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Full of Firsts

Nov 13, 2012, 9:29 PM EDT

Following a weekend in which Notre Dame’s men’s soccer squad captured the BIG EAST tournament title with wins over two top-10 teams, it would seem as if the luck of the Irish would be all but used up. But Monday proved that they still had plenty in store, as the team was named the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The news came on the heels of Notre Dame (16-3-1) winning its first BIG EAST tournament championship since 2003. The Irish earned a first-round bye and beat Syracuse 4-2 to earn themselves a trip to PPL Park in Chester, Penn., home of the MLS’s Philadelphia Union.

Notre Dame downed Connecticut in the semifinals, 1-0, on a goal by senior midfielder and captain Dillon Powers. In addition to advancing the Irish to a spot in the finals, the victory avenged one of their three regular season losses, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Huskies in Storrs, Conn. midway through the season.

Notre Dame proceeded to conquer Georgetown in the championship game, but not without much drama. With the Irish trailing 2-1 and less than a minute left to play, sophomore midfielder Nick Besler scored on a header to even the score. Senior forward Ryan Finley, who was recently named the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, poked in the game winner off a corner kick in the 109th minute to give the Irish the conference crown.

Notre Dame’s impressive weekend showing proved it worthy of the NCAA tournament’s top overall seed. It will mark the Irish’s 15th appearance in the College Cup; prior to Monday, they had never been ranked higher than No. 5 in the tournament.

The squad has a first round bye and will play either Cleveland State or Michigan State at home on Sunday. The Vikings played their way into the Big Dance by capturing the Horizon League tournament title. The Spartans, whom the Irish defeated 2-0 early in the season, won three straight games in the B1G tournament to capture their conference championship as well.

Indiana is a potential opponent of the Irish should they advance to the third round. Notre Dame topped the Hoosiers, 1-0, in Bloomington at the beginning of the campaign. And further on down the road, No. 8 overall seed Saint Louis and No. 9 North Carolina loom as potential roadblocks to the Irish making it to the College Cup.

Notre Dame will commence its quest for the NCAA Championship on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Alumni Stadium, where the team is a perfect 8-0 on the season.

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