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Men’s Soccer: Team heads to Big East tournament

Sam Gans | Friday, November 2, 2012

The No. 7 Irish will hit the road for their Big East tournament opener when they travel to Syracuse to face the Orange in the conference quarterfinals Saturday.

Though Syracuse (12-5-0, 5-3-0 Big East) is a conference foe, it is an inter-divisional opponent, and Notre Dame (13-3-1, 5-2-1) has not faced the Orange since a 3-0 Irish win in 2008. As a result, none of the current Irish have played against Syracuse, and Irish coach Bobby Clark has not led a Notre Dame squad against a Syracuse team under the direction of coach Ian McIntyre, who was hired in 2010.

Clark said this creates unfamiliarity similar to facing a non-conference opponent. In fact, he said, the Irish are more familiar with many of their out of conference competitors because Notre Dame plays them regularly.

“[Syracuse doesn’t] know us; we don’t know them,” Clark said. “It’s almost like a non-conference game. In fact, most of our non-conference games we actually play on a yearly basis, home and away.”

As the Irish begin the conference tournament, Clark said he does not think there will be any increased intensity from the Irish because they’ve displayed a tight focus all year.

“I think this team has been very focused, right from the very start,” Clark said. “It’s been a very focused group and I think [we’ve had] good leadership from the senior class and from the captains. So I don’t think I look for any changes. We don’t change the way we approach things. I think it will be pretty much the way we approach every game.”

Freshman midfielder Jordan Vale leads the Orange in scoring with eight goals. Syracuse lost its last game 1-0 to St. John’s, which marked the first time the Orange allowed a goal in four games.

“There’s absolutely no question that they’re an excellent team,” Clark said. “I think we know that they’re a very good team and looking at the game tape and talking to people, I think we know this is going to be a hard game.”

Notre Dame, currently ranked No. 1 in the country in RPI, is one of four Big East teams in the top eight of the RPI in the nation. Despite the top RPI ranking and a top-10 ranking in the polls, the Irish only finished third in their division, meaning they have to travel for their Big East quarterfinal game.

“Any game in the Big East is a hard game, but when you actually go on the road to play a Big East game, it’s a very hard game,” Clark said. “It is a really tough conference. In yesterday’s RPI’s, we were No. 1 in the country. You’re No. 1 in the country, yet you’ve got to go away in your tournament to play in the quarterfinals. It just shows the strength of the Big East.

“So we know it’s going to be a very tough game, but hopefully it will be a good opportunity for the team just to learn a few things and see if we can make it to Red Bull Arena for the Final Four.”

Clark also noted there is a slight chance the game could be pushed back a day due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, but said that was unlikely.

The Irish and Orange are set to match up in the Big East tournament quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Syracuse, N.Y.


Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu