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Men’s Soccer

Irish prepare to travel to UConn for first road game

| Thursday, August 31, 2017

No. 9 Notre Dame will travel to Storrs, Connecticut on Friday to take on UConn in the team’s first road match of the season.

The Irish (2-0) hosted the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament last weekend and took home their first two victories of the season. The first win came Friday when Notre Dame shut out San Diego 2-0 powered by goals, one from junior midfielder Felicien Dumas and the other from senior forward Jeff Farina. Farina shone in the second Irish win, scoring both goals Notre Dame scored in the game including the winning goal in overtime of a 2-1 win against Cal Poly.

Irish junior midfielder Felicien Dumas runs across the pitch with the ball during Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over San Diego on Friday at Alumni Stadium. Dumas scored one of Notre Dame’s goals in the game.Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Irish junior midfielder Felicien Dumas runs across the pitch with the ball during Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over San Diego on Friday at Alumni Stadium. Dumas scored one of Notre Dame’s goals in the game.

Irish head coach Bobby Clark said he was happy with the determined and motivated level of play his team maintained throughout both games.

“I thought we were very persistent,” Clark said. “They didn’t drop their effort level, and it would’ve been easy to because they played pretty well but not much was going for us. It would’ve been easy for them to get disheartened, but they stayed positive throughout the entire match. Going up against a goalkeeper who was exceptionally good, it would have been very easy for them to drop their heads and be frustrated, but I thought they kept very positive and played hard.

“Even after the late goal, for the six and seven minutes afterward, they tried to win the game again and then during the first period of overtime they work very hard. It ended up going to the second overtime where they got the goal. So I was very proud of that aspect. If we’re going to be a good team, there’s going to be a lot of close games and bumps in the road and things aren’t always going to fall into place for you, but I thought they handled that part very well.

“That was the first test of the season. And I also thought with the game on Friday night, we got the early goal against San Diego but didn’t put them away until late in the game, so again, they had to stay focused and keep their confidence and not get frustrated. They were two games I thought we controlled the tempo and possession of the game, but goals didn’t come as nicely as you would have liked. But the positive for me is that we stayed positive throughout the 90-plus minutes of each game.”

While Clark said his entire squad contributed to the success, he also noted his team would not have been able to bring home the two wins without Farina.

“Jeffry had a superb weekend,” Clark said. “He scored three goals and they were key goals, especially in the game against Cal Poly (0-2) on Sunday. But I thought generally the whole team did well. Felicien [Dumas] did well because he got some assists and scored a goal. The work of the midfield, [sophomore] Tommy McCabe and [senior] Blake Townes worked very hard and were very diligent. I thought [senior midfielder] Kyle Dedrick came in and has had a lot more time because [junior midfielder] Thomas Ueland has been injured, so I think both he and [junior midfielder] Sean MacLeod came in and did a good job. We also had [sophomore midfielder] Jack Casey who was terrific. We take Jack for granted because he’s such a steady player, but the two new boys who got considerable time, Sean MacLeod and Kyle Dedrick, who both played well. You can also talk about the two center men, [senior defender] Patrick Berneski and [graduate student defender] Matt Habrowski, who just steadily go about their business. It was also good to get [graduate student goalkeeper] Chris Hubbard back. He came off in our first scrimmage against Omaha and had to go to the hospital with a pretty bad concussion, so it was great to have him back. Overall, it was a team effort. A lot of positives came out of this weekend, but that’s all history now.”

The Irish now look toward the Huskies (1-1), who played many times back when both programs were members of the Big East Conference. Clark knows this Huskies team will be like the many his team played in the past — a difficult one to combat, especially on the road.

“Like all UConn teams, they’re going to be exceptionally talented,” Clark said. “They’re going to be one of the most talented players in the country. Player-for-player, I don’t think any teams will have a better squad than [UConn head coach] Ray Reid’s squad. They’re always well-coached and they’re an excellent team to watch. They lost their first game, but they completely dominated that game. It was strange how they actually didn’t win. I think during my time while we were in the Big East, we played there seven times and I think we won once, so they’ve had our number in Storrs, [Connecticut]. This will be a good test for our guys. They always have a good atmosphere there and it’s a fun environment to play in. Without question, this will be our stiffest test so far.”

Clark said the keys to getting a win is to handle the environment and the Huskies’ athleticism.

“We’ve got to handle the atmosphere, but I’m not too worried about that,” Clark said. “Our guys will enjoy playing in the atmosphere in Storrs, [Connecticut]. The games we’ve played up until now, we handled possession and had the ball most of the time. They’ll be a very good passing team, so we won’t have as much of the ball. They’re very good athletes, so you always have to handle their athleticism. But I think we’re equipped for that. If we do our stuff correctly and the soccer gods smile on us, we can take of business. But it won’t be easy.”

The Irish and the Huskies will play at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Connecticut, with the game beginning Saturday at 7 p.m.

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