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Men’s Soccer: Irish conclude road swing

Joseph Monardo | Friday, September 28, 2012

Fresh off a victory over No.10 Indiana, the Irish conclude their current streak of road contests tomorrow night with their fourth-straight game away from Alumni Stadium. Still seeking its first Big East victory, Notre Dame will square off with undefeated No. 2 Connecticut.

No. 8 Notre Dame (8-1-0, 0-1-0 Big East) began the road swing by beating Michigan, 1-0 in double overtime Sept. 16. After suffering their first loss of the season in the conference-opening 2-1 loss to Louisville on Saturday, the Irish defeated the Hoosiers (6-2-1, 1-0-0 Big Ten) on Wednesday. If the Irish are to conclude their time on the road with a victory, they will have to do so against a Connecticut team that has outscored its opponents 19-2 through nine games this season.

“I think you just see a very good team, you know?” Irish coach Bobby Clark said of Connecticut (8-0-1, 1-0-0 Big East). “They are a very mature team, they have a lot of foreign players that are a little bit older usually, and a lot of experience. I mean, the goalkeeper, for instance, is a 22-year old sophomore, so they are a little bit older, a little bit more experienced. But I think our guys will handle that. They are a good team – their record states that pretty clearly.”

The Huskies entered last year’s matchup with the Irish ranked No. 1 in the country and riding an 11-game winning streak. Notre Dame denied Connecticut a win for the first time of the season by playing the top-ranked team to a scoreless draw at home. The Irish unleashed more shots and put more shots on goal than the Huskies in the tie game.

“Should have, could have, would have – it’s what you actually did and at the end of the day we tied it,” Clark said. “The year before that we tied with them, and I think the year before that we beat them, so I don’t think there is any inferiority complex from our point of view. There will be a quiet confidence, but we also know that they are a very good team so we know we have a challenge ahead of us. And, you know, we are looking forward to it.”

This year’s edition of Connecticut welcomes Notre Dame into Storrs, Conn., having not allowed a goal in the past four games, during which time the Huskies have outscored their opponents 13-0. Huskies sophomore goalkeeper Andre Blake, a Jamaica native, has led Connecticut between the posts this season. Blake ranks third in the nation with his save percentage of .905.

The Irish will turn to their experienced offensive leaders to apply the pressure on Blake and the rest of the Huskies. Irish senior forward Ryan Finley leads the team with six goals and 13 points, while senior midfielder and captain Dillon Powers and junior forward Harrison Shipp have each added seven points.

“We are a pretty experienced group in a lot of ways,” Clark said. “Our guys are pretty resilient. There’s a quiet confidence about this team that I like, so I think we’ll be just fine.”

After facing Connecticut, the Irish will return home for two Big East matchups. The time on the road has been difficult, but may pay dividends in the future, Clark said.

“The way it came, you are playing three teams that could all be Final Four teams,” the coach said. “You are playing them all one after another, and they are all on the road. It’s a fairly daunting task but that’s been a good experience for this team and it will help us grown and mature as a team.”

The Irish and the Huskies will kick off Saturday at 7 p.m. in Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu