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Mens Soccer: Huskies tamed in Irish win

Pat Leonard | Monday, November 10, 2003

For the few students and fans who braved the cold, they got to see the Irish play perhaps their most complete game of the season as they knocked off No. 6 seed Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the Big East Championship by a score of 2-0 at Alumni Field Sunday.

The fans, who bundled up to stand the near-freezing temperatures, had a lot to cheer about at the end of the game as the Irish advanced to face Providence in the semifinals Friday in Storrs, Conn. Senior forwards Justin Detter and Devon Prescod scored the goals.

“Yeah, I guess you could probably say it was the best game we played all year,” said captain Greg Martin, who assisted on both goals. “I think what we did was just put the whole package together.”

After a slightly sloppy first 10 minutes or so, the Irish dominated play for the rest of the game, outshooting the visiting Huskies 15-8 and earning 11 corner kicks to just one for Connecticut.

Notre Dame also did a good job on defense, holding Connecticut’s leading scorer Steve Sealy to just two shots on goal. One reason for Notre Dame’s dominance was an aggressive defensive scheme where the forwards would come up to pressure the Connecticut defensemen as they were trying to clear the ball, often resulting in positive turnovers for the Irish offense.

“We wanted to play the game in their half, not in our half,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “To do that, you have to establish pressure, and to do that we had to bring up the forwards and midfielders.

“It’s not just them, though. The whole team presses together, and I think we did a good job of that.”

Lackadaisical effort on defense led to a dangerous opportunity for Connecticut about 20 minutes into the game. Sealy managed to sneak past the Irish defense and come in one-on-one against goalkeeper Chris Sawyer.

With an Irish defenseman closing from behind, Sealy tried to lob his shot over the diving Sawyer, but he missed it well over the cross bar. Sealy also sent a header wide right of the goal with less than five minutes remaining in the first half.

Neither team mounted many offensive chances in the first, as they went into halftime tied 0-0 and with the Irish holding a 6-4 advantage in shots. Notre Dame was unable to capitalize on a 7-0 lead in corner kicks in the mark.

“We could’ve probably done better there,” Clark said. “I thought we could have done a better job with the corner kicks.”

The Irish came out in the second half and appeared the more dominant team from the start. In the 63rd minute, Notre Dame finally broke the scoreless tie.

Defender Kevin Goldthwaite took a hard shot from the left sideline which Connecticut goalkeeper Adam Schuerman stopped. He could not control the rebound however, and Martin sent a short pass to Prescod, who drilled it in the back of the net.

Martin would help the Irish score a big insurance goal 14 minutes later.

The senior midfielder sent in a high arching cross from the right side, and Detter managed to time his run to the left post perfectly, catching the cross with a header that beat Schuerman.

“We call [Justin] the ‘lighthouse’ because he has a huge wide head,” Martin joked. “We tell him whenever the ball’s on the wing to get into the box. I don’t typically play out on the wing, but I found myself out there several times.

“I had my head up and saw him running toward the post, and I knew if I could float it over the first defender he could clearly beat the goalie.”

Schuerman made three saves in the loss, while Sawyer needed to make only two for his 11th shutout of the season.

The Irish now advance to play Providence in the next round. The No. 7 seed Friars shocked No. 2 Virginia Tech with a 4-2 advantage on penalty kicks after the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie in through overtime. The Irish defeated the Friars on the road 2-0 on Oct. 22.