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Men’s Soccer: ND hopes to continue win streak

Michael Blasco | Friday, October 9, 2009

After a rollercoaster first half of the season, the Irish seem to have found what they needed.

The return of defenders freshman Dillon Powers and sophomore Aaron Maund to the lineup has given Notre Dame its first winning streak of the season with consecutive victories over Seton Hall and Marquette. The Irish (6-4-1, 4-2 Big East) hope to add a third game to that streak when they take on Providence (5-4-1, 2-3-1 Big East) at 1 p.m. this Saturday at Glay Field in Providence, R.I.

Powers and Maund returned to the team this week after representing the U.S. at the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, where the U.S. team was eliminated in the first round with a 1-2 record. Their absence, coupled with the loss of senior defender Cory Rellas to injury in the season opener, left a hole that Notre Dame spent much of the early going trying to fill.

“Losing Cory Rellas 10 minutes into the first game of the season was a factor [in our struggles],” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Not so much his play but his experience and leadership. He was the ‘old head’ at the back and, although [senior defender] John Schaefer has come in and performed superbly well, there was a little bit of uncertainty and this was compounded when we lost Maund, our other central defender, to the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.”

Providence comes into Saturday’s match after a 4-0 loss against Connecticut. Generating offense has been a struggle for the Friars, who are averaging only 0.80 goals per game.

However, senior goalkeeper Timothy Murray’s 0.62 goals against average has allowed Providence to stay competitive. Still, Murray should face one of the stiffest challenges of the season when facing the Irish’s high power offense on Saturday.

Clark cited his bench as one of the key factors in his team’s relentless attack, pointing to senior Tamba Samba’s goal early in the second half against Marquette as an example.

“Tamba Samba was the player who provided the early spark,” Clark said. “I feel that we are consistently dominating the second periods of every game and this is often due to the players who come on. [Samba], [junior] Steven Perry, [sophomore] Michael Rose, [sophomore] Brendan King, and [sophomore] Adam Mena have been superb in this capacity.”

Notre Dame, who routinely plays one of the toughest slates in the country, has struggled at times this season with consistency on both sides of the ball. Clark hopes that his team’s efforts will prepare them for a run at the Big East crown and the NCAA Tournament.

“We play a very demanding schedule so there is always the danger, especially early on, that we have a little bit of a roller coaster,” Clark said. “Hopefully, we can find some rhythm in the latter part of the season. Having said that, I feel these losses have now prepared and deepened the squad for the run in.”