to settle things down by the end of the half and after the break had the run of play against the Cadets.

But like Marmion, ND had difficulty finishing in the box and failed to score despite putting 11 shots on goal.

“That’s kind of been our problem this year,” Bare said. “We’ve just had a hard time putting the ball away. We’ve had games where we come out and every shot we’re taking is going in, and we’ve had games where we go out and create chances but nothing goes in the net.

“Credit to them, they were a difficult team to break down. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find a goal in regulation.”

Despite ND controlling play after the break, Marmion was able to conjure up a late run of offense and likely would have scored had it not been for Auer, whose diving attempt on a goal-bound strike by Frasca with 1:40 to play helped keep the game level.

Semifinal Story: Mather too fast for ND

Click here to view all of the 2011 season articles.

Irish bring home the gold in boys soccer

November 7th, 2010
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2010 State Championship Team

Goal CelebrationNotre Dame romps Norridge Ridgewood to win state title, 8-0

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

If there were any questions regarding Notre Dame’s status as one of the top boys soccer teams in the nation, the Irish erased them Saturday in the Class 2A state championship.

Considered the favorite to regain the title they won two years ago, they proved their worth with an 8-0 drubbing of Norridge Ridgewood to claim their third state title, in a record-setting final at North Central College.

Led by seniors Vince Cicciarelli and Cody Gilfillan, who each scored twice, Notre Dame received goals from five players in its 24th consecutive victory.

ND also set records for largest margin of victory and most goals in a state championship match. Springfield had held both records after beating Westchester St. Joseph, 7-0, in the 1997 Class A final.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Second place is still pretty good

November 16th, 2009

2009 State Runner-Up Team

By Tom Batters | Peoria Times-Observer

NAPERVILLE — Peoria Notre Dame, the defending Class 2A soccer champions, lost to Arlington Heights St. Viator, 1-0, Saturday in the championship game, ending up with a second-place trophy instead of another title, which these players and coaches coveted since the start of the season.

But, this was not a “let-down” or a “disappointment,” as I have heard some people suggest.

I realize that the Notre Dame players and coaches were not satisfied with second place, and they are probably still aching over the loss to St. Viator, but second in the state is still quite an accomplishment, especially for a team that returned just three seniors from a year ago.

In fact, you could say that the Irish over-achieved this season. They certainly did not under-achieve.

Be honest. How many of you thought they would even make it back to the championship game?

They lost their entire back line, and a few of their trusted goal scorers, including Dominic Bonello, who was the heart and soul of last year’s state championship team.
So, Notre Dame fans, instead of shaking your heads and saying, “too bad they couldn’t win that last one,” you should congratulate coach Mike Bare and his players for making another trip to the state finals.

This may sound a bit “rah-rah” for some tastes. I am not trying to be a cheerleader, though. I’m just trying to emphasize this important point: It is very difficult to win a state soccer championship. Notre Dame deserves a lot of credit for making it to the final game two years in a row.

Not many other schools have done that.

Click here to read the complete article.

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Early score all St. Viator needs to deny Notre Dame another state title

November 9th, 2009
Vince Cicciarelli

Notre Dame’s Vince Cicciarelli reacts as Arlington Heights St. Viator players celebrate their 1-0 Class 2A title win over the Irish at Naperville on Saturday during the IHSA State Soccer Finals.

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

Related: Notre Dame doesn’t get a title in soccer or cross country, but has plenty to celebrate

NAPERVILLE — This wasn’t the way Michael Schrader envisioned his high school soccer career ending.

Coming into his final season at Notre Dame, the senior co-captain and his teammates had their sights set on repeating as Class 2A state champions.

Fueled by a desire to defend their state title, the Irish rolled through the regular season and postseason focused on bringing home the program’s third championship trophy.

But as Schrader and his team learned Saturday, sometimes things don’t always go as planned.

Facing an Arlington Heights St. Viator side gunning for its second state championship, Notre Dame came up just short in its title defense. Benefitting from an early goal, the Lions used a determined defensive effort to end the Irish’s reign, 1-0 at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

“It’s tough,” Schrader said. “We had a good season, but coming out here in the state championship and losing 1-0, that’s hard.”

The runner-up finish is the second for Notre Dame (23-3-1), which lost to Lisle Benet 2-1 in triple overtime in the 2001 Class A final.

The loss at North Central College also snaps at 36 matches ND’s win streak against Illinois-based teams. The last team from Illinois to beat ND was St. Viator, which won 2-1 in four overtimes on Oct. 3, 2008.

“It’s hard to take in, because I didn’t want to think of this being my last game as a senior,” Schrader said. “I thought that maybe winning a state championship will make all of that sadness, if you will, go away. But it’s hard when you lose your last game.

“It’s a tough way to go out.”

Click here to read the complete article.

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ND makes Freeport pay

November 9th, 2009
Cody Gilfillan

Notre Dame’s Matthew Buck (17) gives teammate Cody Gilfillan (21) a hand after Gilfillan scored the Irish’s first goal of the half in Friday’s Class 2A semi-final game with Freeport at Naperville during the IHSA State Soccer Finals.

Defending state champions score early, often as they advance to Class 2A boys soccer title match

By JOSH WESSLER
Peoria Journal Star

Related: Will ‘Mikey,’ ND get Viator again?

NAPERVILLE — What once was a house of heartbreak has become a home away from home for the Notre Dame boys soccer team.

And the Irish made themselves right at home Friday.

Picking up where they left off a year ago, the defending Class 2A state champions returned to Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in dominant fashion against a Freeport side in its state debut.

Facing a defense that had allowed only 13 goals this season, Notre Dame flexed its offensive muscle early and often in rolling to a 6-0 victory in the first of two 2A state semifinals at North Central College.

Notre Dame (23-2-1) will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the title match, against Arlington Heights St. Viator. The Lions defeated Troy Triad 5-0 in the other semi to reach a state final for the third time.

Led by a pair of two-goal efforts by juniors Cody Gilfillan and Vince Cicciarelli, the Irish controlled the match throughout in their seventh consecutive victory at Benedetti-Wehrli.

“That was probably our best game of the year,” ND coach Mike Bare said. “Just a consistent 80 minutes. At times this year, we’ve played 40 minutes. Late in the year when you’re playing quality teams, it’s got to be a consistant 80. And we did that today.”

Click here to read the complete article.

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2008 State Finals HOI Rewind

April 18th, 2009

Relive Peoria Notre Dame’s 2008 IHSA State Finals weekend courtesy of HOI News and Jim Mattson.


2008 PND Soccer State Finals from Mike Bare on Vimeo.

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