Matt Puglisi | Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Tonight the Irish look to take a bite out of the top dog. Notre Dame travels to Bloomington to lock horns with in-state rival and consensus No. 1 Indiana (4-0-0) at 7 p.m.While Indiana and Notre Dame both participated in the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic and the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament, respectively, the past two weekends – the Hoosiers won both tournaments while the Irish recorded a pair of runner-up finishes – tonight’s match marks the first time the squads have met head-to-head this season.Historically, Indiana has been one of the nation’s premier programs, winning last year’s national championship and three of the past six NCAA titles.”There have been a couple of storied programs in men’s soccer and Indiana is one of them,” coach Bobby Clark said. “They’ve always had excellent players and played a very good schedule-never hidden from anyone.”As one might expect from the nation’s top team, the Hoosiers bring everything to the table, boasting strengths on both offense and defense.”They defend very well, very hard,” Clark said. “They play – they score goals, there’s no question. They do a good job at everything.”While the Irish managed to knock off the Hoosiers, 1-0, at Alumni Field last year, Clark stressed that the big victory last season has no bearing on the game tonight.”[Last year’s win has] absolutely no importance at all this year,” Clark said. “What happens before doesn’t really hold a lot of credence in what’s going to happen the next time. It’s what we do tonight that will be important.”One thing is for sure – Clark certainly won’t have any trouble pumping up the team for the contest.”I don’t think we need to wind them up and get them excited,” Clark said. “This is a little bit like football playing Michigan. It’s important that we keep our heads and keep thinking out there.”While they produced a number of scoring chances, finishing was a problem for the Irish this weekend at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.The Irish took 34 shots before finding the back of the net in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Evansville Friday night, before battling Cal State Fullerton to a 0-0 double-overtime stalemate on Sunday afternoon.Friday’s game against the Purple Aces proved to be a test of tenacity and patience as the Irish continually produced prime scoring opportunities, yet time and time again failed to close the deal. After 88 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Irish finally punched through when midfielder John Stephens lifted a perfect ball into the center of the box and found the head of charging defender Christopher High for a 1-0 Irish lead.Notre Dame didn’t have to wait long to celebrate once again.Forward Justin McGeeney gained possession just across midfield, beat a Purple Ace defender, and calmly put the ball in the left corner of the net with 53 seconds remaining.McGeeney’s tally ultimately stood as the game-winner.Evansville forward Ian McAuley knocked home a loose ball at the 89:41 mark to foil Irish goalkeeper Chris Sawyer’s bid for his second shutout of the young season.Notre Dame dominated the contest’s peripheral statistics, outshooting the Purple Aces 36 to four and registering 11 corner kicks to Evansville’s two.Despite once again controlling the contest, the breakthrough never came Sunday against Cal State Fullerton.The Irish recorded 27 shots to the Titans’ 14, yet both teams were left with goose eggs on the scoreboard.”We’re obviously disappointed to have created opportunities and not have taken them,” Clark said. “There were pleasing features of [last weekend’s performance], but there were also things that we can improve on – tidy up a little bit.”Defender Jack Stewart and midfielders Greg Dalby and Nate Norman were named to the all-tournament team for their play over the weekend.After challenging Indiana tonight, the Irish head home to host Georgetown Saturday night at Alumni Field.