The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Irish edge out Orange

Matt Puglisi | Monday, October 11, 2004

History has a tendency to repeat itself – just ask the Irish.A little over a week after edging then-Big East leader No. 12 Boston College 1-0 on an overtime tally by forward Justin McGeeney, the No. 15 Irish (9-2-1 overall, 5-1-0 in Big East) once again resorted to the golden goal to put away visiting Syracuse 1-0 on a sun-bleached Sunday afternoon.The 9-2-1 start to the season is Notre Dame’s best since 1988, when the squad went 9-0-2 to begin the year.”That was a terrific win,” coach Bobby Clark said. “You just need a break to get in there and when you don’t get in, you’ve got to be patient. What really impressed me was our patience, discipline and focus.”The thrilling victory bumps the Irish into first place in the Big East and also marks the first time the Irish have taken five of their first six conference games in program history. “When you’re chasing for a league title, these are the games you can lose – when things aren’t really going your way,” Clark said. “[Defenders] Jack Stewart and Christopher High just kept the back bottled up – I thought they did a great job of keeping their focus. And the other guys, they just worked hard.”In addition to handing the Irish sole possession of the conference’s top spot, the victory extended both the squad’s winning and shutout streak to five games. The last time Notre Dame fished the ball out of the back of its net was Sept. 23 in a 1-0 loss to West Virginia, a span of 465 minutes.While All-American goalkeeper Chris Sawyer undoubtedly has something to do with the staggering scoreless streak, Clark also points the team’s overall play as a significant component of keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.”[The shutouts are] good team defense,” Clark said. “It’s great having a goalkeeper like Chris Sawyer, but you don’t have shutouts without a whole team working together. You’ve got to hand it to the entire team.”In both Irish overtime victories this season, a free kick along the left edge of the box set up the game winner. While McGeeney eventually slammed home a loose ball off a free kick by midfielder John Stephens to top Boston College Oct. 1, midfielder Ian Etherington didn’t waste any time on his free kick opportunity Sunday, slotting an untouched ball past screened Orange goalkeeper Alim Karem and inside the far right post for the game winner.”The goalkeeper has a hard job when balls are played into the box,” Clark said. “It’s very difficult because you don’t know if people are going to touch it or miss it. It was a good free kick played into a dangerous area-it was a good goal.”While the Irish waited until the third minute of the second overtime to extend their winning streak, they dominated the contest, taking 25 shots to Syracuse’s six, as well as 16 of the game’s final 18 shots.McGeeney just missed putting the Irish ahead on a pair of heel flicks earlier in the contest-both ricocheted off the woodwork and were cleared out of danger-and forward Tony Megna nearly netted his fifth goal in three games when his breakaway bid to end the game in regulation clanged off the right post with three minutes left.While Karem was busy deflecting shots and keeping the underdog Orange even with the Irish, Sawyer was only forced to make a pair of routine stops in recording his sixth clean sheet.Notre Dame will take a break from conference play Wednesday when it welcomes Michigan to Alumni Field. The Irish will be in search of some revenge after the Wolverines eliminated the Irish on penalty kicks in last season’s Sweet 16.After looking horns with Michigan, Notre Dame will conclude the Big East portion of its schedule with four consecutive games against conference opponents.NotesNotre Dame’s effort on the field wasn’t the only thing that impressed Clark Sunday afternoon.”That was a great crowd,” Clark said of the 1,206 that watched the Irish defeat Syracuse at Alumni Field. “That was probably the best Sunday crowd I’ve seen.”