NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It was a heavyweight fight with both teams exchanging blows and No. 3 Notre Dame came out with the 4-2 victory over No. 14 Wake Forest in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship Round of 16 Sunday evening at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (14-1-6) will play host to Michigan State at 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday in the tournament's quarterfinal round. The Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans, 2-0, Nov. 5 in East Lansing, Mich.
Wake Forest (10-6-5) struck first when Michael Gamble took a cross from Sean Okoli and scored from close range in the 12th minute. The Fighting Irish responded less than two minutes later as a short corner kick was played to Patrick Hodan, who dribbled his way into the penalty box and drilled home a low-angle shot for his eighth tally of the season. Hodan, a sophomore midfielder, has scored a goal in each of the last four games.
Gamble threatened again for Wake Forest in the 15th minute when he placed a shot just wide left from 24 yards away. Notre Dame claimed a 2-1 lead in the 42nd minute when Evan Panken worked his way near the left end line and struck a cross that was deflected in by Demon Deacon defender Tolani Ibikunle for an own goal. The Irish led 2-1 at halftime.
"My associate head coach BJ Craig summed it up that this really was like a final four game," Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. "It was two really good teams and a quality game. It was like a professional game with the speed and the pace. It takes two teams to do that. It was one of the best college games I've seen. It was a very clean game and very well played. Obviously we came out on the right side of it, but it could have gone either way."
Notre Dame junior forward Vince Cicciarelli had two attempts negated in the opening stages of the second half, while Okoli and Gamble nearly hooked up again in the 53rd minute but the shot went just wide of the far post. The next solid Irish chance came off the foot of Hodan as he blasted a shot on frame that was knocked around in front of the goal line before Wake Forest goalkeeper Andrew Harris pounced on the ball.
The Demon Deacons produced the equalizer in the 62nd minute when Ibikunle headed in a corner kick from Gamble. Wake Forest continued to mount an attack and Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall made two saves in the 64th minute to keep the score level.
It then was Notre Dame's turn to up the offensive pressure and it paid off in the 70th minute. The scoring sequence began when an Irish corner kick was batted around and finally cleared out to central defender Andrew O'Malley, who gathered the ball and found Panken on the left side of the pitch and the sophomore midfielder deposited the ball to make it 3-2 in favor of the Irish.
Notre Dame's fourth tally came in the 74th minute as left back Max Lachowecki played a cross to Harrison Shipp and the senior forward knew exactly what to do with it as he registered his team-leading 12th goal of the season. Shipp currently has a seven-game point streak, which matches a career-best mark that he achieved earlier this season.
The four goals from the Fighting Irish matched a program record for an NCAA tournament contest. The Irish also tallied four in last Sunday's 4-0 win against Wisconsin in the second round and they netted four in a 4-1 second-round win over Milwaukee in 2003.
Wake Forest held the edge in shots (14-9) and corner kicks (7-3). Wall made four saves for the Fighting Irish, while Harris had three stops for the Demon Deacons.
"Today was definitely one of our better games of the season," Panken said. "But there were periods where we lost it a little bit so we can definitely get better. The sky's the limit for this team and we're just getting ready for next week because we know it'll be a battle again."
Notre Dame will be making the third NCAA quarterfinal appearance in program history. The Irish fell in the quarterfinal round of the 2006 and 2007 tournaments. Saturday will mark the first time the Fighting Irish have hosted a quarterfinal match of the NCAA Championship.
NCAA Championship Round of 16
December 1, 2013
Alumni Stadium Notre Dame, Ind.