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Men’s Soccer: Hanging Tough

Joe Monardo | Monday, October 10, 2011

The Irish needed extra time once again in their contest against Connecticut, but even in 110 minutes of play, neither team was able to notch a goal.

No. 11 Notre Dame (5-2-4, 1-1-1 Big East) earned a tie against No. 1 Connecticut (11-0-1, 2-0-1) on Saturday, bringing an end to the Huskies’ 11 game winning streak. The game was the seventh overtime affair of the season, contests in which the Irish are 1-2-4.

“Let’s be honest. If we were playing in Europe, we would be undefeated at the moment because all of our losses have been in overtime,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said.

Although it became the first team to escape from a matchup against Connecticut without a loss, Notre Dame could have used a win at home, Clark said.

“We know we’re a good team, but how you are judged as a good team is wins, and obviously we have got to start piling up some wins,” Clark said.

The Irish came out on top in most statistical categories for the game, as they outshot Connecticut 21-16, including 9-4 in shots on goal. The Irish also had seven corner kicks to Connecticut’s one. Senior goalkeeper Will Walsh completed his fourth shutout of the season for the Irish.

Notre Dame earned the bulk of the game’s scoring opportunities, but was not able to knock home the go-ahead goal.

Freshman goalkeeper Andre Blake had nine saves for Connecticut, including several on shots from within his team’s own box.

“I think you run into what’s a really good goal keeper,” Clark said. “These were great shots. [Junior midfielder Ryan]

Finley and [senior midfielder Adam] Mena hit some great shots … We were through on goal, we had good shots from inside the box and [Blake] came up big every time. So that was disappointing for us, but I’m sure he must be one of the reasons why they are undefeated.”

The Irish began peppering the Connecticut goalie early, as sophomore forward Leon Brown and Mena each had shots blocked in the first half by a diving Blake. Finley let loose a game-high seven shots, four of which were on target, but found Blake to be equal to the task on every occasion. In the 80th minute, Finley finally managed to maneuver a shot past Blake, only to have what looked to be the deciding score rebound off the post.

Although the Irish did not score a goal in the contest, Clark said he was pleased with his team’s performance Saturday.

“I thought we played well, concentration was superb throughout and it was hard to really find a flaw in our team,” he said. “I thought all the subs came on and gave a lift.”

Senior midfielder Michael Rose made his season debut for the Irish, playing the entire second half after missing the first 10 games while recovering from a knee injury.

“It was really great to play Michael Rose, he’s been out with an ACL [injury], but he gives a lot of depth,” Clark said.

Saturday’s game serves as yet another example of the Irish playing up to the standards of top-ranked opponents. In its past four games, Notre Dame suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to then No. 15 St. Johns, captured a 1-0 victory over then No. 3 Louisville, tied 1-1 with unranked Northwestern and now adds a tie to No. 1 Connecticut.

“I think this team knows we can play with anyone, but I think we can also play down to people as well,” Clark said. “But I think … when we play the Lousivilles, the St. John’s and the UConns, I don’t find that a huge problem because we were [competitive].”

As they move forward, the Irish will change gears slightly in preparation for their upcoming game against Marquette (5-5-2, 3-0-0).

“We’ve got a game on Wednesday at Marquette and that will be a different type of game,” Clark said. “Going from a game with a team [Connecticut] that was very silky, very technical, it’ll be much more of a battle with Marquette. Marquette has skillful players as well, don’t get me wrong, but it will be a different type of game.”

The Irish continue their Big East campaign when they travel to Milwaukee for Wednesday’s game against the Golden Eagles.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu