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Men’s Soccer

Irish prepare for matchup against Huskies

| Tuesday, September 13, 2016

At this point last season, No. 1 Notre Dame was 4-0-1 heading into its first midweek game against Xavier. The Irish fell 1-0 in that game and lost their second game of the year three days later to North Carolina.

Trying to avoid a hiccup in their first midweek game this year, the Irish (5-0-0, 1-0-0 ACC) have prepared for their game against former Big East rival UConn as if it were the biggest game they’ve played so far this season.

“UConn is a really good team,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “That’s all I have to say, and you’ll see them. They’re athletic, they’re talented and they’re technical and excellent. They’re a really good side.”

The Huskies (3-2-0, 0-0-0 American), who are are coming off a 1-0 loss to Georgetown on Saturday, last played the Irish in 2012 in the Big East semifinal, where the Irish came away with a 1-0 victory. UConn leads the overall series, that began in 1986, 11-8-4, and in the last nine meetings, the Irish have tied the Huskies three times while the other six meetings resulted in games decided by just one goal.

“It’s been one of the biggest games in our schedule every year almost,” Clark said. “It’s still one of the biggest games in our schedule as far as we’re concerned for tomorrow. It’ll be a hard game … we’re trying to look at what they have and what they’ll bring to the table tomorrow, and then we have to deal with it and play our own game.”

Irish graduate student captain Evan Panken battles for a loose ball during Notre Dame's 1-1 tie versus Valparaiso on Aug. 22 at Alumni Stadium.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish graduate student captain Evan Panken battles for a loose ball during Notre Dame’s 1-1 tie versus Valparaiso on Aug. 22 at Alumni Stadium.

Playing their “own game” should give the Irish the best chance to push the winning streak to six games if they remain consistent. In five games, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents 16-2 while converting 20.3 percent of its shots into goals. The Irish rank third in the country with 3.2 goals per game, and their defense has been just as dominant, ranking 10th in goals allowed per game with three shutouts.

Senior defender Brandon Aubrey has led the way for the Irish so far offensively. The Plano, Texas, native recorded a hat trick against Virginia Tech on Friday to put him at first on the team in goals and points, with six and 12 respectively.

“As far as set pieces go, I think I’m one of the main guys for hitting the shots,” Aubrey said. “I’ve taken over that responsibility from [Patrick] Hodan, but other than that, I still have the same responsibilities of being a defender first. Getting goals is just an added bonus and makes it all a lot better.”

Hodan, a former Notre Dame midfielder, scored 29 goals throughout his career as someone who was also looked at as a key set-piece player, according to Aubrey.

“I used to watch the way he would hit the ball [during set pieces],” Aubrey said. “He would line up to the side [of the defense’s wall] and wrap his hips around it and try to get up and over the wall. That’s something I’ve tried to pick up this year, and I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”

In regards to avoiding the pressures of playing a game in the middle of the week, Clark said there isn’t much the team can do about the challenge other than tackle it head-on, while also not looking ahead to the team’s matchup against Louisville on Friday.

“Our guys will have class tomorrow, so they’ll have to deal with that, but that’s part of being a student-athlete,” Clark said. “We can’t use it as an excuse, but that’s where we are. We have to take care of it.”

Notre Dame will host UConn for the first time since 2012 on Tuesday at Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

Contact Manuel