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Men’s Soccer: Vets have advantage over younger Eagles

Dan Murphy | Friday, September 14, 2007

Some people get caught up in preseason polls, but not Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark.”I don’t really look at those polls,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Where we end up at the end of the year is really all I am concerned with.”Clark’s squad was picked second in this year’s preseason Big East poll. Last season the Irish finished third and lost in the second round of the Big East tournament to Rutgers 2-1 in double overtime. Two players, senior forward Joseph Lapira and junior defender Matt Besler, were named to the preseason all-conference team. Lapira was also selected as the preseason offensive player of the year. He has racked up a goal and one assist so far in Notre Dame’s first four regular season games. Last year, Lapira scored two early goals against Marquette to lead the Irish to an easy 4-0 win. The Golden Eagles (1-2-1) finished 2006 at the bottom of the conference with a 1-15-1 record. Clark, however, believes Marquette will be a bigger player in the Big East this year. Golden Eagles head coach Mark Bennet is settling into his second year at the helm with a slew of top recruits.The Golden Eagles have a young team this year – defender Mike Carlson is the team’s only senior, and he is joined by only a handful of juniors.Notre Dame will have a clear advantage in experience with several seniors on the pitch and fifth-year senior Chris Cahill in net.”Experience only works if experience plays well,” Clark said. “You have to be careful, you can have a good young team.”Notre Dame will be hungry for a victory this weekend after a disappointing scoreless draw with Northern Illinois that capped off the Mike Berticelli Memorial tournament Sunday. The Irish started the weekend by taking down Rhode Island 3-0, but could not get the offense to click against the Huskies. “We didn’t quite function somehow, and it’s hard to say why,” Clark said. “It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort, some days it just doesn’t work for you.”Marquette will at least have home field advantage on their side. The game will be held at Valley Fields, which generally draws a big crowd when the Irish come to town. The stadium is expected to be packed, especially in “the birdcage” – Marquette’s student section, which is located directly behind the east end goal. The Irish will have to travel for the next three games. After Marquette, Notre Dame will head to the east coast to take on Rutgers and Villanova before returning home the following weekend. Clark doesn’t mind being on the road. The coach believes that being away from campus life gives his players a better opportunity to focus on the task at hand and come together as a group.