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Mens Soccer: Irish clinch spot in postseason tournament

Pat Leonard | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Notre Dame senior forward Justin Detter chipped the ball over Chris Harrison’s head seven minutes into overtime, and all the Virginia Tech goaltender could do was watch.

Harrison had saved nine of the 10 previous Irish shots, but the 11th snuck by.

The Irish (10-3-3, 5-3-1 Big East) ended a pivotal 11-day, four-game road trip Saturday with a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 9 Virginia Tech.

Detter scored twice in the contest to tie teammate Devon Prescod with a team-high eight goals on the season.

Since Oct. 14, the Irish had been 2-1 on the road trip, defeating Cleveland State, 6-0, and Providence, 2-0, but losing to Connecticut, 1-0.

The much-needed win over Virginia Tech vaults the No. 13 Irish into third place in the Big East standings, clinching a spot in the postseason conference tournament. Notre Dame still must finish in the top four to receive home field advantage in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, but Detter’s overtime goal could go a long way to securing that home field.

“These last two games are very important,” coach Bobby Clark said. “It helps to be in the top four because you play one of the bottom four teams. In theory you should be getting an easier team, though that is not always the case. This conference is very competitive, and there is no way you can take any team lightly.”

The Irish did not take Virginia Tech lightly. They knew coming in that the Hokies were still in a position to take the conference.

So Notre Dame took the lead early when Detter scored his first goal of the match off an assist by defender Kevin Goldthwaite (5) just 6 minutes, 40 seconds into the game.

Virginia Tech roared back to tie it with Scott Spangler’s fifth goal of the season just over four minutes later. Play was relatively even the rest of the first half.

Notre Dame then set the tempo and controlled play throughout the second half and into overtime.

Goalkeeper Chris Sawyer made eight big saves to stave off the Hokies attack until Detter put the game away seven minutes into the extra period.

Still, it was the Irish on the offensive throughout most of the second half.

“It was more a case of them holding off our [attack],” Clark said.

“We were the team pressing to win the game.

It had been fairly even in the first half. They had better chances at beginning of second half. But near the end there was only one team pushing hard to win it and that was Notre Dame.”

The Irish out shot the Hokies 16-11, including a convincing 4-0 in overtime.

Notre Dame moves to 4-0-3 in overtime games this season.

The loss to Connecticut last Saturday, however, was the first time the Irish dropped a contest that potentially would have serious effects on their postseason hopes. With a victory, Notre Dame could have moved ahead of the Huskies in the standings.

Shots were even at 11 and Sawyer made four saves, but Connecticut’s Adam Schuerman made five saves. The Huskies’ Easton Wilson scored his first goal of the season at the 42-minute mark.

Late chances by midfielder Greg Martin and defender Greg Dalby were not enough as Notre Dame suffered its second straight Big East loss.

The team regained its footing four days later at Providence, winning a 2-0 decision at Glay Field.

Goals from Martin and forward Prescod sealed the victory in the team’s seventh shutout of the season and the first home loss for the Friars.

With the win the Irish had 13 points in the Big East, putting them one point behind Connecticut and two behind Virginia Tech and Rutgers.

A clutch performance when the team needed it most against Virginia Tech Saturday boosted the Irish to third in the conference.

Although St. John’s has secured the first seed, the next three home field advantage seeds are wide open to a field of six teams: Rutgers, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Providence.

Notre Dame and Seton Hall have one Big East game remaining.

Virginia Tech, Connecticut and Providence still must play two conference match ups.

The Irish will play No. 25 Villanova Friday at 7:30 at Alumni field. Villanova recently knocked off a Rutgers team that beat Notre Dame Oct. 11 at home.

“The win against Virginia Tech puts us in a good position,” Clark said. “This game on Friday is another huge game.

It is the first time Villanova has been ranked, so they are very excited.

It should be a good matchup.”