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Men’s Soccer: Irish host St. John’s in quarters

Greg Arbogast | Friday, November 9, 2007

Every team enters a season with certain goals, but few have a realistic chance to accomplish them. Notre Dame is one of the few.

This weekend, the Irish will take an important step in accomplishing one of their three main goals for the season – winning the Big East tournament.

After checking off the first goal on their list by finishing in a tie for first place in the Big East regular season, the No. 9 Irish will try to take another step toward their second goal of winning the Big East tournament when they take on St. John’s this Sunday at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals at Alumni Field.

“When you start any season, you want to finish as the top team in your league,” Clark said. “Your next goal is to win the [Big East] tournament, and your final goal is to win the NCAA Tournament.”

Beating St. John’s might also help Notre Dame advance toward that ultimate goal. Much like conference tournaments for college basketball, NCAA Tournament seeding for soccer rests partly on the outcome of conference tournament games.

“Every game you win now will boost your RPI (ratings percentage index) and hopefully your seeding,” Clark said. “If you can win a few games in the Big East or win the Big East, you could be looking at a top-four seed [in the NCAA Tournament], but we have to take it one game at a time.”

Before the Irish can think about a top-four NCAA tournament seed, they’ll have to advance past the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament – something they’ve been unable to do the past two seasons. In 2005, the Irish were knocked out by St. John’s in the quarterfinals round. That match was the last time the squads faced off.

The 2007 Red Storm come to Notre Dame as the No. 3 seed in the Big East’s Red Division, and St. John’s earned the right to play Notre Dame after defeating Seton Hall 3-2 in penalty kicks on Wednesday.

On offense, St. John’s (9-6-5, 6-3-2 Big East) boasts a balanced attack: Four players have scored three or more goals this season and none have more than four goals.

“They have a pile of very talented players,” Clark said. “St. John’s is always one of the most talented teams in the Big East, and they have a storied history. It’s got all the makings of a fantastic game.”

One advantage the Irish will be able to count on is the familiar grass of Alumni Field. Notre Dame earned the right to host a quarterfinals game thanks to its No. 2 seed in the tournament. Notre Dame’s Big East tournament losses have both come on the road in the past two seasons, and Clark recognizes the benefit of playing at home.

“Statistically, around the world, the home team wins more often than not,” Clark said. “It’s a familiarity. From our team’s consideration, it lets them settle down a bit, especially when the last three games have been on the road.”