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Men’s Soccer: Top-ranked Huskies come to town

Dan Murphy | Friday, October 12, 2007

Boston College’s football team won’t be the highest ranked team on campus Saturday – not even second best. No. 3 Notre Dame welcomes No. 1 Connecticut to Alumni Field at noon in a possible preview of the Big East title game. The Huskies lead the conference with a 6-1-0 record (18 points). The Irish are only two points behind at 5-0-1. The winner of Saturday’s match will put itself in good position to pick up the top seed in the Big East tournament in early November.”It’s a huge game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I don’t know that there has been a bigger one in my time here at Notre Dame.”The Irish will try to take down their second No. 1 team this season. They beat then-No. 1 UCLA 2-1 in overtime to open the year at the Adidas/IU Classic on Aug. 31.Notre Dame ended a nine-game unbeaten streak Wednesday afternoon with a 1-0 loss to non-conference foe Michigan State in East Lansing. The Spartans have lost only one game this year and will most likely crack the top 25 after this week’s upset victory. Notre Dame is hoping to prove its merits in the top 5.”The guys will be excited because it is a great way to bounce back,” Clark said. “The best way to do that is to be playing the No. 1 team in the country. It lets you come back immediately.”Connecticut also comes into the weekend with only one loss in its first 13 games. The Huskies lost to Big East foe DePaul 1-0 on Sept. 23. Since the loss, the team has gone on a five-game tear, outscoring its opponents 14-1 and taking over the No. 1 ranking. Junior striker O’Brian White leads the Huskies attack with 14 goals in the team’s first 13 games. He scored back-to-back hat tricks in Connecticut’s past two games – a 4-0 win over Pitt and a 3-0 shutout of Providence. “Everybody in the league knows he is very fast and strong. He doesn’t have many weaknesses,” Clark said. “It will be a great opportunity to see the two best forwards in the league and arguably the two best forwards in the country.”The other forward would be Notre Dame’s senior Joseph Lapira. Lapira won last year’s M.A.C. Hermann Trophy for the most outstanding player in college soccer. He has two goals so far this year and leads the team with four assists.Lapira also had an assist in a 1-0 victory over the Huskies in last year’s final regular season game. “They are very much the same team we played last year,” Clark said. Connecticut returns eight starters from last season’s team that lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. One new face, freshman goalkeeper Josh Ford, has wasted no time making a name for himself. Ford has logged nine shutouts and given up only five goals this season. He has played every minute between the pipes and has a goals-against average of 0.38.The Irish will need a total team effort in order to come away with a victory this weekend, Clark said.”We’re just going to try and play a complete game,” he said. “If we get seven or eight of us playing close to 100 percent and the remainder playing around 80 percent, we’ll be pretty close.”