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Men’s Soccer: Irish can clinch division

Greg Arbogast | Friday, October 31, 2008

After one year full of graduations, injuries, upsets and convincing victories, No. 19 Notre Dame enters its final game of the regular season with its Big East destiny in its own hands.

In 2007, the Irish suited up for their final game against Georgetown two points ahead of Connecticut, but Notre Dame’s tie combined with a Huskies victory over Seton Hall allowed Connecticut to grab a share of the Big East Blue Division title with the Irish.

This year, the Huskies are again the team standing in Notre Dame’s way of an outright division title, but the Irish have even more margin for error. If Connecticut doesn’t beat Seton Hall tonight or Notre Dame manages at least a draw on Saturday, the Irish walk away outright division champions.

“We have an opportunity to win the league for the second year in a row and that’s something we’ve never done here,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It would be nice to win the Big East title outright this year. It’s a fabulous opportunity for us and I know everyone is excited about that.”

Despite the division standings, the team Notre Dame is most concerned with right now isn’t Connecticut but West Virginia. The Irish travel to Morgantown Saturday evening, which has not been a kind location for Notre Dame in recent years.

The Irish are 2-4-0 all-time at West Virginia, and they haven’t won at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium since 2001. Notre Dame’s most recent contest at West Virginia came in 2006 when the Irish fell to the Mountaineers 2-1.

This weekend seems as good a time as any for Notre Dame to end their road woes. After a strong 2007 in which West Virginia went 14-6-2 and notched an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Mountaineers have scuffled to a 5-7-5 record in 2008. They have especially struggled scoring goals, averaging only 0.5 goals per game. Currently, no player on West Virginia has scored more than two goals.

West Virginia’s record would be worse had its defense not been so stingy this season. The Mountaineers are allowing an average of only 0.62 goals per game in 2008.

Still, West Virginia has shown the capability to play with the upper-echelon of teams. The Mountaineers are 2-3-1 against ranked opponents this season including wins over Connecticut and Ohio State.

The Irish enter Saturday night’s game on a positive note after their 2-1 defeat of No. 24 Georgetown. Sophomore forward Jeb Brovsky led the way, scoring both goals. Brovsky has made his presence felt recently, scoring three of his five goals this season in Notre Dame’s last four games.

As always, the Irish will also count on forward Bright Dike to drive the team’s offense. The senior leads the team in goals (10) and points (25), and his assist on Brovsky’s first goal Wednesday night tied Dike with Dave Donahue for the team lead in assists at five.

At the other end of the field, there will be a new face in the Irish goal as junior Phillip Tuttle will get the start. Although Tuttle has played in three games this year, including one start, senior Andrew Quinn has seen nearly all the playing time. Quinn, however, injured his shoulder diving for a ball against Georgetown on Wednesday and will be out for at least several weeks.

Saturday’s game will begin at 7 p.m. and can be followed via Gametracker at und.com.