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Men’s Soccer: Defending champions visit

By Aaron Sant-Miller | Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Following an impressive 3-1 win over ACC rival Duke on Friday, Notre Dame returns to action today as the team hosts Indiana. 

Currently, Indiana (4-4-1, 1-0-0 Big 10) leads the series 27-7-2 over Notre Dame (4-0-3, 2-0-2 ACC) in what Irish coach Bobby Clark identifies as one of the premier college soccer match-ups.

“It’s one of the best rivalries in college soccer,” Clark said. “As I say it, it’s a little bit like Barcelona-Real Madrid. It’s just a good rivalry, and I think it’s a healthy rivalry. [Today’s] match really has the makings of a great game.”

Last fall, Indiana upset the Irish in the third round of the NCAA tournament, as the Hoosiers went on to win their eighth national championship in 2012. Nonetheless, there is no added motivation as a result of last year’s loss, Clark said.

“There is no extra motivation. I don’t think either Indiana nor Notre Dame needs a lot of motivation for this game,” Clark said. “This game takes care of itself; it’s always a big interstate game.”

Despite the fact that Notre Dame is off to an undefeated start in the 2013 season, Indiana presents a difficult challenge, Clark said.

“Indiana is truly one of the best attacking teams in the country,” he said. “They have a very good front six and a lot of good depth there as well. They have a lot of very skillful attacking players, and that’s always a challenge.”

Conversely, the Irish defense has only allowed four goals so far in 2013, as the Irish are ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense. Senior goalie Patrick Wall currently tops the ACC in save percentage, as the Irish have managed three shutouts so far this fall.

“We will have to defend well in this game,” Clark said. “In any big game, you have to defend well, but against this team that’s going to be very important for us.”

At the same time, the Irish will look to finish on more of their offensive opportunities against Indiana, an area they have struggled in at times this year.

“This year, when the opportunities have come, we’ve been a little lax in finishing them,” Clark said. “That’s something we’ve been working on. I feel like it’s getting much better and we’re starting to get into a better rhythm.”

Additionally, the Irish will be forced to deal with the challenges of a home game during the school week, which can be difficult for the Notre Dame student athletes, according to Clark.

“The Michigan game was the first time a weekday game got to us. The others had been on the road, which is a little bit different,” Clark said. “I think the players will handle it a lot better this time. They will be very prepared for this game, and I don’t have any concerns about that this time around.”

Notre Dame will host Indiana in Alumni Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu