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irish look for more shutouts

Kate Gales | Thursday, October 7, 2004

In physics, the formula for momentum is simple to calculate. It’s harder for a soccer team to figure out the best way to utilize individual talents, but the Irish are finding their stride and riding their momentum after three straight shutout victories into tonight’s matchup against conference-rival Pittsburgh.

“We’re making progress every game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “You’ve got to take something from every game and try and move on a little bit.”

The No. 9 Irish are 7-2-1 overall and 3-1-0 in conference play, having recently posted victories against formidable foes Villanova and Boston College.

“It’s one of the strongest conferences in the country for soccer,” Clark said of the Big East. “You’ve got to keep playing, you’ve just got to keep taking one game at a time.”

Last year, the Irish used a sharpshooting offense to defeat the Panthers 2-0 on their home turf. However, the 2002 matchup was a different story, with Pittsburgh squeaking out with a 1-0 overtime victory at Alumni Field. This year, the Panthers have already upset former Big East leader Seton Hall.

“The last time Pitt came here they beat us 1-0 in overtime,” Clark said. “I think any of the boys who were around will remember that … they’re coming in obviously on a high, knowing they beat Seton Hall [this season] and they beat us here two years ago when they last visited.”

After sitting out the beginning of the season with a nagging leg injury, Kevin Goldthwaite is back in action for the Irish and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

“I think whenever you lose a player of Kevin’s stature … whenever somebody like that goes out, you lose something,” Clark said. “Benny [Crouse] stepped in and did a good job but it is great to have Kevin back, no question about it, and he adds so much.”

Goalkeeper Chris Sawyer was also named Big East Goalkeeper of the Week for the first time this season. He looks to extend a 273-minute scoreless streak against Pittsburgh tonight.

Clark is pleased with the way the team has come together in recent weeks.

“You’ve suddenly got to fill instant leadership,” he said. “You’ve got to fill positional places … and it takes you a little while to piece everything together.”

The Irish faltered twice in September, losing to top-ranked Indiana and conference-foe West Virginia.

“September is always a tough month,” “[It’s] just where the team is fighting to come together and hopefully by October you’re starting to see some semblance of seeing us as a real team… hopefully you’ll see us putting things together for the run in.”

Notre Dame will face the Panthers at 7 p.m. tonight at Alumni Field.