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Men’s Soccer: Non-conference test awaits

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tonight’s game against Michigan might be a non-conference tilt, but it will be one of No. 8 Notre Dame’s biggest games, Irish coach Bobby Clark said.

“It’s a huge game,” Clark said. “The Big Ten is one of the strongest conferences in the country, and it’s very important when it comes to seeding [for the NCAA tournament].”

Notre Dame (6-2-1, 3-1-1) holds a 6-0-1 all-time record against the Wolverines (6-2-2, 0-1-1 Big Ten), including last year’s 3-0 home victory, but Clark isn’t overlooking a Michigan team that returns 18 lettermen from last year’s squad.

“Last year, as well as this year, they’re coming in very strong with a very good record,” Clark said. “From our standpoint, what’s happened in the past is in the past – it has nothing to do with what’s going to happen. They’re a very good team so far this year and I would imagine it will be a very tough game.”

Notre Dame’s defense has been a major strength, as the Irish are allowing just .89 goals per game. But even they might have trouble slowing down a Wolverines attack averaging 2.30 goals per game.

“I’ll tell you better tomorrow,” Clark said with a laugh about how his team would stop Michigan’s offense. “They’re an excellent team, they’re scoring a lot goals, and that’s something you’ve obviously got to deal with.

“But we’ve got players that I think can deal with it. Just as importantly, we’ve got to find ways to get the ball in the net ourselves.”

Notre Dame will have to rebound from Sunday’s heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Louisville. The Irish were whistled for a penalty kick in the final minute of regulation, which the Cardinals drilled to send the game to extra time.

Louisville then put home the game-winner in the 95th minute, breaking Notre Dame’s seven-game unbeaten streak and snapping a 15-game Big East regular season unbeaten streak that dates back to last season.

“You just have to rebound, it’s as simple as that,” Clark said. “With our schedule and the game we play, you have no time to sit and feel sorry for yourselves – you’ve got to get on with it. From our point of view, the guys know we were a little bit unlucky, but that’s soccer.”

Originally scheduled for 7 p.m. on Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor, Mich., the game was moved to 4:30 p.m. at Eastern Michigan’s Scicluna Field in Ypsilanti, Mich. Construction is ongoing for the Wolverines’ new U-M Soccer Complex.