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Men’s Soccer: Squad’s third Big East title in reach

Dan Murphy | Friday, November 16, 2007

The Irish will try to move one step closer to their third Big East tournament title tonight when they take on No. 19 DePaul in the semifinals at 5:30.

If Notre Dame wins, the Irish will play in the championship game on Sunday against either Louisville or Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.

The Blue Demons (12-6-0) were the regular season winners of the Red Division in the conference and No. 10 Notre Dame finished in a tie with Connecticut for first place in the Blue Division.

“I think it speaks for itself when you’re nationally ranked at the end of the season, I think you’ve done pretty well. They had a wonderful year,” Clark said.

DePaul’s season was highlighted by a 2-0 win over No. 1 Connecticut and a win against St. John’s on the road. The Blue Demons also beat Cincinnati at home to claim their first-ever Big East tournament win last Saturday.

The Blue Demons joined the conference in 2006 and lost to Notre Dame in the opening round of last year’s Big East tournament.

“Last year DePaul was at the bottom of the league, now they’re at the top,” Clark said. “We’re dealing with two different teams, you certainly don’t want to look back.”

If the Irish did look back, however, they would be pleased with the results. The two teams have faced off 18 times in their history and Notre Dame has won all but one of the meetings, outscoring DePaul 89-4 in the series.

But as Clark said, this year is different. The Blue Demons allowed only 12 goals in 18 games this season, including 11 shutouts, ten from senior goalkeeper Brian Visser.

Sophomore forward Alex Mangan has led DePaul on offense, with seven of the team’s 17 goals and one assist this season. Highly-skilled sophomore Steffen Vroom joins Mangan up front.

“They are a big team,” Clark said. “They’re good, they’re physical, they’re good in set pieces.”

Mangan and Vroom will not only have to deal with a stingy Notre Dame defense tonight, but also poor weather conditions. It rained all day Thursday in Connecticut and there is a chance for high winds and snow during the game.

“Last Sunday [against St. John’s] was windy, Georgetown was windy, Providence was windy,” Clark said.

“We’ve played in a lot of windy games, so if it’s windy, we’ll certainly be practiced in that.”

If the Irish get past DePaul tonight, they will take on the winner of the Louisville/Connecticut game Sunday at noon to decide the championship.

“I think this team is more than capable of winning the trophy, but we have to take it one game at a time,” Clark said.

“There’s two games to be won. It’s very easy if you say it quickly, but the reality of it is that the first hurdle will be very difficult and I don’t want to look beyond that.”