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Men’s Soccer: Return to Bright skies

Greg Arbogast | Thursday, October 9, 2008

For a coach and a team that have never faced a two-game losing streak, Bobby Clark and his No. 14 Irish were very composed heading into Wednesday night’s game against Michigan State.

Good thing.

Notre Dame turned in a confident and dominating performance, downing the Spartans 3-0 at Alumni Field to get back into the winner’s circle.

“We didn’t talk a lot about setting the record straight [before Wednesday’s game],” Clark said. “We talked about what we normally talked about – playing with tempo, playing quickly and getting our fullbacks involved in the attack.

“I felt we played well in the other two games, but you can sometimes start doubting yourself. You’ve got to hold to your beliefs, and I think we did that.”

After being outscored 5-2 in their past two games, the Irish dominated the Spartans on both ends of the field. Forward Bright Dike jumpstarted the offense once again. The senior has quickly turned himself into one of the most dangerous strikers in the country.

Dike opened the scoring for Notre Dame in the 39th minute when he received a ball near the top of the box from midfielder Michael Thomas, turned on his defender and fired home from 12 yards out. It was Dike’s team-leading eighth goal of the season and the fifth straight game that the senior has found the back of the net.

“He’s just such a handful for any team to try and handle,” Clark said of Dike. “I think the good thing is that, after not playing last year, he’s finding his confidence each game. As his confidence grows, he’ll become a bigger and bigger threat.”

After taking their one-goal lead into halftime, the Irish doubled their advantage in the 67th minute. Junior midfielder Justin Morrow threaded a ball through to sophomore forward Jeb Brovsky whose angling run put him behind the defense. Brovsky made no mistake, firing past Michigan State goalkeeper Avery Steinlage low to the near post.

Junior midfielder Michael Thomas finished off the scoring in the 86th minute when he headed home a Dike cross.

Notre Dame’s offensive outburst was accompanied by an equally impressive defensive performance.

The Irish did an especially good job shutting down Spartans forward Doug DeMartin, who entered the game ranked second in the nation in averaging 1.11 goals per game. DeMartin had no chance of reaching that total as the Irish defense held him to only one shot on the evening.

“DeMartin is one of the best strikers in the country in my opinion, and we held him to only one shot,” Clark said. “I thought [Aaron] Maund, [Matt] Besler and [Matt] Armstrong did a great job because three guys cover the area that DeMartin works in.

“We talked about playing smartly and not getting caught in transition because that was what killed us against Michigan. We kept the game in their half. It was a good bounce back.”

The Irish defense shut down not only DeMartin but the entire Spartans offense, holding Michigan State to only six shots on the evening. Notre Dame keeper Andrew Quinn was up to the challenge of stopping the few Spartan chances in the game. The senior goalie made four saves to register the shutout and improve his record to 7-2-1.

Notre Dame will be in action again at Alumni Field this Saturday evening at 7 p.m. when they welcome Big East rival Pittsburgh.