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Men’s Soccer: Squad hopes to change fortune

Greg Arbogast | Friday, September 22, 2006

Notre Dame is in an unexpected and unfortunate position early in the 2006 season – outsiders in the top NSCAA/adidas top 25 for the first time this year and second to last place in the Big East’s Blue Division.

But that could change shortly.

If the Irish are going to begin their ascent in the conference standings, Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup against Pittsburgh at Alumni Field is a good place to start. The Panthers are undefeated in their last four games and hold the fifth-place spot in the Big East – one spot ahead of Notre Dame.

Pittsburgh’s conference record of 2-1-1 is good for seven points, one point better than Notre Dame’s six conference points.

“This is a gigantic game for us,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark said. “We’re capable of winning every one of our nine remaining games, but we have to take them one at a time. That starts with Pitt.”

The Panthers Big East resume includes wins over opponents that have given Notre Dame trouble this year – a 2-1 victory over Cincinnati, who defeated the Irish 2-1 last Saturday, and a 0-0 tie against South Florida, who beat Notre Dame 2-0 earlier this season.

Although Pittsburgh’s overall record of 3-4-2 is not as impressive as its record in conference play, Clark feels that the Panthers’ recent performances are more suggestive of their true quality.

“They started off very slowly, but they’re on an upswing now,” Clark said. “I don’t know where they were at the beginning of the season, but they obviously have tons of momentum right now.”

Momentum is something Notre Dame could use.

The Irish are 0-1-1 in their last two games, with their last win coming one Friday ago against Louisville. Notre Dame has only managed to win two consecutive games one time this season, and the team’s start is taking its toll.

“We’re doing what I call stuttering along,” Clark said. “As a top class athlete, though, you can’t let that affect your focus. I feel like there’s some frustration, but I feel like we’re going to stay focused on what we’re trying to get done.”

Notre Dame began this season with dreams of a conference title and a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. For Clark and the team, though, the focus is on the here and now.

“We’re not giving [the Big East tournament or NCAA tournament] any consideration right now,” Clark said. “You don’t overly concern yourself with things that are months away. You concern yourself with what’s right in front of you, and, for us, that’s Pitt.”