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Men’s Soccer: Irish prepare during break

Eric Retter | Wednesday, November 8, 2006

By the time No. 12 Notre Dame steps back onto Alumni Field to play its next game, 18 days will have elapsed between contests.

The Irish (13-5-2, 8-3-0 Big East) last played Oct. 28, when they lost to Rutgers 2-1 in the second round of the Big East tournament. And they won’t play again until the second round of the NCAA Tournament Nov. 15, when they take on the winner of Friday’s game between Illinois-Chicago (12-2-5)/Western Illinois (15-7-0).

The Irish have used the time to rest, recover their leg strength and get back to full health before the season’s final push.

“I think were going to try and keep it sharp,” senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill said. “I think there’s a few areas of our game both defensively and offensively where were gonna try to polish up.”

The extra five-day rest to await the first round winner – on top of an already large layover between games – gives Notre Dame the opportunity to scout its opponent, which did not come as a surprise to many players.

“I think we all expected a bye,” Irish captain and midfielder Greg Dalby said. “We had [Monday] off, and [Tuesday] we just watched video.”

That opportunity to watch film and prepare for next Wednesday’s game will likely aid Notre Dame.

“It’s a huge advantage that you can scout the teams you can potentially play, [and] we can see what their strengths are,” Dalby said. “All three of our coaches are going to go to the game.”

Dalby, however, warned that scouting the opposition was less than half the battle.

“What’s most important is how we play, [and] how we handle what we do well,” he said. “The other team is important but not nearly as important as we are.”

One major downside of having such a long stretch of inactivity is the possibility of regression. The Irish, however, aren’t concerned with that possibility.

In past years, Notre Dame has had similar breaks, and the experienced team has learned to adjust to the time off.

“We train at such a high level, [and] we’re playing just as good of competition in practice as we would against any other team in the country,” Cahill said. “We’re not just trying to stay in the same spot [as we were when we played our last game], we’re trying to get better.”

Dalby feels that this year’s team is more mature than last year’s edition at handling the time off and will be prepared come game time. Last season, the Irish went 12-8-3 in 2005 and lost 1-0 at No. 12 Clemson in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after upsetting No. 3 Indiana 2-0.

“Last year we didn’t know what to expect [in the tournament] and we’re just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Ultimately, Cahill verbalized what has likely been Notre Dame’s theme for the past two week of practice.

“We don’t want to come out flat on Wednesday,” he said.