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Getting back on track

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The No. 14 Irish return home tonight to host Michigan State, looking to snap a two-game losing streak – something Notre Dame (6-3-1, 3-1-1 Big East) hasn’t had to do in seven years.Not since consecutive losses to No. 5 Furman and No. 16 Clemson at the Umbro/Spinx Furman Invitational on Sept. 7-9, 2001, had the Irish lost back-to-back regular season games. Notre Dame fell 2-1 in overtime at No. 7 Louisville on Sept. 28 and 3-1 against Michigan in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Oct. 1.”Considering the schedule we play, [it’s surprising it’s been that long],” said Irish coach Bobby Clark, who was unaware of the statistic. “When you’re playing, you’re not aware of those things. Having said that, these are good habits that we create records like that. We want to get back into those kind of habits.”To do so, Notre Dame will likely need its attack to return to form after a pair of disappointing one-goal efforts. Before their two losses, the Irish had won their previous two games 3-0 – against Syracuse on Sept. 21 and at Cincinnati on Sept. 26.But while the team will look to snap its slide, senior forward Bright Dike will be looking to continue a streak of his own. Dike has scored a goal in each of Notre Dame’s last four games and now leads the team with seven.As a team, the Irish enter tonight’s contest averaging 2.3 goals per game, ninth in the nation. Michigan State’s 2.33 goals per game rank seventh.”We just hope we get one more [goal] than them, that’s the way we’ll look at it,” Clark said. “They’re a good side, they’re well-organized, and they’re well-coached – they’ll be out make this a special year for [coach Joe Baum, who is retiring after 32 years].”The recent scoring slowdown has not been for lack of opportunity, Clark said. “Last week’s game against Michigan, we made a lot of half-chances, but you’ve got to stop and take some of them,” he said. “You just go out, hope you play well and do the right things. If you’re doing the right things, there’s a good chance you’ll make some chances – but the thing is you’ve got to take these chances.”Near-goals and just-misses can be the most frustrating moments in soccer, and the team that wins isn’t necessarily the one with the most opportunities to score, Clark said.”It’s not like basketball, where if you have a lot of possessions and you take a lot more shots than your opponent, chances are you’re going to win the game,” he said. “Soccer doesn’t always reflect that – the team that takes the most shots doesn’t always win the game. You’ve got to be patient and concentrate on playing well. “That’s our focus, to put together a complete performance – play good defense and hope to create some chances, and to take some of them.”Clark said it could be the Irish defense that decides this game, though. Notre Dame gave up five goals in the two losses after allowing just three goals – and never more than one in a single game – in the previous seven games. The Irish went 6-0-1 in those contests.”You hope that [tonight] we get back in among the goals, but it’s also important we don’t lose goals,” Clark said. “We’ve just got to take care of business – that’s the important message for our guys.”Our guys know the importance of this game, especially having lost two last week. It’s a ‘set the record straight’ game.”

Note:u An outbreak of the norovirus on the Georgetown campus caused Sunday’s home game against the Hoyas to be postponed.Georgetown released a statement Monday that said 212 patients, mostly undergraduates, had sought treatment for the norovirus. A Friday release described the norovirus as “a highly contagious group of viruses” spread through food and person-to-person contact.A make-up date for the game had not yet been determined, but Clark said Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 were two possibilities. The first round of the Big East tournament is scheduled to begin Nov. 5.”There’s a couple of possibilities, but a few things still need to be sorted out,” Clark said.