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Men’s Soccer: Heroics earn Big East title

By Isaac Lorton | Monday, November 12, 2012

After a 1-0 win Friday against No. 8 Connecticut in the Big East semifinals, senior forward Ryan Finley scored a golden goal with one minute remaining in double-overtime in the conference finals against Georgetown. His tally captured the Big East title for the No. 5 Irish in a 3-2 win over the No. 6 Hoyas at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., on Sunday.

With the win, Notre Dame (16-3-1) clinches an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

“It was a very, very exciting game [Sunday],” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It came down to the very wire. It was a great performance all around this weekend. We played two tough teams and were able to come out on top.”

The game-winning goal came off a corner kick taken by senior captain and midfielder Dillon Powers. Sophomore midfielder Nick Besler headed the ball downwards and Georgetown sophomore goalkeeper Tomas Gomez looked to be in position to save the ball, but Finley redirected the ball past the leaning keeper.

Finley, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, scored two goals in the championship game, taking his season total to 20 goals. Clark said Finley has a natural instinct as a scorer.

“[Finley] is a predator,” Clark said. “He’s one of those people who comes along and finds a way to get in there and score. Every time he gets the ball, he’s looking for the goal, or at least make the keeper work.”    

The Irish fell behind 1-0 late in the first half and had to fight their way back in the second half. Georgetown (17-3-1) scored in the 39th minute when freshman forward Melvin Snoh headed the ball toward the net and senior forward Andy Reimer tipped the ball past Irish junior goalkeeper Patrick Wall.

Notre Dame was quick to respond in the second half. In the 51st minute, junior defender Luke Mishu beat a Hoya defender to the touchline and sent a ground pass through the box. Junior forward Harry Shipp dummied the pass and an oncoming Finley ripped the ball by Gomez into the lower left corner to tie the game.

Georgetown took a late 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute on Reimer’s second goal of the day. Reimer crossed the ball into the box, but no Irish or Hoya players made contact with it, as the ball snuck by Wall into the right side-netting.  

Notre Dame almost did not make it to overtime. With 32 seconds remaining in regulation and the Hoyas leading 2-1, Irish senior midfielder Danny O’Leary stopped a Georgetown clearance pass. O’Leary then crossed the ball into the box, where Besler was wide open and headed the ball home to force overtime with his first career goal.

Clark said the Irish are a tough team to keep down and can never be counted out.

“This is a special group of guys,” Clark said. “This team will never lose. They may run out of time, but won’t ever lose. They play to the very end every single game. They are a tough, determined group of young men.”

Notre Dame led Georgetown 22-13 in shots and both teams had seven corner kicks. Wall came up with four saves while Gomez had five.

“I think we carried both games,” Clark said. “We led in shots both games and controlled possession.”

On Friday, the Irish took the lead early and never looked back in a 1-0 shutout win over Connecticut.

“It was very much a team effort in both games,” Clark said. “We defended as a whole team and attacked as a whole team. I don’t think you can give it just to our defense Friday or just our offense.”

In the 11th minute, junior forward Alex Priede got the ball to the touchline and passed it back across the box to Powers, who blasted the ball into the left side of the net past a diving sophomore goalkeeper Andre Blake. Blake, the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, made four saves on the night, while Irish senior goalkeeper Will Walsh earned his fifth shutout of the season with two saves. The Irish led Georgetown in shots 13-7.

The Irish will now wait to see where they are placed in the NCAA tournament bracket. Notre Dame will be one of the top-16 teams that receive a first-round bye.

“Now starts a different season,” Clark said. “First it was the regular season, then the Big East season, and now the NCAA tournament season. We need three wins. We’ll take each game one at a time, that’s the key for us.”

The Irish will find out their position in the NCAA tournament as the selection show takes place Monday at 5:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.

Contact Isaac Lorton at

ilorton@nd.edu