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Men’s Soccer: More Michigan

Chris Allen | Friday, September 17, 2010

Just as the Irish football team has been preoccupied with opponents from the state of Michigan, No. 24 Notre Dame will take the pitch for two huge rivalry games against Michigan opponents this weekend. The Irish face off against Michigan Friday, before opposing No. 15 Michigan State Sunday as part of the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.

Fresh off the annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament over the weekend in which the Irish (2-1-1) notched a 2-0 victory over No. 22 Drake (5-3) and a 5-1 win against Cal Poly (2-2), Irish coach Bobby Clark’s squad heads up to Michigan (3-1-1) Friday night to play in an atmosphere that Clark expects to be especially rowdy.

“It’ll be a big day for them, especially because they’re dedicating their new stadium on Friday night,” Clark said. “They’re going to be pretty excited to play that game. I think they’ve been waiting to play Notre Dame to do the dedication.”

Regardless of what promises to be a hostile atmosphere, Clark believes his squad is prepared to notch a road win. Notre Dame is 7-1-1 all-time against Michigan, including a 5-0 win last season against the Wolverines in the Alumni Stadium opener.

“There’s no question it’s a great rivalry, a natural rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan and Michigan State,” Clark said. “Our players will respond positively and they’ll play well.”

If the Irish are to extend their good fortunes against the Wolverines, they will have to contain a strong Michigan attack led by freshman sensation Soony Saad, who paces the squad with four goals.

“They’re a very good attacking team,” Clark said. “Their forwards are two of the best we’ll face, and that’s the challenge to our defenders. They’re very good going forward, but so are we. On paper, it should be a game full of attacking.”

The Irish will return to the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium Sunday against Michigan State (3-1-0), as they look to knock off a squad that defeated No. 7 Maryland in College Park on an overtime goal earlier in the season. The game will have a theme of revenge as the Irish look to avenge a 2-1 loss last season. Clark believes the team will find no shortage of reasons to get motivated for Sunday’s contest.

“I don’t think it’s hard to get the players up for a game between Notre Dame and Michigan State,” Clark said. “A rivalry like that is great for sport, great for both teams. These are two really great soccer games this weekend.”

Whether or not the Irish prevail this weekend, they can look forward to the eventual return of senior goalkeeper and lone captain Phillip Tuttle, who returned to practice Wednesday after an injury kept him sidelined for the beginning of the season.

“Phil started practicing yesterday,” Clark said. “We had him diving for balls, doing everything except contact really. He looked very good. He’s not ready to play yet, but he’s done everything that he’s supposed to do.”

Action against Michigan will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Ann Arbor, and the Michigan State contest will kick off at 2 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.