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Men’s Soccer: Big East brawl

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fresh off a scoreless draw with top-ranked Connecticut, Notre Dame will head to Milwaukee to play Big East foe Marquette Wednesday.

Despite tying with the top team in the country, Irish coach Bobby Clark said this game may be just as tough — if not tougher — than their previous one.

“You go from one hard game to another,” Clark said. “This will be a harder game in many respects. [It’s] in Milwaukee, on the road, against a team that has one loss in their past seven games.”

The No. 11 Irish (5-2-4, 1-1-1 Big East) enter the contest on the heels of three straight double-overtime games. After dropping a 2-1 decision to St. John’s on Oct. 1, the Irish have tied their last two opponents.

“We need to score one more goal in regulation, that would be nice,” Clark said. “We’ve played a tough schedule, not a lot between the teams and you end up with close games. It would be nice to win a few in regulation but you play the hand that’s been dealt and we’ve been dealt ties.”

Senior goalie Will Walsh leads an Irish defense that has given up 0.91 goals per game this year. Walsh has four shutouts this year, including three in the last five matches.

Walsh relies on an experienced backline that features junior Grant Van De Casteele and seniors Greg Klazura, Aaron Maund and Michael Knapp. Both Van De Casteele and Klazura have been named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week while Maund was tabbed a preseason All-American.

Marquette (5-5-2, 3-0-0) enters the matchup as the only remaining unbeaten and untied squad in the Big East. The Eagles are currently in first place in the Blue Division while the Irish are in sixth.

“It’s a tough place to play,” Clark said. “We played them in the Big East tournament last year and it was a dog fight and that was in our place. That’s what makes this such a great soccer league.”

Notre Dame topped the Golden Eagles 2-1 in last year’s Big East quarterfinals. The Irish have not lost to Marquette since 1990, when the Golden Eagles grabbed a 4-0 victory.

Despite the solid history against Marquette, Clark said the height of the Golden Eagles poses a huge threat.

“They have a lot of good players, a lot of strong seniors, a lot of height,” Clark said. “They’re very good at set pieces.”

The Marquette starting lineup features four players taller than 6-foot-2, posing a problem for the smaller Irish defenders as Van De Casteele is the only Notre Dame starter that matches up.

Freshman forward James Nortey leads Marquette in scoring with six goals and one assist. In net, junior goalie David

Check has posted one shutout and a 1.16 goals against average so far this season.

“We’re very excited for the game, it should be a good crowd,” Clark said. “Everybody loves to hate Notre Dame, so it should be fun.”

Notre Dame and Marquette kick off Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Milwaukee.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu