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MENS SOCCER: Irish claim title of best team in Indiana

Justin Schuver | Friday, September 19, 2003

Sportswriters have a history of exaggerating things. A simple game of football can become a battle or war. A home run to win a ball game can become a shot heard ’round the world.’ A missed golf putt can be a collapse of epic proportions.

It wouldn’t have been exaggeration, though, to say that Notre Dame’s 1-0 win over Indiana in double overtime was more than just another game.

Sure, the stakes weren’t that high. This wasn’t a game for the national championship, or even the semifinals – as was the case last year when the Hoosiers knocked out the Irish with a 1-0 overtime win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This wasn’t a conference game, or even one of those “must-win” types of games. Both teams were ranked in the top 20, both had winning records and both have achieved national prominence over the years.

And yet, it was obvious by watching the Irish celebration after Kevin Goldthwaite deflected a Chad Riley free kick past Hoosier keeper Jay Nolly with little less than three minutes left in the second overtime, that this was a special game.

In a scene reminiscent of a Saturday afternoon in American suburbia where eight and ten-year-olds clad in loose-fitting Umbro shirts and shorts celebrate a winning goal over their league rival, the façade of Irish stoicism suddenly came crashing down.

The entire Notre Dame team, led by Goldthwaite himself, ran over to a corner of the field and made a dog-pile as though they had just won the national championship.

When the ruckus finally settled back down, the team got back to their feet and ran across the far sideline, waving to a raucous Notre Dame crowd, one of the largest and most animated this year.

“I’d say that celebration was a testament to the struggle we’ve had to get things going this year,” said captain Greg Martin. “We’ve just been working hard on the little things, and we knew that one day it was going to turn.

“I think that was the turning point.”

Of course, the fun had to come crashing to an end, and “The Boss” – as the team affectionately refers to head coach Bobby Clark – still required the Irish to do their customary cool-down stretches and calisthenics.

There was a crack in his quiet demeanor too, though.

“I was very proud of our team,” he said before cracking a smile. “This was a special game. You know it’s going to be a long trip back for [Indiana], but we had to do that coming back after the NCAA’s last year.

“That was our turn, and maybe now it’s their turn.”

As the Irish will tell you, their goal is to be the best team in the country. It’s hard to say what will happen the rest of the year. Notre Dame could win the national championship, or could get knocked out in the first round.

No matter what happens the rest of the year, for one Thursday night and for one special game, Notre Dame was the best soccer team in the state of Indiana.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not of The Observer. Contact Justin Schuver at [email protected]