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Men’s Soccer: Starting off on the right foot

Justin Schuver | Friday, September 5, 2003

Despite a calm forecast Saturday, the Irish still have a Storm to weather.

In what might be the most-hyped game of the season, No. 4 Notre Dame (1-0-1, 0-0-0 Big East) faces No. 13 St. John’s (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Big East) at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Field Saturday night – a battle between the two highest ranked Big East teams.

The Notre Dame-St. John’s rivalry is one that has resulted in three consecutive 1-0 scores over the last three meetings, with the Irish winning once – in 2000 – and the Red Storm taking the 2001 and 2002 matches.

The two teams are considered the forerunners to take the 2003 Big East conference title, if a recent poll of Big East coaches is to be believed. The conference preseason poll was released earlier this month, with Notre Dame finishing behind St. John’s.

Regardless of the hype surrounding the game, Irish coach Bobby Clark maintains that his team is looking at the matchup like any other game.

“In this league, you can lose anywhere, anytime,” he said. “It’s a very tough league, and even though this is a big game and an important game, it’s no less important than any of the other games.”

St. John’s is 0-2 to start the season after falling 2-1 to North Carolina and 3-1 to Wake Forest in the Wake Forest Classic.

The Irish, meanwhile, tied Alabama-Birmingham 0-0 in the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic and defeated California 2-1 in double OT.

Senior forward Devon Prescod has been fantastic so far for the Irish, scoring both goals in the California game and taking advantage of a healthy start to this season. Last year, Prescod was injured for a good portion of the season, forcing his forward partner Justin Detter to move to midfielder.

This year, Detter and Prescod have reunited on the front offensive line to provide a powerful goal-scoring tandem for the Irish.

“The nice thing about Devon and Justin is that they’re a good tandem up front,” Clark said. “I think every game they’re getting more attuned with each other.”

Prescod and the rest of the Irish offense have a formidable opponent in the Red Storm defense. Red Storm defender Chris Wingert was named preseason Big East Defender of the Year.

Wingert also chipped in offensively last year, scoring three goals and dishing out two assists in 21 games played.

The Red Storm retains their top two scorers from a year ago in junior midfielder Andre Schmid, who collected 16 points in 2002, and junior midfielder Chris Corcoran who had 15 points.

Despite the fact that the match will take place shortly after the opening game of the football season, Clark isn’t worried about any possible distraction to his team’s focus. At the same time, it is a perfect setup for a positive home field atmosphere.

“I think that this is a big game for us, and it would be nice to get a great atmosphere,” he said. “We’d like to have a lively, loud environment. We had a great crowd at the Michigan scrimmage, and we’d love to see a lot of those guys come back and watch us Saturday.”

While he tries to downplay any extra significance for this weekend’s game, Clark still realizes that this contest is a tremendous opportunity for the Irish to impress.

“I think this is a good opportunity to show people that we’re a good side,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to send a message out that we’re one of the best teams in the nation.

“Hopefully, we’ll take advantage of that opportunity.”