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Men’s Soccer: Irish, Clark achieve record win

Molly Sammon | Monday, September 12, 2011

Irish coach Bobby Clark became the winningest head coach in the history of the Notre Dame men’s soccer program after Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Bucknell as a part of the Mike Berticelli tournament at Alumni Stadium.

With a 2-2 tie against Denver on Friday and Sunday’s subsequent win, the Irish (2-1-2) placed second in the tournament after No. 10 Indiana.

“Notre Dame had a good overall team performance, even Friday night, though the overtimes were more of a battle,” Clark said. “[Denver] played both their games very closely. They are very physical with a pretty direct style of play, and they get the ball forward.”

The biggest setback for the Irish on Friday was the torrential rains, Clark said. Toward the end of the first half, he said the rain drastically affected how the No. 14 Irish played.

“The heavens opened and it made the field very sloppy, but I think we adapted by the end of the game,” Clark said.

In Friday’s 2-2 tie against Denver, the Irish took an early lead in the first half when two Notre Dame players earned their first career goals. Senior midfielder Chris Sutton opened scoring on the day with his goal off a pass from sophomore forward Harrison Shipp. Just 10 minutes later, Notre Dame junior forward Danny O’Leary brought another goal for the Irish, putting them up 2-0.

“I thought we opened the Denver game very well, the first half we played well and did a lot of things well,” Clark said. “I think the rain mostly came at a bad time for us.”

Though Notre Dame led in shots during the first half, with six to the Pioneers’ five, the post-rain second half fared quite differently for the Irish. Denver outshot them 10-9 and tied the game up with goals in the 52nd and 78th minutes.

The teams played two rounds of 10-minute overtimes with neither side acquiring the winning goal. With three minutes left before the game was called a tie, junior midfielder Kyle Richard had a shot on goal that looked like it might end the game in favor of the Irish, but it hit the crossbar and the clock ran out.

“[Denver] certainly made it a battle and showed a lot of character by getting two goals back,” Clark said. “They’re a good team, and they’re a bit like Bucknell.”

In the race for the tournament’s second place, Notre Dame defeated the Bison 2-1 Sunday.

“Bucknell is always going to be a big physical team,” Clark said. “We watched them play Indiana in a very tight game on Friday.”

Though Bucknell lost against the tournament winner, they were able to score two goals on the top-10 Hoosiers.

The most unique quality the Bison brought to the game was their height on offense that gave this game a unique style for the Irish defenders.

“[Bucknell] likes to play an aerial game,” Clark said. “We knew we would have to deal with that element of the game, and I think we handled that pretty well. They had two 6’5 forwards, so you’ve got to handle their aerial ability.”

Notre Dame broke away early against Bucknell with a 1-0 lead just 26 seconds into the game after junior midfielder Bob Novak scored the first goal of both the game and his career. The early goal advantage carried the Irish into halftime and gave them a lead they hung onto for the remainder of the match.

“It was nice for the young Bob Novak to get that early goal,” Clark said. “It was a nice way to kick start the game from a Notre Dame point of view.”

The Irish put another point on the scoreboard as senior midfielder Adam Mena scored in the 72nd minute off a shot first fired by junior midfielder Dillon Powers. The Bucknell goalkeeper bobbled the ball as it entered the net.

With two minutes remaining in the game, the Bison came together and severed the possibility of a shutout match. After senior goalkeeper Will Walsh blocked a header, Bucknell junior forward Brendan Burgdorf found the loose ball and sent it in the net.

“That woke everyone up,” Clark said. “We thought we were cruising out of the game and finishing it out nicely, and things changed pretty quickly at that point. That was a pretty drastic wake up, especially after losing a two-goal lead on Friday. That got the heart beating a little bit faster.”

Walsh let up only one goal in his 90 minutes of play and tied his career record of saves per game with seven.

“Will was very solid over the weekend, I was sad for him that he didn’t manage a shutout in either of the games because he played very well,” Clark said. “He has very good presence in the goal and he had several excellent saves.”

The Irish look forward to a five-day break from competition before a tough upcoming weekend. They welcome Michigan to Alumni Stadium on Friday and will travel to East Lansing to play the Spartans of Michigan State on Sunday.

“We’ll move on from there,” Clark said. “We’ll try and sort some things out for the next weekend in Michigan for those two big games.”