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Clark wins 200th career game

Matt Puglisi | Monday, October 4, 2004

Make it an even 200.Coach Bobby Clark picked up his 200th career victory as the No. 23 Irish (7-2-1 overall, 3-1-0 in Big East) – on the verge of being dropped out of the NSCAA/adidas poll-fought back this weekend, knocking off rival and Big East conference leader No. 9 Boston College in a 1-0 overtime thriller Friday night before thumping Loyola-Chicago 4-0 Sunday afternoon at Alumni Field.”This was a very good weekend,” Clark said. “The scary thing was that after such a good Big East result against a very good team, we would have a letdown on the Sunday game – that can easily happen. The boys came ready to play, and they did very well.”The sporadic rain may have been cool Friday night, but the bitter Notre Dame-Boston College rivalry heated things up.”It was a tight game – it’s a Big East rivalry,” Clark said. “This was a big opportunity for them and a very important game for us to get back into the Big East standings, so it was an important game for both teams. That being the case, it’s always going to be [intense].”In a contest eerily similar to the last Irish-Golden Eagles matchup-another 1-0 Irish victory in the opening minutes of overtime at Alumni Field in 2002-Notre Dame waited until after regulation time expired before securing its second consecutive win over the current conference leader – the Irish edged No. 21 Villanova 1-0 on the road Sept. 26.The 3-1-0 start in Big East play marks the first time the Irish have started conference play with three wins in four games since 1997, when they started 3-0-1.After controlling the game’s opening 20 minutes and nearly netting the go-ahead goal on a number of occasions, including a shot that clanged off the crossbar from the foot of freshman forward Alex Yoshinaga, the Irish allowed Boston College back into the contest before dominating play again in the second half.”Our second half performance was excellent,” Clark said. “I thought we were a team wanting to win the game, where they seemed to be quite happy to settle – to get out of here with a tie. We chased the whole second half.”Not surprisingly, in a contest that featured 29 fouls, five yellow cards and a couple of scuffles, it was a Golden Eagle penalty – one of 20 on the evening for Boston College – that set up the golden goal and sent the Irish faithful home happy.After Irish forward Justin McGeeney – the reigning Co-Big East Offensive Player of the Week – collided with a Golden Eagle defender along the left edge of the box, the defender was whistled for holding McGeeney as the forward attempted to stand and chase after the loose ball.Employing a little trickery, lefty Irish defender Kevin Goldthwaite lined up for the free kick, yet right-footed midfielder John Stephens took the kick, lofting a perfect ball into the middle of the box. A scramble ensued, with the ball eventually finding the foot of McGeeney. Out-of-place Boston College goalkeeper Issey Maholo could only helplessly watch as McGeeney punched home the game-winner and sent the Eagles on a long, winless flight back to Boston.The game-winning tally was McGeeney’s second in as many contests – the forward scored Notre Dame’s lone goal in a 1-0 shutout of Villanova on the road a week earlier.While the sophomore’s play warranted the acknowledgement, Clark believes McGeeney’s fellow striker and partner in goal-scoring crime Tony Megna has had a lot to do with McGeeney’s success.”Justin has had a great season so far, but I think it would be hard to mention Justin without talking about Tony,” Clark said. “Tony and Justin work tremendously hard and very much as a tandem. It’s great for Justin to get the award, but I think some of the praise should go to Tony.”Two days after McGeeney secured an Irish victory with his team-leading fourth goal of the season, it was Megna pacing the offense Sunday, recording a pair of goals in Notre Dame’s 4-0 route of an overmatched Loyola-Chicago squad.After producing a couple of decent scoring opportunities early in the game, the Irish drew first blood 17 minutes, 31 seconds into the first half. Dribbling the ball along the left side of the box, midfielder Ian Etherington beat two defenders before skillfully drawing a third Rambler defender. He then fed an open Megna, who promptly put the ball in the right corner for a 1-0 Irish advantage.After assisting on Megna’s tally, Etherington didn’t wait long to record his own score. Less than a minute later, the sophomore posted his first goal of the season on a rocket from the top of the box past Rambler goalkeeper Sean Bond’s outstretched hands and into the upper right hand corner of the net.Eleven minutes into the second half, the Irish advantage grew to three goals as midfielder Nate Norman one touched a long, arcing cross from Goldthwaite to a streaking Megna, who finished from five yards out.”I think the third goal usually kills a soccer game,” Clark said. “Two goals are dangerous because you think you’re in good shape, but whenever they get one, they suddenly get excited.”Yoshinaga capped the Irish scoring deluge five minutes later when he tapped in the rebound of a McGeeney header that managed to hit both goal posts.After smothering a pair of Boston College breaks in Friday evening’s shutout, Irish goalkeeper Chris Sawyer was once again in control Sunday afternoon, logging just over 73 minutes of scoreless soccer before turning the reins over to junior Justin Michaud.The Irish return to the pitch Thursday night when they welcome Big East opponent Pittsburgh to Alumni Field.