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Men’s Soccer: Sent packing

Laura Myers | Friday, November 20, 2009

Seven hundred thirty minutes and 57 seconds.

That’s how long the Irish had played without a lead before senior forward Bright Dike scored a goal Thursday in the 28th minute of the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The goal, off an assist from freshman midfielder Dillon Powers, put Notre Dame (11-7-4) up 1-0 over Green Bay (14-3-3), as the Irish went on to defeat the Phoenix 2-1 at Alumni Stadium. They now advance to the second round and will play No. 9-seed Northwestern (10-4-4) Sunday.

“It’s nice to have a lead,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “But it’s also every bit as nerve wracking.”

The Irish controlled the game for most of the first half, moving the ball up with short passes that pressed the whole midfield into the Phoenix half of the field. After Dike’s goal, however, the game took on a much faster pace.

The Phoenix, faced with elimination, removed a midfielder in the second half in favor of an extra forward.

“It was an exciting game,” Clark said. “I mean, this is the great thing about NCAA, if you lose you go home. … There’s no safety net of weak play that you’ll have a game next week. It’s all or nothing.”

Green Bay’s strategy led to increased chances for both teams, and the Irish took advantage of it first with a goal by senior forward Jeb Brovsky in the 66th minute. Brovsky’s shot, off an assist from senior midfielder Justin Morrow, came from three feet outside of the box, but Phoenix goalie Ryan Wehking guessed wrong and was unable to track it down.

Notre Dame did not have time to celebrate its 2-0 advantage, however, as Green Bay forward Tony Walls struck just 90 seconds later with a goal by tipping a pass from midfielder JC Banks into the back of the net to make it 2-1.

“That’s a kick in the stomach, that one, for sure,” Clark said. “We got the goal, you relax, say now if we can hold that for a couple minutes and settle down, we can go home and put our feet up. But it wasn’t that way. We gave up a goal right away, and they came out revitalized.”

From that point, the Phoenix controlled the ball and put consistent pressure on the Irish defense. They took 14 shots in the second half compared to just four in the first.
Senior goalkeeper Andrew Quinn made five saves on the night, including one in the 90th minute that ended the game.

In the last minute of play, Green Bay had the ball in the Irish penalty box twice only to have it cleared out by defenders. The second clearing, by sophomore defender Aaron Maund, gave the Phoenix a corner kick with just 10 seconds remaining.

The kick was headed straight into the goal, but Quinn saved it to give the Irish the victory.
“Quinny played well today,” Clark said, though he declined to comment on which goalkeeper, Quinn or senior Andrew Tuttle, will play in Sunday’s game. The two have split time evenly this season.

Sunday’s game will be a rematch of the 2008 NCAA second round, when Northwestern defeated Notre Dame 2-1 at Alumni Field. The Irish defeated the Wildcats 1-0 in an exhibition game on Aug. 24.

Clark said last season’s result would not have an effect on Sunday’s game.

“You can’t rewrite history,” he said. “You can make history this year. I think we’ll try to make our own history with this team. That was last year’s team. What we did in the past will never affect what we do in the future. What we do on Sunday is what will be the key feature.”

The second round of the NCAA Tournament will begin Sunday at 2 p.m in Evanston, Ill. The winner will go on to play the winner of St. Louis and No. 8-seed Tulsa on Nov. 29.