Marian is first and foremost for ND soccer
PEORIA – Notre Dame boys soccer coach Peter Nash knows the best team doesn’t always win the state championship.
But when the Irish play Woodstock Marian at 5:30 p.m. today in a Class A state soccer quarterfinal at North Central College in Naperville, he doesn’t expect ND to overlook its opponent – even if Marian is making its first trip to state.
“(Assistant coach Matt Blackford) and I will continue to remind the team that it’s one game at a time,” Nash said. “But we have been upset in the last two or three years and we know not to look past someone. Whether it’s the breaks or whatever, sometimes the best team doesn’t always win.”
In Marian, the Irish face a team Nash compared to Morton.
“They’re physical and they play hard,” he said. “(Marian) is a physical direct team. They’re very aggressive, hard-nosed and tenacious. Those were adjectives used to describe them.
“And they have some guys that can put the ball in the net.”
Namely junior midfielder Zack Lambo, who scored his 18th of the year off a free kick in the second overtime of the Burlington Sectional to oust Wauconda 2-1.
El-Darazi who? Irish goalkeeper Al El-Darazi had as much pressure as anyone to help get ND back to state.
But that’s what happens when a keeper follows a Journal Star Player of the Year who posted 67 career shutouts.
For three years, El-Darazi was in the shadow of Jeff Engelbrecht, a four-year starter. He got a full-time chance this year and has posted a .52 goals-against average in 23 matches.
“Everyone says, ‘Who’s El-Darazi or who’s Al?’ because he hasn’t been able to show everyone at the high school level until this year because (Engelbrecht) was in front of him,” ND senior forward Nick Mentgen said. “I know him from our club team and I know he can come up with big games. I trust him back there.”
For El-Darazi, it feels good to be the starting goalkeeper going to state, even if it means added pressure.
“It feels more like it’s me doing something,” El-Darazi said. “I felt a lot of (pressure), mainly the part of getting back to state. I didn’t want to be the first goalie to not get back to state in six years and not follow up on what we’ve done in the past. That was the biggest pressure.”
Where’s state? Irish freshman forward Patrick Masso went to state last year as a fan and watched the Irish finish third.
Masso assured ND a trip back to Naperville on Tuesday when he scored in double overtime to beat Dunlap 1-0 in the Morton Sectional title match.
“I went up there last year and watched these guys,” Masso said. “I said I wanted to do that one day.
“I guess that’s where I’m going.”
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