Nov. 22, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Senior Rafael Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) scored a pair of goals to vault Notre Dame to a 3-1 victory over Akron on Friday night at Alumni Field in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship. The win was the first for the Irish in the NCAA tournament since 1996 and the second in six all-time appearances. Notre Dame (12-5-3) will next travel to Bloomington, Ind. on Wednesday to face #5/#4 Indiana at 7:00 p.m. in a second-round matchup.
Garcia, who had just two goals in the regular season and four in his career coming into the game, got the Irish on the board in the 15th minute when Greg Martin (Plano, Texas) sent a cross from the left corner into the box and his teammate headed it into the ground and through the legs of Akron goalkeeper Dan Pinho. It marked the seventh time this season Notre Dame lit up the scoreboard in the first 25 minutes of play. The Irish senior also provided what would prove to be the deciding score when he slipped a long shot in transition past Pinho into the lower left corner of the goal in the 69th minute to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead.
Notre Dame, which took the regular-season meeting between the teams with a 1-0 road victory after failing to win in any of the previous eight games against the Zips, put up three goals after netting only two in six previous NCAA tournament games. The Irish now have won eight of their last 10 games this season.
Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark, who has led the Irish to the NCAA tournament in each of his two seasons at the school, has now coached three different schools to wins in the NCAAs. Clark took Dartmouth to the national quarterfinals on two occasions and duplicated the feat at Stanford, while also finshing as the NCAA runner-up with the Cardinal in 1998.
Ross McKenzie scored the Zips' lone goal to even the game at 1-1 in the 31st minute, taking a pass from Alex Odwell into the box and firing it into the top left corner. It was McKenzie's fifth goal of the season.
Senior Erich Braun (Frankfurt, Germany), the first player in school history to earn first-team all-BIG EAST honors twice in his career, tallied the final score in the 81st minute, chipping the ball over Pinho's head from 45 yards on a breakaway. The goal was Braun's 11th of the season and 36th of his career, which places him in a tie for sixth place in school history.
Both goalies were challenged on numerous occasions and both Pinho and sophomore Irish keeper Chris Sawyer (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) responded with some spectacular saves throughout the evening. Pinho finished with 10 stops, while Sawyer had six.
The Irish outshot the Zips 17-11 and registered 11 of the 13 corner kicks taken in the contest.
Irish junior Justin Detter (White Lake, Mich.), a second-team all-BIG EAST selection, had a pair of assists on the evening, setting up both of Notre Dame's second-half goals. Meanwhile, junior Chad Riley (Houston, Texas) notched his 12th assist of the season, marking the highest total for a Notre Dame player in one campaign since Randy Morris had 12 assists in 1988. Riley's 24 career assists slot him fourth on the all-time Irish list.
Notre Dame was 8-2-1 this season at Alumni Field and is 15-3-1 at home in the Clark era. Friday marked the first time that Alumni Field was the site of an NCAA men's soccer tournament game.
Notre Dame and Indiana will be meeting for the 22nd time with the Hoosiers leading the series 18-2-1. The Irish won the last time the schools matched up, a 1-0 decision in Bloomington a year ago, marking the first Notre Dame road win in 11 all-time games. Indiana, which had a first-round bye in this year's championship, was the NCAA runner-up a year ago. The Hoosiers and Irish also matched up in the 1994 NCAA tournament with top-ranked Indiana claiming a 1-0 overtime decision on its way to the NCAA championship match.
GAME STATISTICS: Shots: Notre Dame 17, Akron 11; Saves: Notre Dame 6 (Chris Sawyer - 6), Akron 10 (Dan Pinho - 10); Fouls: Notre Dame 11, Akron 12; Corner Kicks: Notre Dame 11, Akron 2