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Squad notches second straight championship

Matt Gamber | Monday, November 3, 2008

Don’t call the Irish greedy for wanting the Big East Blue title all to themselves.

No. 19 Notre Dame (11-5-2, 7-2-2) edged West Virginia 1-0 Saturday in the regular season finale to avoid tying Connecticut for the division crown for the second straight year. The Irish were named back-to-back regular-season champions for the first time in program history.

“We came through,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It’s nice that we could win it outright. Last year we had to win one of our last games [to clinch] and we weren’t able to, but we took care of the problem by winning it outright.”

The Irish were out shot 14-4, but freshman midfielder Brendan King put home the game’s only goal in the 61st minute off a rebound of a Steven Perry header. Perry, a sophomore forward, knocked it toward Mountaineers goalkeeper Zach Johnson on a free kick from junior midfielder Dave Donohue.

“[West Virginia] came out with a 3-4-3 formation, put a lot of pressure on us and pushed it hard,” Clark said. “They definitely caused us concern in the first half and knocked us out of our rhythm a bit, but in the second half we found that rhythm and upped our business.

“We almost expected [to take the lead] in the first half and we got outworked a little bit, but in the second half we took care of that side.”

In just his second career start in net, junior goalkeeper Philip Tuttle earned his first collegiate win and shutout by making four saves. Tuttle replaced senior Andrew Quinn, the regular keeper, in the second half of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Georgetown when Quinn injured his shoulder.

Quinn underwent an MRI over the weekend and results were still pending, but Clark said the team planned to be without him for next Saturday’s Big East quarterfinal against the winner of Wednesday’s Louisville-West Virginia tournament match.

“[Tuttle] was very composed,” Clark said. “It looked as though he’d been there all season. Anything that came his way, he dealt with it in a calm, cool and collected manner.”

Tuttle’s ability to succeed in a big game was a result of his positive attitude after losing the preseason position battle to Quinn, Clark said.

“He handled the situation very well,” Clark said. “It was a tough decision [between Quinn and Tuttle], but I explained that the program needs more than one quality goalkeeper. Obviously he came through.”

Before Quinn’s injury, Tuttle had played in just two games, allowing three goals in Notre Dame’s Oct. 1 loss to Michigan in his only start.

“Goalkeeping is a tough position for a backup because it’s not a position where you sub a lot – only if you’re getting beaten by a lot of winning by a lot,” Clark said. “It’s the toughest spot to be in as a backup, and when the opportunity comes, you have to be ready for it like he was.”