One of the most talented, yet humble, student-athletes at Saint Ignatius will play for the Fighting Irish in 2020.
Matthew McLaughlin, a bright young star for the Soccer Cats, has accepted an offer to the University of Notre Dame.
The Wildcats' junior midfielders announced his decision on Sunday evening. His commitment fulfills a lifelong dream.
"It's one of the best schools in the country and one of the best soccer programs in the country," McLaughlin said. "They made it to the Elite 8 this year. As an Irish-Catholic kid from the Midwest, you're always a big Notre Dame fan. It's always been a dream."
The eldest son of Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin, Matthew has enjoyed a remarkable three-year career with the Wildcats so far. Wildcats fans have thoroughly enjoyed watching Matthew work his magic on the pitch.
McLaughlin led the team in scoring in 2018 amidst a strong campaign for the Soccer Cats. McLaughlin topped the squad with 16 goals and 17 assists for a total of 49 points this past season. The Broadview Heights native was an ironman, too, starting all 22 games and playing 1,447 minutes.
McLaughlin's career stats are eye-popping. The young prospect has 33 goals and 33 assists, totaling 105 points. In three seasons, McLaughlin has started 54 games and appeared in 65 overall, appearing on the pitch for 3,801 minutes.
Matthew's performance on the pitch has earned him a wide range of accolades. McLaughlin earned first-team All-Greater Cleveland and All-Ohio. In December, McLaughlin and fellow star Kyle Folds were tabbed as Allstate All-Americans, two of the top 125 high school soccer players in the country.
As such, a number of powerhouse programs pursued McLaughlin. A who's who of universities called upon McLaughlin, but Notre Dame always stood out above the rest. The prestigious school in South Bend has always tugged at his heartstrings.
"The first time I stepped on campus, I was a freshman [at Ignatius]. I thought, 'This is where I want to be,'" McLaughlin recalled. "I've been there a couple times since, and I get the same feeling every time."
Besides its world-class education and beautiful campus, Notre Dame has an excellent soccer program. Guided by their well-respected coach Chad Riley, the Fighting Irish advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals this season, rolling to a 11-7-3 record.
"I'm proud that he's worked hard enough to even attend the University of Notre Dame," Mike McLaughlin said of Matthew. "To be able to play soccer there is a bonus. We've had lots of wonderful young men move on from our program into the college ranks. It's amazing to put him in that group of kids who've moved onto the next level.
"It's an amazing opportunity to grow and develop as a young man. To learn in the classroom, to be around the soccer coaches who are great coaches and great men, and to compete at a high level of Division I soccer is an amazing opportunity."
As McLaughlin alluded to, Justin Morrow '06 starred at Notre Dame. Since graduating, Morrow has before becoming a world-class pro in the MLS, now in his 10th season in the league. Morrow is now preparing for the 2019 season with Toronto FC.
As an added bonus for Matthew, Notre Dame's style of play matches his own.
"Notre Dame is in the ACC, and the ACC is one of the most technical conferences to play in. That suits my game well," Matthew said. "I like to keep the ball on the ground and play soccer instead of making it a track meet. That's how Notre Dame likes to play."
Beyond soccer, Matthew is excited to continue challenging himself academically. The smart student currently holds a 4.1 GPA at Saint Ignatius.
Matthew is also looking forward to the chance to keep growing in his faith. One of the premier Catholic schools in the country, Notre Dame will offer plenty of chances for Matthew's faith life to blossom.
"When I got to Ignatius, I started getting more involved in my faith. Notre Dame is the great next step in my path," Matthew said. "It's similar to Saint Ignatius. It has a similar family feel, just like Ignatius."
Part of being Catholic is being grateful for what God has given. In Matthew's case, he's thankful for everyone who has helped him reach his lifelong goal.
"I want to thank my parents – my dad for coaching and helping me get these opportunities," said Matthew. "I want to thank my teammates out on Wasmer Field for helping me to look better, as I hope to make them better. And thank you to my teachers – if I didn't have the grades I do, I wouldn't be able to get into Notre Dame."
On behalf of Saint Ignatius athletics, Congratulations, Matthew!