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Men’s Soccer: Squad riding six-game unbeaten streak into weekend

Joe Meixell | Friday, September 26, 2008

No. 3 Notre Dame will put its six-game unbeaten streak to the test as the Irish will play their first two true road games of the young season this weekend.

Cincinnati (2-3-2, 0-1-1 Big East) will host the Irish (5-1-1, 2-0-1) tonight at 7 p.m. before Notre Dame travels further south to No. 16 Louisville (6-1-1, 1-1-0) for Sunday’s 1 p.m. match.

“This is, without question, our hardest weekend of the season so far,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “We have two Big East games against two tough opponents. It will definitely be a challenge and I hope we’re up for it.”

Notre Dame has played its last five games at home after opening at the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind. The Irish did not play the host Hoosiers in that tournament, so both of Notre Dame’s games there are considered to have been at a neutral site.

Cincinnati is coming off a 2-1 loss to No. 4 Connecticut on Sept. 21 and has struggled to score goals so far this season, tallying just five through seven games. Sophomore Branden Stelmak is the only Bearcats player with more than one goal – he has two.

That bodes well for an Irish defense that has dominated of late, shutting out a pair of Big East foes last weekend and giving up just one goal over their last four games – all against Big East teams.

Senior goalkeeper Andrew Quinn already has three shutouts in his first year as Notre Dame’s full-time starter and has allowed just three goals over the last six games.

Quinn hasn’t been at it alone, though, as a pair of Irish defenders has already earned individual accolades this season.

Senior defender Matt Besler, a preseason All-American, earned a spot on the College Soccer News national team of the week and was named to the Big East honor roll two weeks ago.

Freshman central defender Aaron Maund was named Big East rookie of the week for his play last weekend. Maund has played every minute of all seven games for the Irish this season.

Notre Dame’s decorated defense will have its hands full with Sunday’s opponent, though, as the Cardinals hold a 3-0-1 record at home and are averaging 1.62 goals per game.

Senior Ryan McDonald and freshman Colin Rolfe each have scored three goals to lead Louisville.

The Cardinals finished last year in second place in the Red Division and lost in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, 1-0, to eventual runner-up Ohio State.

“We are starting to come together and make good progress,” Clark said. “There’s still a lot of soccer left to be played … but it’s always good to have a good start to a season.”

After its two-game trip this weekend, Notre Dame will wrap up a three-game road stretch when it travels to Michigan Wednesday.