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ND looks to remain undefeated against No. 1 Indiana

Kate Gales | Wednesday, September 15, 2004

They have circled each other like wary boxers in the ring, playing together in tournaments for two consecutive weekends, but never stepping on the turf as opponents. Indiana took home titles in both, with Notre Dame picking up the respective runner-up prizes. But now the Hoosiers are hosting the Irish in Bloomington, and there are more things at stake than defending their No. 1 ranking.The Hoosiers cannot have forgotten the feeling of leaving Alumni Field after giving up a goal with four minutes left in the second overtime period last season. Over 2,100 fans packed the stands to watch defender Kevin Goldthwaite tap the ball in for the winning golden goal. Notre Dame would go on to peak at No. 3 in the national rankings, bring home the Big East championship and bow out of the NCAA Tournament in the round of 16.Indiana, however, would finish the season with the NCAA Championship, going undefeated in its final 18 games and losing only three all season. They look to repeat the feat this year.And so, for the first time this season, the Irish will take the field tonight as underdogs. This game is pivotal for the men’s soccer program, and it gives the Irish a chance to put yet another record in the books. They have the chance to walk away with a victory against the top-ranked team – and they have the talent to make that chance a reality.This year’s 3-0-1 start is the best for any team under fourth-year Irish coach Bobby Clark. They return an All-American keeper in Chris Sawyer and what may be the nation’s best defense, anchored by Goldthwaite and Jack Stewart. The trio of captains have one overriding goal for this season, and it is to take home the national title.To do that, the Irish have to start scoring goals. They have the opportunities. They have the talent. However, most of the experienced go-to men are gone. A variety of players, including Stewart and his fellow defender Christopher High, have put up key points for the Irish. Justin McGeeney, Brian Murphy and Ian Etherington all looked on the verge of making things happen in Sunday’s 0-0 tie with Cal State-Fullerton. Nate Norman was undoubtedly one of the most dangerous offensive forces in any game. However, a goal-scoring machine has yet to step up for the Irish. Their opponent tonight has proven to be able to score goals, defeating Evansville 4-0 over the weekend. The Irish had a number of nearly-perfect scoring opportunities in their game against Evansville, but were unable to capitalize until the final two minutes. But with the forward line becoming more confident in the red zone, the Irish may have the perfect one-two punch to knock off Indiana. The defense is considered one of the nation’s foremost and has the ability to make every game a shutout. Taking advantage of ball control in Hoosier territory will create chances that could convert into goals. The combination is the punch-jab that can send the Irish back to South Bend with a “4” in the win column.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Kate Gales at kgales@nd.edu.