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Men’s Soccer: No. 8 Irish hit the road to battle No. 10 Indiana

Mike Monaco | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hoosier State bragging rights will be on the line Wednesday when the No. 8 Irish head south for an in-state matchup with No. 10 Indiana.

“We know one another,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “There is a mutual respect. We’re also very conscious of in-state bragging rights. The mutual respect is there but we want to win.”
Notre Dame (7-1, 0-1 Big East) is in the midst of a three-game stretch against ranked opponents on the road. Clark said these competitive matchups in enemy territory have his team excited.

“We’re ready,” Clark said. “We’re excited, obviously. These games we’re playing right now, it doesn’t take too much to get excited about them. They’re all big games.”

Notre Dame suffered its first loss of the season Saturday when the Irish fell to Louisville in their Big East opener, 2-1. Senior forward Ryan Finley netted his team-leading sixth goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 in the 63rd minute, but the Cardinals stormed back and buried the eventual game-winner on a penalty kick in the 76th minute. Clark said the Irish need to stay comfortable playing on the road to reestablish some of the momentum they had during their season-opening seven-game winning streak.

“When you play good teams – Louisville is good and Indiana is good – it’s all going to come down to the little things,” Clark said. “When you go on the road, you have to be able to handle everything and make yourself feel at home.”

The Hoosiers (6-1-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who are riding a three-game winning streak, opened Big Ten play Sunday with a 2-0 over Ohio State. Indiana’s last loss came Sept. 7 against then-No. 4 Akron in the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Notre Dame. The Irish did not square off with the Hoosiers in the tournament, but both teams played the same two opponents: Akron and Oregon State.

Both teams defeated the Beavers and, while the Hoosiers fell 1-0 to the Zips, the Irish bested Akron 3-1 two days later.
The teams also played two common opponents, Clemson and San Diego State, at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind. Clark said his team’s familiarity with Indiana in general could be helpful heading into Wednesday’s match.

“I think we know one another very well and we also play them every spring,” Clark said. “We’ve watched them and they’ve watched us.”

The Irish, who have scored just two goals total in their last two games, will have to deal with Indiana senior goalie Luis Soffner, who was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for the second time this season. Clark said scoring goals will be of the utmost importance.

“Road games are never easy to win but I think if you ask any coach in the world it comes down to scoring more goals,” Clark said. “The hardest thing in soccer is to score goals. We have people that can score goals. … It’s something you work on every day in practice but it’s possibly the hardest thing in soccer to do.”

The Irish will be tasked with shutting down sophomore forward Eriq Zavaleta. The Westfield, Ind., native was named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List in August and leads the Hoosiers with seven goals.

Clark said the key to victory is simple: score more goals than the other team. And if the Irish can do that against the Hoosiers, they will do more than just garner bragging rights from their intrastate rival.

“If you look at any soccer league, it’s much harder to win on the road,” Clark said. “Winning on the road is a huge incentive for us because when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament that’s one of the things the committee looks for: big road wins. It’s really important for us to get a couple of those this year.”

The Irish square off with the Hoosiers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind.

Contact Mike Monaco at
jmonaco@nd.edu