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Men’s Soccer: Irish improve playoff seeding with victory

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

After stumbling against West Virginia on Saturday, the Irish had to deliver in the regular season finale against Seton Hall to improve their positioning for the postseason. The Irish faithful can now breathe easily. Notre Dame delivered in a big way, racking up goal after goal in a 4-0 rout of the Pirates.

No. 19 Notre Dame (9-4-4, 5-3-1 Big East) turned in its best offensive output of the season against Seton Hall (5-11-2, 1-8-0), putting an emphatic stamp on the 2011 regular season, improving the team’s seed for the Big East Tournament and helping to move the Irish toward securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. The performance featured an effective attack, but the team was equally impressive on defense, Irish coach Bobby Clark said.

“It was a very good performance,” he said. “I thought we had good solid defense in the first half. I thought we handled [Seton Hall] very well in that period.”

Fittingly, the only score of the first half was delivered in the 30th minute by junior defender Grant Van De Casteele, who collected a loose ball at the top of Seton Hall’s box and slammed it past Pirate sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Reichwaldt with his left foot.

“He definitely showed our strikers how to finish,” Clark said. “It was a really well-hit goal.”

Not to be outdone, junior forward Ryan Finley answered for the strikers when he utilized a fantastic dribbling display to create space and notch a goal of his own in the 50th minute. Shortly after going up 2-0, the Irish escaped unharmed as Seton Hall freshman forward Jeremy Witherspoon sent the Pirates’ best scoring opportunity of the day high of the net.

“[In the] second half, we got off to a great start,” Clark said. “Perhaps I thought we almost relaxed too much because I felt that after that [second] goal we let them into the game just a little bit. But once the third goal came and then the fourth goal came, it was pretty comfortable for us.”

Senior midfielder Michael Rose delivered the third goal for Notre Dame in the 68th minute as he sliced through the Seton Hall defense and netted the goal from close range. In the 74th minute, Finley scored the game’s final goal for his second of the day, giving him a team leading seven scores this season. For the Irish, the multitude of goals scored in the game signals a welcome development.

“It was good to score goals, today,” senior defender Greg Klazura said. “That’s something that we feel that we are capable of but at times we have been unable to do.”

A common theme for the Irish in 2011 has been an inability to convert scoring chances into goals, but no such problem plagued the team Tuesday, even against a Seton Hall team coming off an upset over No. 7 Connecticut on Sunday.

“Seton Hall’s a pretty good team,” Klazura said. “Once we got on the board, and once we got on the board [again] in the second — it was Seton Hall’s last game of the season — so I think we kind of broke them a little bit once we scored that second goal. We also finished well today. We took advantage of our opportunities instead of getting a lot of them and not scoring one at all.”

With the win, the Irish clinched the fourth seed in the Big East Blue Division. Had they lost, the Irish would have travelled to St. John’s for the first round of the conference tournament, but now will host Villanova on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Stadium.

“That’s our next challenge,” Clark said. “If we win that, we would go to South Florida … on Sunday. But we’ve obviously got to beat Villanova first.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu