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Men’s Soccer: NCAA���opener features foe familiar to Clark

Chris Allen | Friday, November 19, 2010

From 1985 to 1993, Irish coach Bobby Clark bled green as the head coach at Dartmouth. On Sunday, the Big Green will line up opposite Clark’s No. 9 Notre Dame squad as the Irish begin their NCAA tournament slate at Alumni Stadium.

Clark said that he has nothing but respect for his old team.

“We played them quite often when I was at Stanford,” Clark said of his 1996-2000 career with the Cardinal. “I think we played them four times in my five years there. The year we went to the NCAA finals one of our few losses came to Dartmouth. They’re always good games, well-contested games.”

Dartmouth (11-6-1) comes into the game fresh off a dominant 4-0 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament over a Monmouth team that had previously lost only one game all season.

Clark said he was watching the opening round game, and saw a dangerous Big Green attack.

“I saw a very well-organized team. They have players that are very special,” Clark said. “They can make things happen. We’ll have to prepare for that as we prepare for the opponent.”

The Irish (10-5-4) are recovering from a hard-fought 1-0 loss in the Big East tournament semifinals to No. 1 Louisville. Notre Dame played well in the loss and moved up in the polls despite the loss to the powerhouse Cardinals. Though the bitter loss is still fresh, Clark said the Irish need no extra redemption.

“I think they’ll be ready. We’ve been ready since this time last year, when we lost to Northwestern in the tournament,” Clark said. “That was a learning experience. That was a tough game for us. We outshot them in shots on target 12 to 3, but lost 3-0. This group is totally aware of the task ahead of them.”

Strong seniors lead both teams with Dartmouth featuring senior midfielder Daniel Keat, a brilliant passer who has drawn interest from the English Premier League team Blackburn Rovers during his brief professional career in New Zealand. The Irish will count on the goal scoring of senior forward Steven Perry, whose 12 goals were the most for any Big East player this season.

“Our seniors have set the right example all year,” Clark said. “I’m confident they’ll carry that leadership into this game.”

Due to their high seed, the Irish will get the opportunity to host the second-round game at the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium, where they have played well all season.

The Irish are 9-1-1 at home this year, and the new student section — the Rakes of Mallow — has contributed to a tough atmosphere in many of the home games. Clark said he is counting on the students to show up and support the team Sunday.

“I really would just love to have a full student contingent on Sunday, and I know the players would too,” Clark said. “It’s great to have the people in town come and cheer but I know that the students tend to make a lot more noise. It’s a rare opportunity, with this tournament being played around Thanksgiving, that the students are on campus. I would say to all those on campus who play soccer, and all the others of course, to come out and cheer the guys on.”

The second-round game will be contested Sunday at 6 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.