Hodan helps Fighting Irish reach College Cup final...

CHESTER, Pa. - The University of Notre Dame men's soccer team now is just one step away from winning the program's first national title. A two-goal performance from sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan propelled No. 3 Notre Dame past No. 7 New Mexico 2-0 on Friday evening in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship at PPL Park.

Notre Dame will face No. 5 Maryland, who topped Virginia 2-1 in the second semifinal, on Sunday in the national title game. The match is slated for 3 p.m. (ET) at PPL Park and it will be broadcast on ESPNU and WatchESPN. The Fighting Irish and Terrapins played to a 1-1 draw on Oct. 8 at Notre Dame. Both squads shared this season's ACC regular-season title.

It didn't take the Fighting Irish (16-1-6) long to score in their College Cup debut as Hodan found the back of the net in the seventh minute. Senior forward Harrison Shipp, a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist, set up the score as he played the ball to Hodan and he took a couple dribbles and buried it into the lower left side from 16 yards out. Hodan has scored a goal in each of the last six games and it was the first goal allowed by New Mexico in the NCAA tournament.

"It's obviously great to get ahead from the start," Hodan said. "It gave us a little cushion and gave us some confidence during the game. We've been doing well on the offensive end in these NCAA (tournament) games. We've moved the ball well, and everyone's finding the open guy."

New Mexico (14-6-2) threatened in the 10th minute when Niko Hansen placed the ball on frame and Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall was there for the save. Wall, a senior, had five saves on the night, including four in the first half, to notch his 10th shutout of the season.

In the 17th minute, Irish forward Vince Cicciarelli received a long pass from central defender Grant Van De Casteele and maneuvered against a Lobo defender in the box before placing a shot into the side netting. Shipp, who had four shots in the opening half, had a 21-yard attempt saved in the 40th minute. Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

"We're obviously delighted to have one more game in the season," Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. "I think they call it dancing in December - it's good, it's fun. It was a very hard game. I think it was important that we got the first goal. I think that put us in a position where we controlled the tempo and controlled the game a little bit. I thought we did that fairly well."

The first good attempt for either team in the second half came in the 64th minute as New Mexico's Christopher Wehan sent a shot wide of the far post from 25 yards away.

Seconds later, Notre Dame made the most of its first scoring opportunity of the stanza when Shipp played the ball to Cicciarelli and he had a flick-shot hit the cross bar and Hodan headed home the rebound from seven yards out. Cicciarelli was credited with an assist on the goal. Tonight was the second career multiple-goal game for Hodan and his first of the season.

Cicciarelli nearly gave the Irish a three-goal advantage in the 68th minute but his low blast from inside the penalty box was saved by Lobo goalkeeper Michael Lisch. Cicciarelli threatened again with just over 10 minutes left in regulation but Lisch was there to make his third and final save of the night.

Notre Dame held an 11-10 edge in shots, while New Mexico had a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks.

"It's my second one (national title game)," Clark said. "I was here with Stanford, and I hope this team can do a better job because we lost the final. I think it'll be very nice to take the title home, but it's not going to be easy. Whichever team we play, we haven't beaten. UVA, we lost and tied in the season and we tied Maryland in the season. Whichever team wins out in this game, we know it's going to be a very hard game."

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