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MEN’S SOCCER: Irish take on Hoosiers

Kate Gales | Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An in-state rival that also happens to be the two-time, back-to-back defending national champion?

As the Irish attempt to secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament, today’s traditionally heated game with the Indiana Hoosiers becomes even bigger with the possible postseason implications.

To up the pressure even more, ESPNU will be broadcasting the game, set to kick off at 6 p.m. at Alumni Field.

“In many ways you like to say that in is any other game but its not,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Let’s be honest, they are the national champs coming in – they’re an interstate rivalry … It’s a very healthy rivalry that we’ve enjoyed over the last few years.”

The Hoosiers have won the last two national titles in men’s soccer and have built a dynamic program into a Big Ten powerhouse. They are 9-1-5 (2-1-3 Big Ten) and have not lost since Sept. 30 to Penn State – a 2-1 loss that is their only loss of the season. Indiana is coming off a 2-2 tie against Ohio State on Sunday but demonstrated its offensive explosiveness in a 6-0 demolition of Butler on Oct. 19.

The Irish finished a fall break conference road trip with a 2-1 record to put them at 9-5-2 overall this year (5-4-1 Big East). They are tied for second in the conference’s Blue Division with two games to go in the regular season.

Clark is hoping to establish the team’s first three-game winning streak this year.

“We’ve got nine wins but I don’t think we’ve strung three together this year,” he said. “This could be the first time, so it would be nice if we can do that. It’s certainly possible, more than possible.”

The Irish and the Hoosiers have danced around each other, each traveling to the other’s campus to play in a hosted tournament. Notre Dame finished 1-1 against two then-Top 10 teams at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington. In that tournament, the Hoosiers finished with two wins.

At the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament, held at Alumni Field earlier this fall, the Irish finished with two wins and the Hoosiers went 1-0-1.

“We go to their tournament, they come to ours, it’s a lot of respect,” Clark said. The two teams did not play each other in either tournament. “I think they know us very well and we know them very well … there’s not a lot of secrets out there.”

The Irish have struggled to put wins together this season, dropping some heartbreaking games where they dominated but couldn’t find the back of the net. The team has been looking for a marquee win to ride into the NCAA Tournament, and Indiana has the potential to be that matchup.

“Obviously the Indiana game is a big regional game,” said Clark. “It’s a big game on the national level – it certainly would be a great scalp to take, for sure, and it would certainly enhance our NCAA tournament chances.”

Indiana currently holds the No. 5 spot in the national rankings.

“This is for me as good as Indiana as I’ve seen, and this is a very talented team,” Clark said.

Clark said his team is thriving under the pressure.

“This is the kind of pressure you really enjoy,” he said. “This isn’t pressure, this is just playing in a great game … It doesn’t matter how we play before, it matters how we play [today].”

The Irish will kick off at 6 p.m. tonight at Alumni Field.