Irish get ready to face UConn
Matt Puglisi | Friday, October 29, 2004
The No. 5 Irish (12-2-2, 7-1-1 in the Big East) hope to avoid a letdown after securing their first regular season conference title since beginning Big East play in 1995 when they welcome No. 21 Connecticut (8-6-2, 4-3-1) to Alumni Field Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.While they have already locked up the Big East, with two regular season games and the Big East Championships in the near future and the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, the Irish need every win they can get to ensure a top ranking come national tournament time.”It’s very important that we win as many remaining games as we can because … you want to be one of the top four seeds in the country [going into the NCAA Tournament],” coach Bobby Clark said. Hosting elimination games at Alumni Field and not being forced to travel to an opponent’s turf offers a number of advantages for the Irish.”[Being a top-four seed] means that the team can stay and prepare at home here in South Bend,” Clark said. A victory Saturday night would mark the first time in program history the Irish have won eight conference games in a single season – they posted seven Big East victories in 2001.Fighting for a position in the Big East Championships slated to start begin Nov. 6, Connecticut finds itself in need of conference points – in a tournament where the top four Big East finishers host a first round match, the Huskies currently occupy the seventh spot.Behind a pair of second half goals from leading scorers Justin Detter and Devon Prescod, the Irish knocked the Huskies out of the Big East Championship quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory at Alumni Field last November.While most students used fall break for some much-needed rest and relaxation, the Irish were busy securing the Big East on a three-game conference road trip.Notre Dame kicked off the make-or-break trip with a 1-1 tie against No. 10 St. John’s Oct. 16. The Irish struck first when midfielder Ian Etherington’s corner kick found the far corner of the net 21 minutes, eight seconds into the contest.The Red Storm fired back just over 45 minutes later when a 20-yard blast from forward Matt Groenwald beat Irish goalkeeper Chris Sawyer and knotted the game at 1-1.While the St. John’s tally broke both Sawyer’s 618-minute scoreless streak and his six-game shutout run, the draw allowed the Irish to remain atop the Big East standings.The Irish followed the tie against the Red Storm with a 1-0 victory over No. 17 Seton Hall Oct. 20 to move one step closer to the regular season conference title.After playing 80 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Irish finally broke through on a goal created by a pair of freshmen in Lapira and classmate Alex Yoshinaga.Needing a victory to lock up the conference, the Irish finished off the trip – and the Big East – with yet another shutout in a 1-0 victory over Rutgers last Saturday.Senior midfielder Luke Boughen put the Irish in front at the 36:31 mark, tallying what would be the game’s lone score.Following the goal, the Irish defense once again reigned supreme, limiting Scarlet Knight chances to provide the equalizer.Although Notre Dame netted only a trio of goals in three games over break, Clark was more than happy with the trip’s results.After battling the Huskies Saturday, the Irish welcome Michigan State to Alumni Field Tuesday to conclude the regular season.