By Bob Narang

Prep Sports Report –

Notre Dame (Niles) senior midfielder Michael Shanahan is motivated for a ground-breaking season.

After missing an opportunity to compete in the state playoffs due to COVID-19, Shanahan cherishes the opportunity to make a run for a state championship this fall.

Two years ago, Shanahan played a pivotal role in the Dons’ best season in program history. Competing in Class 2A, the Dons won the program’s first regional and sectional titles.

“That playoff run was unbelievable,” Shanahan said. “It made the other teams take notice of us. We will all remember that for a long time, celebrating with classmates and former players. It was all really special.”

Winning their first six games this season, the Dons have built off that successful playoff run and raised the bar for the program. The Dons, who lost to Crystal Lake South in a 2019 2A supersectional, are motivated to open eyes in the 19th Annual Showdown Series presented by PepsiCo at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.

Notre Dame, which opens against Oak Forest and will face either Joliet West or Pritzker (Chicago) in the second round, returns 21 of their 24 players from the spring season – including sophomore standouts, Freddy Krug, Martin Krug and Ryan Shanahan.

“We had our best finish ever in the East Suburban Catholic behind Benet (Lisle),” coach Michael Smith said. “We’re hoping for some big wins in conference and when postseason hits, we want to make a good run in November.

“We have a lot of guys back from that 2019 roster, so they’ve had time to mature and hopefully get over that hump. Having that experience is huge for this group. This year, we aren’t flying under the radar. Every team is going to come at us with their best.”

Besides their winning streak to start the season, the Dons are adding another milestone to their growing program: Competing in the PepsiCo Showdown for the first time.

“The PepsiCo tournament is a great event,” Shanahan said. “We will get to compete against some great teams that we normally wouldn’t get to get play. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and some high-quality soccer. All of the off-the-field community involvement from the tournament makes it even more special.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 26 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.