Another year, another run for an IHSA Class AA championship by Notre Dame and its record-setting head coach Mike Bare.
The 21-1-3 Irish have assured themselves of a ninth state trophy under Bare, who is in his 17th season at the Peoria school and owns a 329-68-27 record. They'll try to advance to the title match for the eighth time and win their fifth title under the coach, who owns several IHSA postseason records for Class A.
Notre Dame begins its quest for another championship when it meets St. Laurence in a 3 p.m. semifinal match on Friday in the Class AA semifinals at Hoffman Estates High School.
The Irish have qualified for the Finals for the 17th time and will claim their 15th state trophy, which are both IHSA records, surpassing the accomplishments set by Granite City. Their five championships rank second to Granite City, as do their nine trips to the title match.
Notre Dame won its fourth championship under Bare last season when it defeated Solorio 4-2 in the semifinals before beating Glenwood 3-1 in the title match. That state crown added to Class AA wins in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and championship game appearances in 2009, 2015 and 2018.
Peter Nash led the Irish to their first title in 2004 in Class A.
Bare owns IHSA Class AA records for most state appearances (nine), titles (four) and matches won (12).
Notre Dame earned its spot in the Final Four with a 1-0 victory over Brother Rice in the Lewis University Supersectional, which was played in wintry conditions in Romeoville on Tuesday.
The lone goal in the match came in the 53rd minute when junior forward Kayden Hudson, an IHSSCA All-State selection, scored his 40th goal on a rebound. Hudson, who also has 14 assists, has 15 more goals than the next-best goal-scorer who's competing in the Class AA Finals, Crystal Lake South junior forward Ali Ahmed.
The Irish won their 23rd sectional title, and their 14th under Bare, to advance to the supersectional. They opened the Richwoods Sectional with a 9-0 win over Township and then claimed a 2-1 victory over Dunlap in the championship match.
The Irish are unbeaten in their last 17 matches, during which time they've gone 14-0-3. They're unbeaten against Illinois competition, going 2-1-1 against teams from other states. Their lone defeat came on Sept. 8 when they fell 7-3 to Christian Brothers College High School of St. Louis.
In their 14-0-2 run from Sept. 12 to the present against Illinois teams, their lone draws were to Normal West and Elgin. They've won their last 10 matches, outscoring opponents by a 49-5 margin, which includes a 25-3 scoring advantage in their five playoff matches.
Other top Irish scorers are junior midfielder Thatcher Hogan, who has 19 goals and 16 assists; junior forward Sebastian Salazar, who has 10 goals and eight assists; and junior midfielder Maximillian Matarelli, another All-State selection, who had eight goals and nine assists before suffering a season-ending injury.
Additional Irish who have contributed in scoring are sophomore forward Declan Schuler (6 goals, 11 assists), junior midfielder Teddy LaHood (6 goals, 6 assists), junior forward Julian Corona (3 goals), senior defender Nathan Oliver (3 goals) and senior defender Fabi Arellano (6 assists).
Senior goalkeeper Theodore Dimler, an All-Sectionselection, has an 0.70 GAA in 23 matches. He's supported along the backline by senior defender Thomas Graham, another IHSSCA All-Stater.
The Irish team captains are Dimler and Matarelli. Bare is assisted by Danny Driscoll, Danny Burk, Noel Zerbonia and Mark Streid.
Other IHSSCA sectional recipients were senior defender Patrick O'Donnell, who received the Sportsmanship Award and senior defender Nathan Oliver, a recipient of the All-Academic award.
"We have been fortunate to make several trips to the state finals over the years, but it never gets old and it never gets any easier," Bare said. "I'm happy with how our team has come together after losing Max Matarelli late in the season with a broken tibia and how our younger and less-experienced players have stepped up.
“On top of that, we had to deal with a snow-covered field and 20-degree temps to get back to the state tournament. We are thankful to be back at state and will not take this trip for granted. The boys are excited for the opportunity to be the first PND team to repeat as state champions.”