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Big (East) weekend

Matt Puglisi | Friday, September 17, 2004

The No. 14 Irish hope to rebound from Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss to in-state rival No. 1 Indiana when they welcome Big East rival Georgetown to Alumni Field Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

The contest marks the first of a four-game stretch against conference opponents for Notre Dame (3-1-1).

Last season, the Irish edged the Hoyas 2-1 at Alumni Field on a cold September afternoon behind a pair of goals from graduated seniors Justin Detter and Devon Prescod. The contest turned ugly late in the second half.

Two Hoyas were sent off with injuries less than a minute apart, forcing the squad to play two men down for the remainder of the game.

While Georgetown (3-3-0) stumbled to an 11th-place finish of 13 Big East teams last season (8-9-2 overall, 3-7 in conference) and failed to qualify for the Big East tournament – Notre Dame took home the tournament crown – coach Bobby Clark and the Irish certainly aren’t taking the Hoyas lightly.

“You aim to win every game, and then after that, you’ve just got to get on with in,” Clark said. “Once you start talking a score – what you think it’s going to be – that’s when you start getting into problems.”

Part of that approach encompasses a focus more on the Irish style of play than what the Hoyas will be trying to do Saturday night.

“We’ve got to concentrate and play our game,” Clark said. “You’ve got to be aware of the other team – that’s key – but at the same time you’ve got to make sure you don’t forget to play your game. That’s going to be very important.”

The Irish suffered their first loss of the young season Wednesday night in Bloomington, dropping a 2-0 decision to soccer powerhouse No. 1 Indiana (5-0-0).

“I was disappointed with the final outcome, but there were a lot of positives,” Clark said. “It was a tough game [with] both teams working very hard.”

Notre Dame hung tough with the nation’s top squad, nearly matching the Hoosiers in total shots – Indiana registered ten while the Irish drilled nine – and out-cornering them six to one.

However, shots and corner kicks don’t factor into the final score.

“Soccer is a funny game-there’s really only one statistic that counts and that’s goals,” Clark said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ve actually scored more goals at this point in the season than we did last year.”

Clark points to the youth up front and undefined roles as possible explanations for Notre Dame’s inability to capitalize on quality scoring changes thus far this year.

“We made a decent amount of chances that we didn’t convert,” Clark said. “It’s a young team and guys are still just fighting out exactly where they all fit in.”

After the Irish nearly took an early lead on a ninth minute run by defender Jack Stewart, Indiana forward Jacob Peterson put the Hoosiers on the board eight minutes, fifteen seconds into the second half.

Uncorking a shot just inside the box, Peterson’s ball deflected off Stewart’s foot and into the net, staking Indiana to a 1-0 lead.

The Irish refused to give in, nearly converting a pair of scoring opportunities before Indiana took advantage of Notre Dame’s aggressive play and effectively put the game out of reach on a fast-break goal by midfielder Brian Plotkin.

The 2-0 Hoosier shutout marked the fifth consecutive time that a Notre Dame/Indiana contest has ended with at least one team failing to score.

The Irish downed the Hoosiers 1-0 at Alumni Field last season on an overtime goal by defender Kevin Goldthwaite.

Following the Georgetown contest, the Irish travel to Morgantown, W. Va., next Thursday to face West Virginia.