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MEN’S SOCCER: Battle in the Big Apple

Kate Gales | Friday, September 16, 2005

Starting with a foe picked to win the conference isn’t exactly a cakewalk beginning to the season.

But the Irish are ready for as a challenge as they take on No. 10 St. John’s.

Notre Dame has already knocked off a top-10 opponent this season with a win over then-No. 7 Southern Methodist.

But in the history of the programs, the Irish have never won at St. John’s.

“We couldn’t open with a harder game,” coach Bobby Clark said. “I think you can count on one hand the number of games that St. John’s will have lost in the Big East in Queens in New York in the last 10 years.”

In the all-time series, the Red Storm leads the Irish 8-2-3, with last year’s decision a 1-1 tie between the two top-10 teams.

In 2003, Notre Dame won the Big East tournament title after defeating No. 4 St. John’s. In 2004, it took the regular-season title.

This year is crucial for the Notre Dame program, and this road trip is critical for starting the season off right.

“This is a game that I think could really make this team be of age,” Clark said. “I think this is a great opportunity game for us, and I think its one where I think we’re capable of – I know we’re capable, I don’t just think we’re capable – but this is a wonderful opportunity for this team.”

The Irish have already traveled, playing in the adidas/IU Credit Union tournament in Bloomington. After last weekend’s Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at Alumni Field, the Irish are ranked No. 16 and hold a 3-1 record.

The team has seen contributions from veterans and newcomers, and goalkeeper Chris Cahill has been a pleasant surprise for a rebuilding defense.

“All the boys that we take, from the starting guys to the backup guys, have got to be ready to add whatever they can add to the team on this trip,” Clark said.

Although the focus is on St. John’s, the road trip will end with a journey to Syracuse.

“We also travel to Syracuse on Sunday so two very, very [key games],” Clark said. “Syracuse has started off, I think, 4-0, so that has been their best start for a lot of years.”

The Irish kick off conference play with two of the toughest opponents they’ll face all year, but the team is ready for the challenge.

“This is not an easy trip for Notre Dame soccer, but it’s a trip I think we have got the ability to take something positive out of it,” Clark said.